COMPOSITION 3B - 2022/3

Module code: MUS3050

Module Overview

This module seeks to advance individual compositional practice in a wide range of genres to a professional (or close to professional) level. This is achieved through a focus on composing for large ensembles, for example choir, mixed ensembles (probably involving a conductor), big band, vocal/instrumental mixtures (e.g. large musical theatre forces) and orchestra. Students are encouraged to consider the many ways in which they can engage with these forces: through live performance, arranging and manipulating recorded audio, using combinations of live and sampled parts in a DAW, working with live electronics, using improvisation and employing various types of notation. The course will draw on techniques and case studies from a wide range of practices including classical, popular and non-Western musics. The course is delivered as a series of lectures divided between members of the Department's composition staff, allowing students to benefit from a breadth of knowledge, experience and expertise.   

Module provider

Music and Media

Module Leader

ARMSTRONG Thomas (Music & Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: W300

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 18

Practical/Performance Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 4

Captured Content: 18

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None, but experience of composition in MUS1036 (Pathways in Musicianship B) and/or Fundamentals of Music Technology and either MUS2035 (Composition 2A) or MUS2036 (Composition 2B) is desirable. 

Module content

The following is an indication of the sorts of topics to be covered:


  • Writing for large ensembles.

  • Integration of electronics in either live or DAW-based environments.

  • Notation for contemporary music suitable for large ensembles.

  • Compositional methodologies of other composers.

  • Analyses and case studies drawing out harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, formal and textural features that can be assimilated and adapted in students' own work.

  • Writing about, presenting and discussing your work.

  • Your music in a professional context: Joyce Dixey composition competition adjudicated by visiting professional composer. 

  • Topics such as text-setting, borrowing, re-working, Schillinger, structural harmony, etc. of particular interest to module teaching staff (the precise nature of these topics will vary from year to year). 


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation ONLINE PRESENTATION 30
Coursework COMPOSITION FOLIO 1 35
Coursework COMPOSITION FOLIO 2 35

Alternative Assessment

None

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop their compositional skills through engagement with contemporary compositional techniques, theories and awareness of relevant creative practice all within the context of writing for large ensembles.

The formative assessment and feedback for this module may consist of (according to lecturer preference):


  • Compositional exercises exploring particular techniques

  • Feedback from performers in rehearsal

  • Joyce Dixey adjudication (if successful in reaching final)



Summative assessment for this module includes


  • Two compositional responses to 2 of the 3 topics covered on the module. According to lecturer preference these responses might take the form of a prescribed study or set of exercises. The compositional responses are to be submitted both as scores and audio realisations in ways appropriate to the style and genre adopted. Each compositional response should be accompanied by a brief commentary of between 500 and 750 words. The compositional responses are assessed on theoretical knowledge of the module concepts, idiomatic, imaginative and effective musical application of module concepts, contextualisation and reflection of creative practice, score and commentary presentation and writing style, and idiomatic realization of the works (Learning outcomes 1-9). Each compositional response is worth 35% of the final grade.

  • A poster presentation (worth 30% of the final grade), no longer than 10 minutes detailing some aspect of the student’s work and its context relating to the module topic not covered by the compositional responses. This is assessed on content, form and presentation. (Learning outcomes 4-9). The student is free to choose which of the 3 module topics to use for the video presentation.

  • Between them each of the three coursework components should cover all three module topics.  



Detailed feedback on the presentation and portfolio is given (with a breakdown of strengths and weaknesses) in order to enhance continuing compositional practice.

Module aims

  • Develop professionalism in your approach to composition and the quality of your work.
  • Develop your ability to respond flexibly and imaginatively to creative challenge.
  • Acquire skills in composing for large ensembles.
  • Develop your ability to collaborate with, direct and organise large groups of performers.
  • Become articulate in describing and discussing your compositional practice using written and visual media.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
002 Create compositions of (or close to) a professional standard. P
003 Conceive, develop and realise your work with a significant degree of independence. KCPT
005 Develop the ability to present, communicate and discuss pertinent aspects in the field of contemporary composition via written and visual media. KCPT
006 Demonstrate significant theoretical and analytical skills. KCPT
007 Carry out research and analysis in support of creative practice. KCT
001 Have an improved set of instrumental, notational, technological and production skills pertaining to work with large ensembles. PT
008 Improve your listening skills, and the understanding and appreciation of a wide range of musical styles. PT
009 Develop a critical attitude towards the sources of knowledge you draw on during your studies and learn how to manage the information they contain in order to meet the demands of your assignments. CT
004 Show awareness of relevant compositional practice and contextualize your work accordingly. KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning


  • Lectures.

  • Seminars (depending on staff approach these may overlap with lectures). 

  • Tutorials.

  • Workshops.

  • Guided reading and listening.

  • Whole-class/group discussion.

  • Producing two compositions (with commentaries) responding to different lecturers' topics.

  • Producing a poster presentation responding to a different lecturer's topic from the two compositions.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: MUS3050

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Creative Music Technology BMus (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Music BMus (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) BMus (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.