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Unit information: Composing Live Electronics in 2021/22

Unit name Composing Live Electronics
Unit code MUSI30141
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Farwell
Open unit status Not open

normally: MUSI10059 Composition, and at least one of MUSI20058 Compositional Strategy / MUSI20058 Performance / MUSI20124 Music recording and production.



School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Electronic sound has enriched the possibilities for what composers can imagine and, with today’s affordable technologies, composers can now achieve more than ever before. This unit builds conceptual understanding and practical skills, for students who wish to add electronics to extend their acoustic composition practice, and for students who plan to do more extensive electroacoustic work.

We look at strategies for combining instruments, voices and recorded sound, from conceiving the desired sonic qualities and crafting the sounds, through to issues of synchronisation in performance and what to show in a notated score. We will investigate multiple approaches to real-time sound transformation and its musical control. ‘Flipping’ the agenda, to put live sound into the recorded medium, we go outside the studio to record material in the urban and natural world. Finally we extend our thinking about interactivity and ‘being live’ with experiments in extended- and meta-instruments and sound installation.

The unit will draw on a wide musical repertoire including current research. Students will make use both of ‘off the shelf’ tools, and discover ‘custom’ approaches through an introduction to Max software. Students will support each other, as performers and technical assistants, learning from the practical realisation of each other’s work.

The unit prepares composers for independent composition with electronics and further work in later units or postgraduate study. Beyond composing, the techniques have application from game design to live theatre to computing.


This unit aims to equip students with skills and understanding across a range of contemporary techniques and concepts for the use of live electronics in art-music. The coverage is intended to be of value both to ‘mainly acoustic’ and ‘mainly studio’ composers, and also to creative performers who want to extend their palette.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate solid synoptic knowledge of aesthetic and technical applications for live electronics in art-music
  2. use appropriate equipment and software techniques to capture and transform sound material
  3. demonstrate practical understanding of a range of real-time, control and interaction strategies
  4. use appropriate visual representations, including scores for live performers
  5. demonstrate skills in recording and composing with live and environmental sound, and understanding of contextual frameworks such as acoustic ecology
  6. create original short musical works, applying these techniques, that balance imagination, coherence, and practicality
  7. demonstrate sophisticated integration of skills, in acoustic composition and/or as a performer, with the techniques of live electronics

Teaching Information

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

Assessment Information

Four pieces of coursework, ILOs 1-7. All four must be submitted for credit. The best three marks contribute to the unit mark (33.3% each).


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. MUSI30141).

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.