Skip to main content

Unit information: Contemporary Compositional Ideas and Techniques in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

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
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)


Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


Units you may not take alongside this one
School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

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.

Your learning on this unit

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

How you will learn

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

How you will be assessed

A portfolio of five 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)


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. MUSIM0006).

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.