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Unit information: Composition in 2018/19

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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, covering both acoustic and studio techniques. The acoustic composition component 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 many styles of music. Students will create short compositions and arrangements, developing their musical ideas and objectives, and their own individual compositional voice. The studio component introduces students to composing using computer software, teaches them to engineer their own sounds and learn how to create independent musical compositions from them.


This unit aims to provide a thorough grounding in compositional techniques through detailed study of structural models in Western music from medieval times to musical uses of computers and recording technology, including the recording, editing and transformation of sound as the raw material for musical composition and the representation of music as abstract data, as in the MIDI protocol. Practical guidance is given in the production and notation of scores. This unit offers hands-on introduction to conventions underlying notation software.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. compose short pieces on a variety of structural bases
  2. produce musically intelligible, neat and practicable scores
  3. react constructively to workshop performances of their own compositions
  4. discuss musical objectives and make constructive use of advice and experience
  5. demonstrate an ability to handle and manipulate a variety of sound sources electronically in both analytical and creative contexts
  6. understand and apply the operation of hardware, software applications, recording techniques

Teaching details

Weekly seminars (2 hrs)

Assessment Details

20% continuous assessment i.e. contributions to acoustic workshops (ILOs 2, 3 and 4);

30% submission of two best performed scores totalling c.4 mins. of music for approved ensembles (ILOS 1, 2);

50%: two electronic compositions, the first 40%, the second 60%, totalling 8 mins (ILOs 4-6).

Reading and References

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

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

Smalley, D., "Spectromorphology: explaining sound shapes" in Organised Sound, 2(2) (1997), 107-26.

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