Our undergraduate programme gives you an exceptionally solid foundation in the Western classical tradition, but you will also find courses in jazz, popular music and world music.
The first year provides a broadly-based introduction to the subject, while the second and third years offer increasing opportunities for specialism, including substantial self-directed projects such as dissertations and composition portfolios.
Music at Cambridge covers a broad range of music and variety of ways of thinking about and understanding music. While performance is in no way discouraged, the focus of the tripos is on the rigorous study of history, analysis and composition.
The Music Tripos consists of three parts: Part IA, Part IB and Part II; one part is taken each academic year. In each year of the Tripos you take six papers. In Part IA all six papers are compulsory (though you can choose between recital, composition or extended essay as the form of examination in one paper). Part IA provides you with a thorough grounding in the basic musicological disciplines – history, analysis, harmony and counterpoint, and general musicianship skills – after which you are well equipped to tackle the broader choices in Parts IB and II.
In Part IB you take three compulsory papers and select three more from a list of options; and in Part II you are free to choose all six papers. More details of the course and the optional papers available are available on the Faculty of Music website.
Teaching is conducted through lectures, seminars and supervisions. Lectures and seminars are organised by the Faculty and take place in the Music School; supervisions are arranged by colleges.
One of the smaller and more intimate colleges, Magdalene is an active musical community. In addition to the students we admit to study Music as an academic discipline, a large number of students engaged in other courses are actively involved in the college's musical life.
The College has a number of dedicated funds to reward and encourage excellence in both academic and practical music. Lincoln Prizes, with a value of £200 each, are for those who achieve a First class in the Music Tripos, Parts IA and IB. These Prizes are in addition to the College Scholarship of £175.
Discretionary Lincoln Grants are available for those requiring financial assistance with the cost of music lessons, music books, etc. These will be administered in line with the procedure for Financial Aid Applications via the Tutors.
Six Lincoln Awards of £750 each are awarded annually to current students (instrumentalists and singers, both undergraduates and graduates) who are invited to audition in the Lent Term. Audition criteria are similar to those of the National Youth Orchestra, i.e. of a standard equivalent to that required to pass grade VIII with distinction, and should be 8 minutes in duration. Each accompanist will be remunerated (£30 per Audition), and there are a maximum of 10 Applicants.
Lincoln Award holders are expected to contribute to the promotion of College music (e.g. 2 recitals per year, one of which may be on Donors’ Day), and renewal is subject to a formal appraisal at the end of each academic year.
Organ and Choral Scholarships and Instrumental Awards
The College offers Organ and Choral scholarships each year and there are opportunities for musicians of every standard and type at Magdalene; to foster excellence, awards are available to instrumental players through the inter-collegiate Instrumental Awards Scheme run by a committee of music lecturers.
For more about the musical life in the College and information about how to apply for music scholarships and instrumental awards, please follow the links on the right or contact the Director of College Music.
Applicants in Music must be curious – preferably enthusiastic – about their subject, with a desire to do more than simply play or listen to music. A large part of the course is devoted to theoretical and historical elements, so students must be motivated to engage with the music on an analytical level as well as with a wide variety of secondary literature. There are many opportunities to perform in Cambridge and at Magdalene, although many of these are extra-curricular in nature, as performance is not an obligatory part of the Music course. Having said that, we do normally expect some sort of proficiency in at least one instrument. Other useful skills include having a foreign language, and a broader interest in something like history, culture, anthropology, or even science may also be beneficial.
Magdalene typically takes one or two students in Music each year. We welcome applications from those who have studied at any sort of school, from any country, and we welcome expressions of interest from prospective candidates at any point in the year.
Applicants are usually required to be taking (or have achieved) an A-Level in Music from a board whose syllabus focuses on the academic study of the subject. ABRSM Grade 8 Theory is an acceptable alternative to A-level Music, though applicants are advised to contact the Admissions Office before applying to discuss the possible implications of this alternative on the typical offer.
The standard offer is A*AA at A-level (or equivalent), or 41-42 on the IB with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.
Interviews, Music Tests, and Written Work
Candidates invited for interview will have two interviews: a subject interview with the Director of Studies in Music and another member of the Music Faculty, and a more general academic interview with two other Fellows of the College (one of whom may be a musician). Each interview will last about 20-25 minutes.
At the time of their interviews, candidates will also be asked to take a simple harmony or composition test, a short analysis test (based on an unseen), ear tests (a mistake-spotting exercise; dictation of melodies, chords and a chorale), and some elementary keyboard harmony.
Applicants are also be asked to submit in advance one recent essay and one piece of harmony or composition work.