Physics and Music (BSc)

This degree programme is designed to meet the needs of an increasing number of students who combine music with science subjects at A-level.

Run jointly by the School of Music and the School of Physics and Astronomy, this programme involves a substantial element of music in all three years but is biased towards the science side and leads to a BSc Honours degree.

The links between music and physics are especially close at Cardiff, where for more than 30 years there have been strong research interests in the physics of musical instruments and involvement in electronic and computer music systems. Both schools have well-equipped electronic music studios, where much of the course's experimental and composition work takes place.

Home to the arts, Cardiff is a great location for the study of music in the UK. The city has a professional opera company, Welsh National Opera, and a professional symphony orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The School of Music enjoys a fruitful relationship with both organisations that allows, for instance, students to attend dress rehearsals and buy cut-price tickets for concerts.

Key facts

UCAS CodeFW33
Entry pointSeptember 2016
Duration3 years
Studying in WelshThis course offers elements that are taught through the medium of Welsh. Please contact the Admissions tutor for more information.
AccreditationsInstitute of Physics (IOP)
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 105 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 570 applications
Typical A level offerAAA-ABB, including Music, Physics and Mathematics. Consideration will be given to applicants who are not taking A-level Music but have Grade 8 Theory and Grade 8 Practical. Mathematics and Physics are required subjects at A-level. General Studies is not accepted
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerConsidered on an individual basis
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 points, including 6 in Higher Level Mathematics, Physics and Music where relevant
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics

ISBN 978 1 84482 805 0

Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Clair Rowden, Admissions Tutor

Dr Christopher North, Course Administrator

Dr Christopher North, Admissions Tutor

Important Legal Information: The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by May 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.

The BSc Physics and Music degree programme is designed to give a broad-based education in theoretical and experimental physics combined with knowledge of the practical and theoretical aspects of music. This programme of study will allow you to combine one third Music (40 credits) with two thirds Physics (80 credits) in each year of the programme.

You will cover the core Mathematics and Physics material throughout the three years of study. Most of the modules in Physics are prescribed, but in Music you have considerable choice from such areas as composition, performance, theory and analysis, ethnomusicology and music history. There is special tuition in studio techniques as well as the acoustical aspects of music and musical instruments. In addition there are practical sessions in Music and Physics and you are expected to take part in music-making.

Year one

Module titleModule codeCredits
Composition 1AMU110710 credits
Composition 1BMU120810 credits
Fundamental AcousticsMU121710 credits
Practical Musicianship IMU131410 credits
Elements of Tonal Music IMU112520 credits
Elements of Tonal Music IIMU122720 credits
Repertoire StudiesMU131720 credits
The Full WorksMU112710 credits
A HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSICMU122610 credits
ETHNOMUSICOLOGY I: MUSIC IN HUMAN LIFEMU112410 credits
From Page To Stage: Dramaturgy in Musical TheatreMU123010 credits

Year two

Year three

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

In Physics, core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, exercise classes, experimental laboratory classes, computing classes, tutorials and guided study. The first two years of the programme are designed to cover carefully chosen core material. These two years prepare students for their final year of study, which encompasses a wide range of contemporary subject material, some of which reflects research interests in the School. Throughout the delivery of the programme, wherever possible, recent research results are used to illustrate and illuminate the subject.

Tuition in Music involves a range of learning and teaching styles, including (but not limited to) lectures, small-group seminars and workshops, individual tutorials or solo instrumental tuition, ensemble instrumental tuition and practical rehearsals, and independent study. Supplementary resources are available through various channels, including Learning Central (the university's Virtual Learning Environment) and from commercially available software for which the School holds licences. While students take fewer modules in Music, they have a greater choice, and can therefore opt for a greater focus on music theory, music history, composition or performance.

This programme gives students a sound training in Physics and Music in preparation for a wide variety of employment, including work in sound engineering, acoustics, the media (including composition for film/TV), the technical aspects of music and music theatre, industrial or academic research and development, education, and diverse areas requiring a pragmatic, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving, such as business and finance.

Based on responses from the 2012-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) surveys, 50% of graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy were in professional employment within six months of graduation while a further 33% were engaged in further study. Employers included: UK and international universities plus organisations such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Oclaro Technology and the Ministry of Defence.

In 2013/14, 98% of the School of Music's graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduation.

Jobs

  • Sound engineer
  • Academic research and development
  • Education

The School of Music's second-year modules The Business of Music I/II are designed to help you better understand the music profession. They also offer the opportunity to undertake - either in one block or as a series of regular workplace visits - a short placement in a music- or arts-related area.

