New MA Specialism in Music and Science

Authors: Tuomas Eerola & Kelly Jakubowski

We are very pleased to be launching a new pathway in Music and Science within our Taught Masters (MA) programme in Durham’s Music Department from Autumn 2021. In this post we outline some of the key features of the programme, and our views on what makes it unique and exciting.

Students specialising in Music and Science within our MA programme will take a 60-credit module (Advanced Topics in Music and Science), which will be divided into two broad topic areas: Theory and Methods. Theory content will focus on the latest topics and theories within music and science research. These sessions will be informed by cutting-edge research from within our Music and Science Lab group, which comprises a range of leading experts on topics including music and emotion, music and memory, the psychology and physiology of music performance, and cross-cultural music perception and cognition. A full list of our Music and Science Lab staff can be found here. The Methods sessions will focus on developing practical skills for conducting music and science research, including qualitative and quantitative design and analysis, and computational methods. The aim of these sessions is to equip students with the tools to be able to design and carry out music and science research that is of a standard publishable in an academic journal. In addition to this pathway-specific module, all Music and Science MA students will complete a 60-credit dissertation project, which comprises a major piece of original, empirical research (e.g., experiment, observational study, corpus study) on a topic of their choosing, under close supervision from a relevant member of academic staff. Music and Science MA students will also be integrated within the wider MA programme in Music, through some shared modules and regular joint activities with MA students pursuing other specialisations (musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, and performance). As such, this programme represents a distinctive balance between specialisation in a chosen area of research and integration within the wider academic discipline of Music.

Professor Eerola demonstrating Music Information Retrieval techniques in our Music and Science Lab.

Our research group has several unique features that we believe make Durham an intellectually stimulating and rewarding environment for postgraduate study in music and science. Firstly, we have a very active research group, in which postgraduate students and academic staff are invited to come together for regular lab group meetings covering topics such as ongoing research projects, methodological innovations, and career development skills. Although the specific pathway in Music and Science is a new addition to the Taught MA, we already host a very engaged and positive community of postgraduate students doing music and science research, whom you can read more about here, into which the new MA students will be fully integrated.

Within the Music and Science Lab research group we pride ourselves on conducting highly interdisciplinary research, including collaborations between music psychologists, ethnomusicologists, computational musicologists, music analysts, engineers, music teachers and performers. As such, our research covers a wide remit, and has a range of practical, real-world applications. We also integrate our postgraduate students in discussions of the challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary research, and aim to equip them with the tools to work collaboratively with researchers from a range of backgrounds.

In the Durham Music and Science Lab we are also highly committed to reproducible, transparent research. This commitment permeates our teaching, in which we emphasise the importance of scientific principles including replication, Open Data, and transparent research practices. Our academic staff and postgraduate students regularly share data on Open Science repositories. In addition, we teach statistical analysis and computational music analysis using open-source tools (primarily R and Python) that enable students to build skills in coding/programming in a language that facilitates reproducible analyses and sharing of analysis protocols.

Capturing audio, video, and physiological data from a professional string quartet in our departmental Recording Studio.

Durham’s Music and Science Lab hosts a range of specialist equipment and software for conducting music and science research, including devices for measuring psychophysiology (GSR, ECG, Respiration, EMG), 32-channel electroencephalography (EEG), portable accelerometers, and professional audio and video editing software. The Music Department benefits from two expert music technicians, state-of-the-art recording studios, and dedicated lab space for designing and running experiments.

**If you are interested in learning more about our group’s research and plans for the MA pathway in Music and Science, please consider signing up for our upcoming Music and Science Open Day on Friday, 26 March, 2021 (13:00-17:00 GMT) here.**

Questions about the Music and Science MA pathway can also be emailed to Professor Tuomas Eerola ( General queries about the MA in Music programme, including entry requirements and application processes, can be directed to the Music Department’s Postgraduate Admissions Team (

End-of-term student research project presentations.

One thought on “New MA Specialism in Music and Science

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