Music Composition

Our Master of Arts in Music Composition offers personalised instruction in composition that will enable you to write music in a wide variety of styles and for diverse contexts.

This degree programme offers:

  • can be completed with a choice of two specialisations: Creative Practice and Contemporary Jazz,

  • offers the possibility of majoring in Sound Arts,

  • supports you in your personal development through an individual and flexibly designable study profile – with the aim of enabling you to find your own artistic voice and position yourself within the music business,

  • enables you to carry out transdisciplinary projects with other artistic disciplines such as theatre, literature or opera,

  • offers individual courses with lecturers such a Simon Steen-Andersen, Cathy van Eck or Stefan Prins.

Factsheet

  • Title/Degree Master of Arts (MA)
  • Specialisations Creative Practice
    Contemporary Jazz
  • Mode of study Full-time (4 semesters)
  • Start date 20.9.2021
  • ECTS credits 120 ECTS-credits
  • Study language German, French, English
  • Location Bern
  • Department Bern Academy of the Arts

Structure + Content

Graduates with a Master of Arts in Composition have a wide range of professional prospects open to them, from strictly musical fields to composing for the stage and for the visual arts.

Portrait

The Master’s programme in Music Composition provides students with broad perspectives in the professional practice of composition. This ranges from strictly musical aspects to interactions between music, state and the visual arts. With two specialisations (Creative Practice and Contemporary Jazz), the programme offers a flexible and open concept for putting together an individual study profile. Renowned composers, sound artists and stage directors enrich the training, which also encompasses studio recordings and the latest in musical theatre. 

Specialisations and Majors

You will be able to benefit from extremely personalised instruction with courses tailored to your needs given by lecturers such as Simon Steen-Andersen, Cathy van Eck, Stefan Prins or Stefan Wirth (see below for the full list).

  • You will be able to choose from a wide range of master classes from different fields, ranging from electronic music to curatorial practice to musical theatre.  
  • As part of one intensive week per semester, all students of the programme come together to exclusively deepen their creativity. These projects are realized in the context of festivals and international tours. The Master of Arts in Music Composistion was invited to the Biennale in Munich and the Berne Opera in 2016 with the project “Das Haus”, as well as to the Acht Brücken festival in Cologne and the Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik in Basel in 2017, just to name a few.
  • At the end of the two years of the Master’s course (which can be extended to three years), there is a final project whose aesthetic orientation can be extremely individual. Our aim is for this project to be taken up at various contemporary festivals. It should become your ‘business card’ for entry into the professional music scene. 
  • You will expand your practical skills within different types of ensembles and musical media such as big band, string quartet, vocal ensembles, brass band, electronic music or film music.
  • You will deepen your theoretical knowledge, for example on musical forms, harmony techniques, composition/arrangement or musical aesthetics.
  • You will explore the relationship between composition and improvisation and the collaboration between composer and performer.  
  • You will be supported by mentors in the planning, realization and implementation of personal projects.  
  • The programme equips you with the know-how to adequately complete projects or assignments, taking into account the context, the required style and the target situation.
  • You will be prepared for the job market by learning to position yourself between individuality and convention, art and commerce, authenticity and project requirements.  
  • You will have the opportunity to present yourself with well-known musicians and ensembles at national and international festivals.
  • You will be studying at a dynamic university with cutting-edge facilities (e.g. recording studios, video labs, research pools, music mediation).

Curriculum + Modules

The two specialisations have a similar structure. The curriculum is divided into the following modules, for a total of 120 ECTS credits.

The core subject consists of individual courses that form the focus of the programme. You will attend one 80-minute course per week.

The module plan offers numerous courses in the field of artistic practice, depending on your chosen specialisation. For the field of musical theater, for example, this module involves a number of important projects for developing and studying the repertoire (Aperghis, Globokar, Kagel, Schnebel, etc.), while the curricula for composition in the fields of jazz, wind ensemble and classical music offer courses in ensemble conducting and studio work. Research questions and aspects are integrated throughout the studies. Every semester, the research division at HKB offers topic weeks, which are open to you. You can decide for yourself which week during your studies you want to devote to these intensive seminars.

