Clare College Cambridge


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The Cambridge Music Tripos is intended to deepen your understanding of music and its historical and cultural context, and to help you gain fundamental skills in writing and analysing music. The core of the course involves studies in history, analysis and compositional techniques. During your three years you will have an increasing amount of free choice in the subjects you study, as well as the opportunity to explore aspects of music that will probably be unfamiliar, such as notation and ethnomusicology. Although many music students at Cambridge want to enter the music profession in one guise or another, the course provides a broad education for those who take up other occupations.

In the first year (Part IA), you study for six papers, all of them examined at the end of the year. These include the study of technical skills (writing harmony and counterpoint) and topics in Western music from the Middle Ages through to the present day. You also take courses in Analysis, which deals with music from 1700 to 1830, and Practical Musicianship, which develops your skills in aural and keyboard.  Finally, you choose one option from among composition, extended essay and performance.

In the second year (Part IB) you study five subjects. The Portfolio of Tonal Compositions and Analysis and Repertoire (this time of music from 1830 to the present) are compulsory. You can then choose the other three subjects from a wide-ranging list. In the third year (Part II) you study six subjects, at least two of which need to be examined by a three-hour written examination.

More detail about the course structure is available.

The Music School is situated in West Road.

Studying Music at Clare

Teaching takes all forms: lectures (formal instruction given by members of the Music Faculty Staff), seminars (smaller groups supervised by Faculty Lecturers but involving student participation), Faculty classes for keyboard and aural training, and College-based supervisions (informal, but intensive discussion in small groups). Supervisions are arranged by the Director of Studies and may involve a number of teachers drawn from different Colleges. They are held in the supervisors' own rooms, either singly or in groups of two to six students. Supervisions are given in all subjects being studied for the Tripos and represent the core of work done during the term. Essays, and exercises in harmony, counterpoint and composition, etc, are set and marked on a weekly basis. Music students have access both to the University Library and to the Pendlebury Library in the Faculty. The Pendlebury is one of the best equipped music faculty libraries in the country, containing a full range of complete editions, miniature scores, sheet music and music text books, as well as an excellent library of recordings. There are video-tape facilities and listening booths for recorded music. Clare College, situated close to both the University Library and the Pendlebury, has a well-stocked Tripos-orientated music section in the Forbes Mellon Library. The College’s Choir website,, gives further details of practical music-making in the College and testimonials from the many distinguished musical alumni of the College.

Admission Requirements

Clare College wishes to attract undergraduates who have a serious interest in a Tripos course that is primarily academic. A reasonable keyboard facility is expected from all candidates, but applicants need not necessarily be specialist performers (music interviews will be concerned with testing academic rather than practical aptitude). On the other hand, a keen involvement in musical activity outside the confines of the Tripos is well regarded. Current undergraduates have interests in composition and conducting as well as in vocal and instrumental performance. The nature of the Music Tripos course, which involves only a limited amount of time spent on lectures and supervisions, is best suited to well-organised and self-motivated students.

Offers for Music are usually made on the basis of A-level examination results, a typical offer being A*AA or 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent in other educational systems.

One subject must be Music (not Music Technology), except for applicants with Grade VIII theory (ABRSM). A basic knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and analytical skills, such as can be studied at A-level, is a distinct advantage. Any combination of subjects is acceptable. Although the study of a foreign language (eg. French, German or Italian) is desirable, it is not obligatory.

Notes on Music Interviews at Clare College

Applicants will have an interview in early December, which will be concerned with musical and non-musical interests. Certain tests, as described below, will be given, including a written paper. The interviews will involve five main elements:

  • An opportunity to perform on the candidate's first instrument, or to sing. Lack of time will only permit a short performance (maximum 5 minutes).
  • Discussion of a short extract of music (prepared). On arrival at Clare, candidates will be handed a piece of music (usually from the classical period) to analyse. At the interview he/she will be asked both about its formal organisation and its thematic, harmonic and rhythmic structure. Commentary on any points of particular interest will also be invited.
  • Aural tests. These may consist of such exercises as identification of intervals or notes within a chord, and singing of an atonal melody.
  • Keyboard tests. These may involve harmonising a simple melody, reading a passage for string quartet from open score and sightreading. Potential and teachability is among the qualities tested.
  • General discussion. In the interviews there will be an opportunity to display not only general academic knowledge of music but also candidates' particular interests within the subject. The candidates will also be given a chance to ask about the Music Tripos, teaching methods and so on.

NB: Pianos are available for the use of candidates preparing for interview at Clare College.

Written paper. Candidates will be asked to sit an hour-long paper during their visit to Cambridge. There will be one question, the harmonization of a melody in a free style (i.e not necessarily in four parts) or the completion of the lower three parts of a Bach chorale. NB Please note that a keyboard will not be available for this paper.

Coursework/Composition. Candidates should send, in advance of their interview, one example of a recently completed (and marked) essay, and also a harmony exercise (also marked). Original compositions may also be sent in support of applications.

Fellows in Music at Clare College

  • Professor Marina Frolova-Walker Director of Studies and responsible for Music Admissions. She specialises in German Romanticism, Russian & Soviet Music and Nationalism in Music.
  • Mr Graham Ross is Director of Music at Clare College, and is responsible for the Chapel Choir and all music-making in the College. He specialises in composition.

Further information about the Music Tripos, the teaching of Music at Clare and admissions for Music candidates to the College may be obtained from the Admissions Office.

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