We ask all our Music applicants to send us one recent essay on a music history topic that they have written recently as part of their school work, and also one musical exercise or piece: this can be a harmony and/or counterpoint exercise in some historical style (for example, in the style of Bach or Palestrina), or another exercise in a historical style or an original composition. Applicants who have not written essays for Music A level can send an essay from another subject: please contact us for further information.
Applicants who play an instrument to a high level, or who sing, may also, if they wish, send in one or two recordings of their playing or singing. The piece(s) should not last more than roughly 10-15 minutes, or 20 minutes in total if the applicant wishes to send recordings on two different instruments (or instrument and voice). Recordings can be on CD or USB stick. Sending in a recording is purely optional; those who choose not to do so will not be at any disadvantage.
We aim to interview all candidates with a realistic chance of admission – generally those on track to meet our typical academic conditions. Candidates will probably have two interviews. One of these will be a subject interview and will last approximately 45 minutes, conducted by Dr Jeremy Thurlow, a Fellow of Robinson College and Director of Studies in Music at Peterhouse. The other may be a general interview (discussing your interest in your subject and any written work you have submitted) with an Admissions Tutor.
Before the subject interview you will be asked to sit a one-hour written paper. The paper will comprise three questions: a short excerpt from a chorale melody to harmonise in the style of Bach; a short piece of two-voice counterpoint following stylistic rules that are clearly explained (so that previous experience of writing counterpoint is not required); and an essay title on a broad issue of music history for which you should write an opening paragraph and then make brief notes outlining the rest of the essay. You will be given a wide range of choices for this question: the idea is to give you an opportunity to think about a general question and bring to it your own personal areas of knowledge and interest. Finally, after this written paper and before the subject interview you should spend 10 minutes or so looking carefully at some brief musical extracts which will be given to you: these will then be discussed as part of the subject interview. You may annotate the extracts if you wish.
The subject interview will typically cover the following:
- A level syllabus and how far through it you have progressed.
- Questions arising from the one-hour written paper.
- A discussion of the musical extracts, and of a further musical extract which will be played to you (without a score).
- Some very brief aural tests (such as chords, intervals, rhythms) and keyboard tests (such as harmonising a melodic phrase, and playing cadences in different keys). Advanced piano skills are not necessary here and candidates who are not primarily pianists should not feel discouraged!
- General questions about music. These will not be esoteric, but will concentrate on the mainstream repertoire and on your particular interests.
At the end of the interview you can ask any questions you might have.