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The University of Southampton

MUSI6040 Composition Portfolio

Module Overview

The Composition Portfolio is the principal component of the MMus in Composition and represents a year's concentrated work. You will work both individually and in tutorials throughout both semesters to develop and refine your compositional practice. You will be encouraged to increasingly focus on a specific compositional area, which may be defined by a combination of musical idiom, medium, aesthetic issues and technical concerns. All the pieces submitted in Composition Portfolio are expected to be finished structures and as a whole is expected to demonstrate a range of compositional challenges. In applied compositional practices (film music, video games music, songwriting and musical theatre) these challenges should directly connect to industry realities and standards. Their production (whether in score or other format appropriate to the idiom) should be of professional quality.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • a range of techniques for the production of contemporary music pertinent to your developing compositional practice.
  • your own personal aesthetic through your chosen compositional genres, materials, techniques and forms
  • current trends in composition
  • 20th- and 21st-century musical developments
  • aesthetic, technical and critical issues relating to contemporary compositional practice
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • show evidence of clear musical thinking both in terms of invention of strong musical materials and their elaboration in time
  • make musical ‘arguments’ that are clear as to their intended structure and expressive content
  • efficient use of library resources to access musical and textual materials appropriate to your study
  • reading skills, and the ability to analyse music aurally and visually
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think through extended structures and execute them, with a clear understanding of the relationship between materials and form
  • analyse materials of others with the goal of drawing out technical devices pertinent to the development of personal creative work
  • enhanced powers of concentration and focus
  • the ability to integrate different media (musical, visual, literary) into a compositional project
  • enhanced skills of time-management and self-directed study
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • use methods of note production which provide for a good degree of fluency in your chosen aesthetic
  • present your work to professional standard in the format most suited to its idiom
  • develop your own technical skills with technologies and studios (for applied composition pathways)
  • presenting your work, including notated music examples, to the highest standards of academic presentation
  • oversee and bring to conclusion an extended portfolio of original compositions of your own, and present your music in the most appropriate way


There is no prescribed syllabus content for this module. Rather, over the year you will work cumulatively towards the production of a major portfolio of compositions, and have the opportunity to submit drafts of works to your tutor for comment and feedback. Following a plan made with your tutor, you will complete the portfolio over the summer period, when your work will be necessarily self-directed. When appropriate, your tutor will set specific tasks that relate to your work, such as analysing pieces and reading articles.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Individual tutorials (24 sessions) Learning activities include • analysis/listening to contemporary scores • close critical reading of texts • preparation of scores (mostly self-directed) • Self-directed learning of technologies/ studio skills

Completion of assessment task410
Wider reading or practice184
Total study time600

Resources & Reading list

Music after the fall : modern composition and culture since 1989. Rutherford-Johnson, Tim, 2017

Formalized music : thought and mathematics in composition. Xenakis, Iannis, 1992

Modern Music and After. Griffiths, Paul, 2011

Electronic and experimental music : pioneers in technology and composition. Holmes, Thom, 2002


Assessment Strategy

Assessment Method Portfolio of Compositions. Portfolios are typically 35 minutes in duration and accompanied by a 3000-word commentary that provides insight into the technical and aesthetic concerns of the work. Alternatively you may choose to produce a larger portfolio of 40 minutes and a 1000 word commentary. Applied composition portfolios (film music, video games music) are likely to consist of a showreel of clips that have been scored/re-scored; a songwriting portfolio is likely to consist of an album; and a concert-music portfolio is likely to consist of a collection of pieces with recordings where possible. The Portfolio and commentary are marked as a whole and the commentary bears no individual weight.


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (40 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (40 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (40 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Printing and Photocopying Costs

Where possible, coursework such as essays; projects; dissertations is likely to be submitted on line. However, there are some items where it is not possible to submit on line and students will be asked to provide a printed copy. Current printing and copying costs can be found here. They also provide a large format printing service, e.g. Academic posters. Details of current costs can be found here. You can pay for your printing by using the money loaders or by using print copy payment service by going to Printing for Students The University Print Centre also offers a printing and copying service as well as a dissertation/binding service.


Where a module specifies core texts these should generally be available on the reserve list in the library. However due to demand, students may prefer to buy their own copies. These can be purchased from any source. Some modules suggest reading texts as optional background reading. The library may hold copies of such texts, or alternatively you may wish to purchase your own copies. Although not essential reading, you may benefit from the additional reading materials for the module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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