Module code: CMT2004

Module Overview

In this module you will be introduced to the theory, aesthetics and technical considerations of electronic music improvisation. Topics will include history of live electronics, design of hardware and software instruments and practical improvisation. You will work in small groups, developing improvisation skills, workshopping and performing ideas together. 

Module provider

Music and Media

Module Leader

THOMPSON Bill (Music & Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): 16

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 21

Independent Learning Hours: 95

Seminar Hours: 12

Guided Learning: 16

Captured Content: 6

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

CMT2011 Creative Music Technology Practice A 

Module content

Indicative content includes:

•     Plenary sessions and seminars on the aesthetics of live electronics.

•     Workshop sessions on the design and construction of electronic instruments  and systems suitable for digital improvisation.

•     Rehearsals and performances of electronic free improvisation.

•     Reading assignments on selected texts.

•     Reflective tasks based on small group performances.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) Digital Improvisation Portfolio 55
Coursework Small Group Improvisation 45

Alternative Assessment

Project: Portfolio: 2000 Word commentary, 4 reading summaries and 4 rehearsal recordings, and a 10 minute A/V recording of a solo live electronics performance.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

1.    engagement with the module (its workshop sessions component, reading assignments, small group performance, and contribution to class),
2.    an understanding the aesthetics of free improvisation,
3.    free improvisational performance skills,
4.    the ability of design and develop and electronic instrument/system suitable for free improvisation and to assess its suitability.
5.    and critically reflective understanding of the nature of free improvisational process.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:-

- Portfolio (addresses LO 1, 2, 3)
- Small Group Improvisation (addresses LO 1, 4, 5, 6) 

These two assessment elements are required to allow students to demonstrate both the theoretical, technical and practical aspects of the module learning using different forms of assessment types.  

Formative assessment 

Formative assessment is integral to the weekly workshop sessions and foundational to all components of summative assessment.


Formative feedback is provided within the context of the workshops, via individual tutorials, email, and online discussion forums to discuss and explore technical and creative issues. Final written feedback is disseminated via SurreyLearn.

Module aims

  • - To develop a theoretical understanding of the history and aesthetics of free improvisation in an electronically mediated context. - To gain a practical proficiency in group improvisation in electronic music. - To learn to make a bespoke electronic musical instrument and/or assemblage for the purpose of electronic music improvisation. - To develop a group dynamic and process of applying theoretical and aesthetic understanding to group improvisation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Outline the history of live electronics in a number of different musical styles. PT
2 Describe the motivations of the composers and musicians studied for employing live electronics and improvisation with electronics. KC
3 Demonstrate the technical skills necessary to design, build and test electronic instruments and systems appropriate for live electronic performance. KPT
4 Develop the musical proficiency and aural awareness necessary for effective digital improvisation KP
5 Adopt a professional approach to your musical activities whether working individually or with others. PT
6 Interact effectively within a team or learning group, giving and receiving information and ideas and showing a willingness to modify your contributions in response to other members of the group. PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to equip students with the necessary skills and experience to successfully musically improvise with electronics. 

The learning and teaching methods include collective improvisation sessions, group reading and summary writing and small group performance and reflective commentary writing.

Supporting materials on SurreyLearn and elsewhere as appropriate supplement the learning that occurs during the weekly seminars.

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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: CMT2004

Other information

The Department of Music and Media is committed to developing graduates with attributes encompassing employability, digital skills, global and culture awareness, sustainability as it relates to music and the wider arts and, finally, resourcefulness and resilience.

Digital capabilities In the Creative Music Technology programme, our focus and ways of working inherently involve digital capabilities, using computers with specialist software for digital audio. During the course of this module you will be encouraged and supported to use a range of specialist hardware and software, including DAWS, audio plug-ins, synthesizers and effects units. Specifically we will look at ways in which we can use technology in unexpected ways, creatively ‘miswiring’ hardware and/or incorporating software used in unconventional ways in order to uncover interesting and unexpected results. In doing so, we continue (and deepen) previous discussions about the changing nature of technology, both to society as a whole, but also with regard to music practice and general creativity.

Resourcefulness and resilience Digital Improvisation introduces students to new and different ways of thinking about electronic improvisation using technology through encouraging both active participation and resourcefulness within group rehearsals and reading groups held both in and out of class meeting times. Students spend many hours performing as a soloist and in different group combinations throughout the module, offering each other constructive, positive feedback and eventually perform together as a group. The module has been designed to encourage peer support and reflective engagement as part of working in groups, as well as strategies for resilience around planning, time-management and effective co-operation between group members.

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

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 2025/6 academic year.