Skip to main content

Unit information: Compositional Strategy in 2021/22

Unit name Compositional Strategy
Unit code MUSI20047
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Pickard
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit builds on first-year composition and provides a technical platform and pre-requisite for further studies in Composition. Weekly lectures will present major developments in music from Debussy to the present day, in terms of listening and close study of works by major composers (such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Messiaen, Bartok, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Berio, Birtwistle, Carter, Feldman, Adams, Macmillan and aspects of popular music). Typical compositional techniques will be illustrated and followed up in weekly technical exercises covering aspects of motivic thinking, serialism and combinatoriality, advanced harmony, matrices, modes, rythmic techniques, isorythm, vocal, orchestral and chamber instrumentation and textural composition.


This unit aims to develop compositional skills introduced at Level C through detailed investigation of a wide range of key 20th-century stylistic models (both in lecture and seminar settings), and to equip the student for further studies in composition, by means of detailed study of major works and written exercises on the use of associated techniques.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. understand a number of major pieces of music and many of the major developments in music since 1900
  2. understand the interdependence of style and technique
  3. analyse a variety of new music in an appropriate manner
  4. employ a variety of techniques in written exercises
  5. write (by hand, and optionally by computer) effective musical notation and scoring

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures, practical activities supported by tutorials and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Information

Summative assessment submitted as a portfolio at the end of the unit, consisting of 3 pieces of work that are equally weighted. All three pieces must be included in the portfolio to gain credit for the unit. (ILO 1-5)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MUSI20047).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.