Duration

3 Year(s)

Next intake

September 2016

Places available

Typical places available

120

Applications received

Typical applications received

600-700

Accreditations

QAA subject benchmark

QAA subject benchmark

Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics

ISBN 978 1 84482 805 0

Overview and aims of this course/programme

The BSc Physics and Music degree programme is designed to give a broad-based education in theoretical and experimental physics combined with knowledge of practical and theoretical aspects of music and music performance. It is aimed at science students who have an interest in music or music performance who wish to continue their formal education in music whilst pursuing physical sciences to degree level. The overall aim of this programme is to give students a sound training in physics and music in preparation for a wide variety of employment, including work in the media, the technical aspects of music and music theatre, industrial or academic research and development, education, and diverse areas requiring a pragmatic, numerate and analytical approach to problem solving, such as business and finance.

What should I know about year five?

The School of Physics and Astronomy undertakes to provide high-quality taught programmes of study, to deliver them in a competent and professional way, and to listen to your comments. But you also have responsibilities which, when fulfilled, will help you gain the most from your studies. Not all of these responsibilities are stated in explicit rules and regulations because we expect that you will become self-motivated, develop a responsible attitude to the use of your time, and acquire the ability to organise your work to meet deadlines. We have tried to help you focus your efforts by providing “learning outcomes” for each of our modules. Learning outcomes form a list which shows the principal things which an “average-ranking student” should be able to do after completing the module, i.e. a kind of “syllabus” but concentrating on what you need to be able to do or to be able to reproduce to demonstrate your understanding of the subject.

Learning outcomes do not describe everything you should expect to gain from the course and you are expected to extend your knowledge and expertise by further reading, discussion and reflection. So what are your responsibilities? The most obvious is that you should take command of your learning – we do our best to teach you and guide you through the various subjects, but you have to do the learning! To this end, you should attend all teaching sessions – including lectures, laboratories, exercise classes and tutorials. You should attempt all exercises and problems provided, handing in work by the specified deadline. In some cases exercise marks are part of your continuous assessment. If you cannot complete an exercise, hand in your efforts anyway; you will then get feedback as to where you have gone wrong.

When you meet concepts or problems you do not comprehend, you should ask staff for help – we can only deal with problems when we know they exist. If you have comments on the modules, tell us. Tell the lecturer, tell your representative on the staff-student panel, put it on the questionnaire which you are asked to complete at the end of each semester. If you are unable to complete work on time or attend teaching sessions for good cause, then you should inform your tutor or the General Office and where required submit written extenuating circumstances.

If illness or other external factors have affected your work or prevented you from taking examinations, this will be taken into account by the Examinations Board, but note that written notification with supporting documentation from a doctor or counsellor is then required.

You also have a responsibility to work in accordance with the School’s safety procedures. In doing experimental work and in moving round the building you should always be aware of the safety of yourself and others. You have a responsibility to report all accidents to a member of staff, who will then complete an accident report form. Any enquiries on safety matters in the laboratories should be addressed to the responsible member of staff or the laboratory technician whenever practical.

How is this course/programme structured?

Core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, exercise classes, experimental laboratory classes, computing classes, tutorials and guided study. Physics is an hierarchical discipline which requires systematic exposition.

The first two years of the programme are designed to cover carefully-chosen core material. A “team approach” has been adopted for course delivery in Years 1 and 2 to establish common approaches to organisation, to share experience and to oversee student workloads. These two years prepare students for their final year of study, which encompasses a wide range of contemporary subject material, some of which reflects research interests in the School; students have some choice in their final-year modules. Throughout the delivery of the programme, wherever possible, recent research results are used to illustrate and illuminate the subject.

Students undertake a major project in their final year (double module) under the supervision of a member of academic staff. Some projects are undertaken in research laboratories or as part of a research group’s activities.

What should I know about year four?

The University will provide the core first year Physics and Maths textbooks. Students may choose to purchase additional textbooks following advice from staff.

What should I know about year three?

Students undertake weekly laboratory classes, which, over the first two years, are designed to develop experimental and analytical skills to the extent that students can conduct a major experimental study as part of their final-year project. Investigative skills, mathematical skills, communication skills and team work are developed in all modules.

What should I know about the preliminary year?

Exercises are an integral part of all lecture-based modules, and these give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge, increase their critical awareness and enhance their problem-solving skills. Supplementary exercise classes are held in some modules. Students undertake weekly laboratory classes, which, over the first two years, are designed to develop experimental and analytical skills to the extent that students can conduct a major experimental study as part of their final-year project. Investigative skills, communication skills and team work are developed in both laboratory-based work and in Topics in Physics. Mathematics is taught in separate modules in all years, and it is also incorporated into many physics - based modules.

