The University of Southampton

MUSI3100 Composition Workshop A

Module Overview

This module explores a range of technical devices and formal procedures and will introduce you to different ways of thinking about composition. You will study key compositional approaches and techniques that have developed during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and learn about ways of creating, varying, transforming and organising musical materials. Musical style is not prescribed in this module: reflecting the many possible approaches available to the composer in the twenty-first century, we will explore music that is tonal and atonal, experimental and traditional, popular and avant-garde, repetitive and discontinuous, etc. The approaches and concepts presented are intended as springboards for your own creative engagement and technical development.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- develop your skills in musical composition - introduce you to a range compositional techniques and approaches - introduce you to range ways of thinking about composition. - improve your music notation skills.

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.
  • conventional musical notional good-practice, and a greater understanding of how to communicate your ideas in musical notation.
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • compose short works
  • implement key technical devices and formal procedures in your own composition
  • use music notation effectively


A series of topics will be presented over the semester with each topic exploring compositional approaches. Examples of topics that may be explored include: ? Approaches to musical form ? Creating musical materials ? Composition with constraints ? Polyrhythm ? Metric modulation ? Extended tonality and modality ? Writing for percussion ? Writing for string quartet Examples of specific pieces will be considered and analysed include: ? Belle and Sebastain, She’s Losing it ? Benjamin Britten, Sea Interludes ? Edgar Varese, Ionisation ? György Ligeti, Six Bagatelles ? Igor Stravinsky, Petrushka ? Miles Davis, So What ? Simon Steen Andersen, String Study No. 1 ? The Dirty Projectors, Gimme Gimme Gimme ? Tom Johnson, Four Note Opera ? Radiohead, Motion Picture Soundtrack

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: ? Lectures ? Individual tutorials ? Workshops Learning activities include: ? Individual study ? Library-based research ? On-line based research

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

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

David Cope (1977). New Music Composition. 

Arnold Schoenberg (1967). Fundamentals of musical composition. 


Assessment Strategy

Include details of the proportion and weighting of coursework as well as the number, type and duration of examination(s). You must specify which element will be taken as the final assessment. Differentiation between 2nd and 3rd level work For 3rd level students taking this unit, expectations will be higher than those for 2nd level 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, 3rd level students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of undergraduate work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment  (3 minutes) 30%
Assessment  (4 minutes) 30%
Assessment 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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