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The University of Southampton

MUSI2093 Composition Workshop

Module Overview

This module explores important historical and contemporary techniques and approaches to composition to give you a range of ways of thinking about creating, varying, transforming and organising musical materials. We will look at examples of compositional ingenuity in a range of areas (e.g. extended forms of tonality, rhythmic techniques) from across a range of musical styles (e.g. classical, pop, jazz). The concepts and techniques explored are intended as springboards for your own creative engagement and technical development. We’ll also consider the compositional process from ways of getting started to final stage proofreading and editing, and help you develop your musical notation skills. You will compose for an ensemble made up of students from the class, with works being developed during rehearsal workshops over successive weeks. Where possible, your second assignment composition will be workshopped and recorded by professional guest musicians.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • key technical devices and formal procedures that have developed during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
  • important aesthetic issues relating to music composition
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • compose short works for small forces
  • implement key technical devices and formal procedures in your own composition
  • use music notation effectively to communicate your ideas
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present scores clearly with attention to detail and with knowledge of notationl good-practice


A series of topics will be presented over the semester with each exploring compositional approaches. Topics that may be explored include: - Approaches to musical form - Creating and working with musical materials - Composition with constraints - Polymetre - Metric modulation - Rhythmic operations - Extended tonality and modality - Writing for chamber ensemble Examples of specific pieces that may be studied include: - Django Bates, 'New York New York' - Bjork, 'Features Creatures' - Claude Debussy, 'Voiles' - Dirty Projectors, 'I Feel Energy' - Kraftwerk, 'Spacelab' - György Ligeti, 'Six Bagatelles' - Sky Macklay, 'Many Many Cadences' - Olivier Messiaen, 'Quartet for the End of Time' - Joni Mitchell, 'Song to a Seagull' - Radiohead, 'Pyramid Song' - Simon Steen Andersen, 'String Study No. 1' - Igor Stravinsky, 'Petrushka' - Edgar Varese, 'Ionisation'

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures - Group and individual tutorials - Rehearsals and workshops Learning activities include: - Individual study - Between session listening/analysis tasks - Library-based research - On-line based research - Rehearsals and workshops

Wider reading or practice42
Preparation for scheduled sessions42
Completion of assessment task42
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Oliver Messiaen (1956). The Technique of my musical language. 

David Cope (1977). New Music Composition. 

Larry Austin (1989). Learning to compose: modes, materials and models of musical invention. 

Arnold Whittal (1999). Musical composition in the twentieth century: Music since the First World War. 

Arnold Schoenberg (1967). Fundamentals of musical composition. 


Assessment Strategy

For level 6 students taking this unit, expectations will be higher than those for level 5 students, and the assessment criteria will be accordingly stricter. In particular: - Assignments should demonstrate a broader degree of focus and detail; control over material; formal sophistication; and reflect a more mature response to the set compositional task. - For score based work, optimal standards are required in terms of the physical appearance of work and following the standards of good-practice musical notation. - For written work, optimal standards of presentation are required in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar; sophistication of vocabulary; provision of footnotes; inclusion of full bibliographic and related details; physical appearance of work, etc. In short, level 6 students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of undergraduate work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Composition  (3.5 minutes) 50%
Composition  (3.5 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Composition  (7 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments  (7 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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