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Unit information: Extended Study: Composition Portfolio in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Extended Study: Composition Portfolio
Unit code MUSI30059
Credit points 40
Level of study H/6
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 begin with weekly seminars on contemporary music, each one highlighting an issue for creative response in the form of a weekly exercise or compositional miniature on specified topics. Later in the semester, this will be replaced by the composition of more extended movements for student ensembles as agreed with the unit director. In the second semester, students will be required to compose one or two additional pieces by agreement with the unit director, providing an opportunity for fuller development of the composer's interests, through more extended structures of a dramatic or symphonic nature.


This unit aims to immerse student composers in a broad range of recent stylistic developments through detailed technical and analytical study of models; application of specified techniques in exercises, workshop compositions and more extended pieces potentially for public performance; and self-critical reflection and constructive comment on the work of peers (in the small group tutorials).

Intended learning outcomes

Successful completion of this unit will enable students to:

  1. recognise and discuss the main established practices of contemporary music
  2. understand and comment in detail on a variety of 20th-century compositions
  3. respond creatively to given issues or problematics
  4. further develop and display technical competence and imaginative quality within the emerging individual style beyond that achieved in previous levels
  5. deepen self-recognition of the composer’s ‘authentic’ voice
  6. compose suitable contemporary works for small ensembles
  7. compose suitable contemporary works for larger forces, such as orchestra, choir or mixed ensemble.

Teaching details

Seminars (2 hours per week at the beginning of the unit), workshops, individual and small group tutorials.
1.5 hours per week participation in department research seminar
1 hour per week of attending concerts within the department's concert series
2 hours per week of participation in group workshops and masterclasses within the Music Futures programme.

Assessment Details

(a) three prescribed miniatures addressing specific musical problems (Weighting: 15%) Successful attainment of outcome (ILO 3) will enable the student to demonstrate (ILO 1-2)

(b) a commissioned work for agreed ensemble, (Weighting: 35%). Successful attainment of outcome (ILO 4) will enable the student to demonstrate (ILO 6) Students are required to attend the workshops at which these compositions are performed in order to receive credit points.

(c) approved original composition(s) Successful attainment of outcome (ILO 4) will enable the student to demonstrate (ILO 7) (Weighting: 50%). the whole making a varied portfolio of c.20 mins. duration . A successful portfolio will also embody (ILO 5).

Reading and References

Attention will be drawn during the unit to significant works that have shaped contemporary musical styles and aesthetics, and to works that may serve as models for the mediums being addressed; additionally, concerts, broadcasts and recordings will be recommended.