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Composition I - MUS00014I

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  • Department: Music
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Stef Conner
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This module acts as an introduction to contemporary composition, and addresses some of its fundamental issues. You will work on and submit a folio of compositions.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

Intended 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 and twenty-first century practices, the module develops a vocabulary of compositional techniques through the study of a range of works. You 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. You must be equipped with manuscript paper, pencil and a ruler.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the project you should:

  • have developed an understanding of, and creative engagement with, compositional techniques as demonstrated in some key works by twentieth and twenty-first 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 musical techniques in their compositions;
  • have developed skills in working independently and self-reliantly, as well as contributing effectively to group workshop activities as performers and listeners and by giving supportively-critical peer feedback.

On completion of the module, in your independent work, you should demonstrate Learning Outcomes B1-6 & 10


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 10
N/A 60
N/A 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Assessment is through:

1) a portfolio of class exercises (30%);

2) a work for ensemble of c. 7 minutes (60%) and an accompanying commentary of c.750-1000w (10%)


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 10
N/A 60
N/A 30

Module feedback

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

Indicative reading

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

  • Adès, Thomas: Asyla
  • Benjamin, George: Into the Little Hill
  • Catherine Lamb: Parallaxis Forma
  • Davies, Tansy: Neon
  • Enno Poppe: Salz
  • Frank Denyer: Frog
  • Grime, Helen: Violin Concerto
  • Harrison Birtwistle: Silbury Air
  • Iannotta, Clara: Spring or Some Such Thing
  • Judith Weir: King Harald's Saga
  • Kajia Saariaho: Lichtbogen
  • Liza Lim / Lim, Liza: Voodoo Child
  • Monk, Meredith / Meredith Monk: Dolmen Music
  • Nico Muhly: Seeing is Believing
  • Olga Neuwirth: Horizontal/Vertikal
  • Per Nørgård: Iris
  • Rebecca Saunders: O
  • Scelsi, Giacinto: Anahit
  • Tristan Murail: Ethers
  • Unsuk Chin: Double Concerto
  • Varese, Edgar: Deserts
  • Walsche, Jennifer: here we are now
  • Xenakis, Iannis: Metastaseis
  • Young, La Monte: The Well-Tuned Piano
  • Zubel, Agata: Cascando

Suggested reading:

  • Cox, Christoph, and Daniel Warner, eds. (2013) Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Cage, John. (1961) Silence: Lectures and Writings. Middletown, Conn.:Wesleyan University Press.
  • Nyman, Michael. (1999) Experimental Music. Cambridge University Press.
  • Ross, Alex. (2009) The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. London: Harper Perennial.
  • Strunk, Oliver, ed. (1998) Source Readings in Music History: Vol 7, The Twentieth Century. 2nd Revised edn. New York: Norton.

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.