This is where students come together to develop joint projects and collaborate in various ways.

A wide range of optional courses are available, from seminars on specific themes to courses in, for example, music informatics. The course programme is published in a brochure each semester.

This module is a second, quite complex specialisation, since it represents about a quarter of the degree programme (30 ECTS). In the minor subject (e.g. on your instrument) as well as in the optional courses, you can shape your own personal profile with the help of the head of studies.

The master’s thesis is your final project. All of your work culminates here in a concert / performance / installation or similar at the end of your second year. This is the most important part of your studies. It also includes a written thesis and a colloquium.

Student projects

Partners + Exchanges

HKB maintains close ties to a number of partner universities, both in Switzerland and abroad, and collaborates with international partners on numerous projects. HKB is also a member of several international networks.

HBK students have the opportunity to complete part of their studies or an internship abroad. Interested persons from abroad can also apply to study at the HKB or complete part of their studies here.  

Aims + Competencies

Specialisation: Creative Practice

You are an interpreter, composer or performer in contemporary music and want to orientate and train yourself in a stylistically open way. You are interested in working on projects from an author’s point of view. The Creative Practice specialisation opens up the necessary perspectives for you. You will develop your skills and acquire the tools to master your musical and artistic quest. After completing the programme at our university, you will have developed your own artistic portfolio and have plenty of project experience.

Specialisation: Contemporary Jazz

Your creative personality as a composer is at the centre of this future-oriented training. With the Contemporary Jazz specialisation, you can develop your artistic profile and expand your practical knowledge in jazz and related stylistic areas. Our university offers you a wide range of options, for example to compose, orchestrate and arrange in different stylistic languages and for different ensembles, and thus quickly find your place within the music scene. 

Degree + Prospects

Degree

Master of Arts in «Music Composition»  

  • Creative Practice or
  • Contemporary Jazz

Prospects

With a Master of Arts in Music Composition, you are fully equipped to pursue a professional career as a musician or composer. Depending on your chosen specialisation and personal profile, you can work as an independent composer, as a performer specializing in composition and contemporary music, as an arranger or as a festival curator.

Prerequisites + Admission

Entry requirements

The number of places available within our programme is limited (‘numerus clausus’). We administer an entrance examination to review your aptitude for our programme. We look for motivation, stamina, resilience and independence in our students as well as a readiness to participate actively in university-level projects.

Academic requirements

A bachelor’s degree in music is required. This requirement may be waived in the case of exceptional artistic talent.

Knowledge + Abilities

For admission to the Master’s programme in Music Composition, you must have a great deal of artistic autonomy. You are able to engage in the transdisciplinary, artistic context and collaborate on interdisciplinary projects. 

Creative Practice

For this specialisation, you should be able to compose, perform, or improvise, or to curate music events, while considering the main trends in current composition and music creation. You are someone who relies on your own experiences to put your artistic ideas into practice.

Suitable for:

  • Composers
  • Vocal and instrumental musicians
  • Electronic music artists
  • Authors of sound installations
  • Improvisation artists
  • Persons from related fields (e.g. stage production, acting) who wish to educate themselves in the field of music creation

Contemporary Jazz

For this specialisation, you must have solid knowledge of the use of the different instruments in jazz and related fields as well as good instrumental skills and the ability to develop a project. You should also be familiar with the musical techniques used in contemporary jazz, arrangement and sound technology.

Language skills

Instruction takes place in French, German and English. However, English is becoming more and more established as the lingua franca in the degree programme. The lecturers are usually proficient in several languages and have good skills in the ‘partner languages’. Written work can be completed in German, English or French.

