Composition 1 – Dr John Stringer

  • Module Tutor: Dr John Stringer
  • Level: C/4 (1st year students) I/5 (2nd year students), H/6 (3rd year students)

Aims and content

Aimed as an introduction to contemporary composition, the aim of this module is to address some of its fundamental issues. With particular reference to later twentieth century practices, the module develops a vocabulary of compositional techniques through the study of a range of works.  Students will build up a portfolio of exercises that concentrate on line/melody; rhythm; texture and harmony as a preparation for their larger-scale ensemble piece.

Presentation is through lectures, workshops, analysis and tutorials.  The class exercises form the basis of workshops in which all will also take part as performers: instruments must therefore be at hand. All students must be equipped with manuscript paper, pencil and a ruler.

Assessment

A portfolio of class exercises (30%) and a work for ensemble of c. 7 minutes (70%)

Reading and listening

As preparation for the project students must listen to as much contemporary music as possible.  The following are good starting points:

  • Berio Sinfonia, Sequenza series
  • Birtwistle Secret Theatre, Silbury Air, Earth Dances
  • Ferneyhough Intermedio alla ciaccona
  • Henze El Cimarrón
  • Messiaen Turangalîla Symphony
  • Stravinsky Symphonies of Wind Instruments
  • Turnage Greek and Blood on the Floor
  • Webern Concerto Op. 24
  • Zimmermann Requiem

Suggested reading:

  • Griffiths, Paul. Modern Music and After: Directions after 1945. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.
  • Whittall, Arnold. Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the project the students should:

  • have developed an understanding of compositional techniques as demonstrated in some key works by twentieth-century composers;
  • have acquired a deeper awareness of the fundamental issues of contemporary composition such as clarity of expression, coherence, unity and diversity within an overall self-defined structure;
  • have been encouraged to discover and develop the potential of their own creative voice by applying these principles and techniques in their compositions.

First years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcome A10

Second years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcome B10

Third years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcome C10