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Unit information: Composition in 2020/21

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Unit name Composition
Unit code MUSI10059
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Pickard
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will cover the fundamentals of independent composition. It will cover a range of techniques, including some or all of acoustic, studio and orchestration. The unit will work in parallel with other first year classes, helping students to develop their listening skills and an appreciation and awareness of many instrumental and vocal combinations, as well as a range of musical styles and approaches. Students will create short compositions and arrangements, developing their musical ideas and objectives, their notational skills, as appropriate to the musical context, and their own individual compositional voice. The studio component (when present) introduces students to composing using computer software, teaches them to engineer their own sounds and learn how to create independent musical compositions from them. The orchestration component (when present) introduces students to the capabilities and notation of the different families of orchestral instruments and to the basics of blending and balancing them in full orchestral contexts.


This unit aims to provide a thorough grounding in compositional and orchestration techniques through detailed study of structural models in Western music, with a particular emphasis on examples from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Practical guidance is given in the production and notation of scores.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will demonstrate their ability to:

  1. Compose short pieces on a variety of structural bases
  2. Produce musically intelligible, neat and practicable scores
  3. Demonstrate an ability to handle and manipulate a variety of sound sources
  4. In some years this will include electronic manipulation of sound. In some years it will include writing for symphony orchestra
  5. Communicate effectively to performers about their compositions in a workshop situation

Teaching details

Weekly seminars. Workshops.

Assessment Details

A portfolio of compositions/instrumentation exercises, totalling 12 minutes (approx.) and repertoire tests (ILOs 1-3; 100%) Workshop contributions (ILO 4; formative)

Reading and References

Cope, D., Techniques of the Contemporary Composer (New York, 2000).

Adler, S., The Study of Orchestration 3rd. ed (New York, 2002)

Gould, Elaine, Behind Bars - The Definitive Guide to Music Notation (London, 2016)

Emmerson, S. (ed.), The Language of Electroacoustic Music. (London, 1986).

Chadabe, J., Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music (Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1996).

Selected CD recordings to be determined by individual project areas

Prescribed scores, to be identified during the unit