Applying from abroad

Foreign nationals require valid travel documents recognised by the Swiss government. A visa is often required. Exchange students must also apply for a residency permit and purchase health insurance before their studies begin. Please research your specific entry requirements carefully.

Practicalities + Application

Please note the dates and deadlines below, plus the documentation and information required.

Application (per application) and aptitude assessment*  

CHF 250

Matriculation**  

CHF 100

Tuition fees (per semester) 

CHF 750

Tuition fees for international students*** (per semester)

CHF 950

Examination fee (per semester)  

CHF 80

Fee for social, cultural and sport offerings (per semester)  

CHF 24

Membership fee for the Bern University of Applied Sciences Student Association (VSBFH) (per semester)

CHF 15

Leave of absence fee (per semester) 

CHF 100

* The application fee can be paid by credit card or by deposit slip / paper invoice (+ CHF 10.– processing fee). There are no waivers or refunds for withdrawn or abandoned applications. The application is processed after payment has been received.
** If the application leads to matriculation, the matriculation fee is covered by the application fee.
*** International students are defined as persons of foreign citizenship who at the time of obtaining their university entrance qualification were domiciled under civil law neither in Switzerland nor the Principality of Liechtenstein.

There is also a fixed fee for materials whose amount depends on the degree programme as well as additional costs for teaching materials, specialist literature, supplies, etc.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding scholarships and loans please contact Ramona Picenoni.

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we promote balance between study, work and family.

A limited number of nursery places are available to BFH staff and students. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, the relevant documents can be found on the BFH Intranet. The fees are income-based and in line with the cantonal rates described in the Verordnung über die Angebote der sozialen Integration (Decree on Social Integration Offer ASIV) issued by the Canton of Bern. You can apply for a nursery place using the online form on the BFH Intranet. If you’re a new student or member of staff and don’t have access to the Intranet, please contact Corinne Badertscher (Tel. +41 (0)31 848 33 01, corinne.badertscher@bfh.ch). There is no legal entitlement to a nursery place.

Students must also fulfill their compulsory service obligations during their studies. Please be sure to plan and coordinate your compulsory service ahead of time.
It is strongly recommended that you complete your basic military training and civil service before commencing your studies. Completing them during your studies results in absences, which can lead to an extension of the duration of the course.

General information about military and civil service


Information regarding the recruitment process (VBS)  

Police and Military Directorate of the Canton Bern  

Informations regarding Civil service and studying  

Support


For more information on how to co-ordinate your studies and your compulsory service, please phone HKB Student Administration on +41 31 848 49 49.

Start date: 20.9.2021 
Application deadline: 15.3.2021 

Aptitude assessment:

  • Creative Practice: 19.4.2021, 9am–6pm
  • Contemporary Jazz: 20.4.2021, 9am–6pm 

So, have you decided to study at the Berne University of Applied Sciences? Then don’t hesitate and register right away! With the online registration you always have an overview of the application process.

Online Application

Please have the following documents available in electronic form (passport photo: JPG / remaining documents: PDF). No document should exceed 1MB.

  • ID card or passport
  • Passport photo
  • A diploma qualifying you for university studies (for example, A-Levels, Matura from a Gymnasium, Berufsmaturität, Abitur)
  • A CV in tabular form
  • A written statement expressing your personal motivation for undertaking this course, as well as your professional aspiration.

 

For international students, the following documents are also required:

  • A residence permit (if available)

 

If you were already enrolled at another university:

  • Confirmation of exmatriculation
  • Diploma and Transcript of previous academic history (Transcript of Records)

 

In case you do not have the above listed documents, please mention this in the comments section.

Consulting + Location

The Music Division at HKB has cutting-edge facilities at its disposal at various locations, including 60 practice rooms, 80 teaching rooms, auditoria of various sizes, an outstanding music library, a recording studio, research facilities and instrument hire. Students can reserve many of the rooms online. We operate an open door policy.