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Unit information: Contemporary Compositional Ideas and Techniques in 2015/16

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Unit name Contemporary Compositional Ideas and Techniques
Unit code MUSIM0006
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Ellison
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit is intended to build awareness of the musical questions, issues, concepts, techniques, contexts, notation and more, that have driven and been explored by composers through the 20th Century and leading especially to the present day. We will avoid any claim of a single linear narrative: multiplicity is a feature of our time. We will also avoid general claims of one approach being "better" than another, though the repertoire we will study belongs in the now-broad spectrum of Western "art music". You will make work responding to a series of themes, studied in relation to multiple examples by other composers.

Intended Learning Outcomes

This module measures general learning outcomes for the MA in Composition as follows:

1. Comprehensive technical skills for professional score writing, including instrumental and other resources, instrumentation, orchestration, score layout and presentation.

2. Up to date knowledge of and critical understanding of contemporary musical repertoire and related cultural ideas based on listening, score study and reading

3. Acquisition of technical foundations of contemporary composition, supplemented by analysis of relevant scores

4. As a Composer, to demonstrate a high level of technical assurance, the ability to select and generate appropriate constructional tools to bring about the articulation of a musical concept, to use form and argument effectively and clearly, to assess creative ideas objectively in relation to emotional and cultural context, and to develop a reflective and self-critical attitude.

5. clarity and objectivity in expressing musical ideas

6. capacity for creative and lateral thinking

Additionally students on this module will be able to:

7. compose suitable contemporary works for a variety of forces

8. display technical competence and imaginative quality within an emerging individual and imaginative musical voice

Teaching Information

Weekly seminars, supported by tutorials and workshops with visiting musicians

Assessment Information

A portfolio of four equally-weighted projects, each comprising an original score accompanied by a critical commentary, and submitted at the end of TB2. Successful attainment of outcome (4) will enable the student to demonstrate (1) - (3) and (5). A successful Project submission will also embody (6), as shown through (7) and (8)

Reading and References

  • Paul Griffiths Modern Music And After (1995), which updates his earlier Modern Music books. His Dictionary of Contemporary Music is useful too.
  • Arnold Schoenberg Style and Idea remains immensely provocative.
  • Andriessen and Schoenberg on Stravinsky in The Appolonian Clockwork is excellent
  • Reginald Smith-Brindle Music after 1945 – a take on the post-war avant-garde more personal than Griffiths
  • Composer to Composer, Andrew Ford
  • New Sounds, new Personalities, Paul Griffiths