The University of Southampton

MUSI6026 Composition Seminar

Module Overview

In-depth study of a specific area in music analysis, history or theory.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Spanning technical and aesthetic matters, the aim of this module is to develop your understanding of compositional issues relating to a breadth of contemporary music practices. Specific focus is given to two main areas: musical analysis and orchestration. In addition, this module focuses on developing your presentation, research and professional skills.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • musical analysis of contemporary compositional techniques across a range of genres, focusing on the ways in which composers create and organise musical materials
  • music orchestration across a range of musical idioms
  • a range of aesthetic debates in contemporary music
  • compositional techniques and developments in the post-war period
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • be able to construct arguments that negotiate complex aesthetic issues
  • connect score-based analytical observation with listening-based analytical observation
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • learn how to organise analytical comments about technical and more general issues both orally and in an extended written form
  • be able to analyse complex written texts
  • improve your presentation skills
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • be able to undertake orchestration, research and analysis of contemporary music
  • be able to deliver a presentation on a musical topic related to composition
  • have an increased understanding of professional matters relating to the career of a composer
  • have an increased understanding and control over a wide range of musical notational strategies, understanding their implications for both composers and performers


Typically, the course content is comprised of twelve two-hour sessions meeting fortnightly over the academic year. These twelve sessions are divided into three four-session blocks: • Sessions 1-4: Musical Analysis • Sessions 5-8: Orchestration • Sessions 9-12: Research, Professional and Presentation Skills A wide range of contemporary music - across classical and commercial practices - is discussed over the course; the precise make-up of the lectures will alter from year to year.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • seminar presentations • group discussions • one-to-one tutorials Learning activities include: • score-based and listening-based analysis of contemporary music • close critical reading of texts to serve for the basis of seminar discussion • practical activities relating to music analysis and orchestration Seminars will combine teacher presentations with group discussion. In the first part of the course the module leaders will present compositional techniques and analysis of their deployment in musical works; in the second part orchestration techniques will be presented and in the third part the module leaders will present on research, presentation and professional skills. In all sessions there will be considerable room for your participation through guided discussion with module leaders provoking discussion and critically commenting upon it. In this way you will be provided not only with content (information on aspects of compositional practice), but also continually encouraged to question it and comment upon it. All this is in preparation for the formal assessments, which will be judged as much on maturity of interpretation of material as on the clarity of its presentation.

Independent Study276
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Tom Gerou (1998). Essential Dictionary of Orchestration. 

Richard Middleton (1990). Studying Popular Music. 

Theodore Adorno (2007). Philosophy of Modern Music. 

Christopher Cox and Daniel Warner (ends) (2007). Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. 

Andrew Ford (1998). Illegal Harmonies. 

Wayne D. Bowman (1998). Philosophical Perspectives on Music. 

Arnold Whittall (1999). Music Composition in the Twentieth Century. 

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1964). Principles of Orchestration. 

Charles Lindholm (2008). Culture and Authenticity. 

Adam Harper (2012). Infinite Music. 

Dominic Pedler (2010). The songwriting secrets of the Beatles. 

Roland Barthes (1977). Image, Music, Text. 

Bruce Ellis Benson (2003). The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue. 

Paul Griffiths (1995). Modern Music and after: Directions since 1945. 

Andy Hamilton (2007). Aesthetics and Music. 

Glenn Watkins (1994). Pyramids at the Louvre. 


Assessment Strategy

? verbal feedback from the tutor in optional, one-to-one, meetings during his/her office hours or by appointment, including feedback on essay plans


MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis  ( words) 30%
Essay  ( words) 30%
Oral presentation  (20 minutes) 10%
Practical assignment  (4 minutes) 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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