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Advanced Composition - MUS00001H

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  • Department: Music
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Thomas Simaku
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The project aims to develop your familiarity with issues in contemporary composition, and allow you to increase your vocabulary of compositional techniques through completion of an independent folio of music.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to address key issues of compositional techniques and idioms. The study of works by 20th and 21st-century composers and the working out of a number of technical exercises (concerning the melodic, harmonic, contrapuntal and timbral aspects) will be the main focus of the project. The exercises will then serve as a starting point for free composition. You will actively take part in seminars, as well as workshops, as composers and performers, and are therefore required to bring their instruments to the class.

The project is structured around seminars, study sessions and workshops, where you will try out your exercises and chunks of your main composition, are very much part of the module, as are the tutorials during the project and up to the final submission.

In order to take this module, you will normally have taken 'Composition 1' in your first or second year.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the project you should:

  • have developed a good understanding of compositional techniques as demonstrated in some key works by 20th and 21st-century composers;
  • have developed their presentation skills;
  • have acquired a deeper awareness of the fundamental issues of composition such as clarity of expression, coherence, unity and diversity within the overall formal structure;
  • by applying these principles and techniques in their compositions, have been encouraged to discover and develop the potential of their own creative voice.

On completion of the module, in your independent work, you should demonstrate
Learning Outcomes C1-C6, C7 & C10


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 10
N/A 90

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

A well-presented portfolio consisting of all the exercises worked (and re-worked as necessary) during the module, and one substantial free composition (ca. 7 minutes) (90%); accompanying commentary on the works submitted of c.750-1000w (10%).


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 10
N/A 90

Module feedback

You will receive written feedback in line with standard University turnaround times.

Indicative reading

Suggested Scores

  • Bartók, Violin Sonatas, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Concerto for Orchestra
  • Berio: Sequenzas
  • Boulez: 12 Notations, Le Marteau Sans Maître
  • Debussy: Douze Etudes, Jeux
  • Kurtag: Hommage a RSCH, Kafka Fragments, 12 Microludes
  • Ligeti: Lontano, Horn Trio, Piano Etudes, Viola Sonata, Violin Concerto
  • Lutoslawski: Livre pour Orchestre, Epitaph, Partita, Jeux Venetiens
  • Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time
  • Saariaho: Petals for Solo Cello
  • Schoenberg: Op. 16, Variations for Orchestra Op. 31, Klavierstück Op.33a
  • Stravinsky: Variations
  • Takemitsu: Hika for Violin & Piano, Rain Spell for Chamber Ensemble
  • Webern: Op 5, Five Pieces for Orchestra Op.10, Symphony Op.21, Variations for Piano Op. 27

More works by the above composers, and others (!) such as Birtwistle, Grisey, Murail, Scelsi, Xenakis, Unsuk Chin (and many more!) can be found on YouTube!

Suggested reading:

  • Whittall, Arnold. (2000) Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford UP.
  • Lester, Joel. (1989) Analytic Approaches to Twentieth Century Music. London: Norton.
  • Ligeti, György. (1983) Ligeti in Conversation. London: Eulenberg.
  • Boulez, Pierre. (1985). Orientations. London: Faber.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.