IT skills are taught in the first year, where students are introduced to various software packages, including Mathcad and elementary programming. Students have the opportunity of taking further computing and numerical - methods modules in later years.

Regular small-group tutorials are held in Years 1 (weekly) and 2 (fortnightly). Tutorials provide an effective means of supporting students academically and tailoring teaching methods to their specific requirements. Tutorials provide an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, to promote a wider view of the subject and encourage good oral communication.

Exercises and tutorials are also used extensively in Music. Essay writing forms a much larger component of the assessed work in Music. All Music students are expected to participate in practical music making.

What should I know about year one?

In the first year, approximately 60% of the year mark is obtained by conventional end-of-semester examination with the remaining 40% determined by continual assessment (exercises and laboratory work). The proportion of the marks determined by continual assessment falls progressively to about 20% in the final year. The format of all assessments, including examination papers, is dependent on the learning outcomes of each specific module. Exercises and laboratory-based work provides both summative and formative assessment. Experimental work assesses practical skills, data collection, analysis of data and errors as well as general writing skills. In the first instance, the nature and methodology of experimental work is clearly defined, but progressively students are expected to tackle more open-ended investigations.

Project work is assessed by both the supervisor and an assessor. Summative and formative assessment takes place at the end of the first semester in the form of a written interim report and a viva voce examination. The majority of the assessment is based on the final written report and the supervisor’s assessment of the student’s ability to organise and manage the project.

Other information

Students are supported in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, one-to-one personal and academic tutorials, feedback sessions and extensive use of Learning Central.

Distinctive features

The programme outcomes have been informed by the QAA Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics benchmark statement and also by the accreditation requirements of the Institute of Physics.

The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate a range of learning outcomes that can be categorised into three distinct groups: subject knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills and more-general transferable skills. These learning outcomes are set out below. The document then outlines how it is ensured that these learning outcomes are achieved by a typical student through (i) the teaching and learning strategies and methods used, and (ii) the strategies used to assess learning.

A. Subject Knowledge and Understanding

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to demonstrate:

- knowledge and understanding of the theory and application of core physics concepts,  such as electromagnetism, quantum and classical mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter;

- knowledge and understanding of selected areas of the history of music, the analysis of music, music performance and composition;

- an awareness of current trends in physics and physics and music research and developments at the frontiers of the subjects;

- an appreciation of the role of experimental physics;

- an appreciation of applying mathematical methods to describe the physical world;

- an appreciation of the emotional and technical aspects of music and musical sounds.

B. Intellectual Skills

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to:

- formulate problems in physics by identifying appropriate physical principles and seek solutions by applying mathematical or computational tools;

- appraise theory or test solutions by identifying special limiting cases or making order of magnitude estimates;

- plan, design and execute an extended experiment or investigation, using appropriate methods to analyse data and estimate uncertainties;

- make critical comparison of data from models and those from experimental observations;

- demonstrate a systematic approach to the analysis of harmony and music textures;

- demonstrate, through extended essays, an ability to investigate and interpret historical sources of information;

- sustain a critical argument, both in writing and through oral presentation.

C. Transferable Skills

Upon completion of the programme a typical student should be able to:

- solve well-defined and open-ended problems and identify key issues;

- solve problems of a practical nature;

- design experimental equipment, electronic circuitry or computer data acquisition or data reduction algorithms;

- participate in the practical performance of music;

- demonstrate a practical ability to record and manipulate musical sounds;

- conduct independent research using a variety of source materials, including textbooks, scientific journals and electronic databases;

- communicate clearly and concisely complex problems or concepts;

- use precise calculations or order-of-magnitude calculations in appropriate situations;

- use computer packages and/or write software;

- describe and critically appraise their own work and the work of others, through written and verbal means;

- work effectively in a team and as an individual;

- undertake independent study;

- meet deadlines

How will I be taught?

The distinctive features of the programme include:

- the opportunity for students to learn in a department which has a strong research ethos;

- the involvement of research-active staff in programme design and delivery;

- effective course monitoring and feedback from students used for review purposes;

- the emphasis on independent learning in a research led environment;

- provision of excellent laboratory facilities;

- the opportunity to study free-standing modules;

- the opportunity to study abroad on an ERASMUS programme;

- an emphasis on progression towards independent learning.

Admissions tutors

Dr Clair Rowden, Admissions Tutor

Dr Christopher North, Course Administrator

Dr Christopher North, Admissions Tutor


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