Module code: MUS3049

Module Overview

This module is designed to provide students with the technical knowledge, musical/artistic sensibility and breadth of repertoire to enhance the quality of their music to the threshold of professional level. This is achieved by covering a limited number of topics in depth, each delivered by a different member of the Department's composition staff, allowing students to benefit from a breadth of knowledge, experience and expertise. Typically each topic is delivered over several weeks to allow sufficient time to explore it from diverse perspectives and thereby increase its potential as a compositional methodology for all students. Students are shown many ways in which they can engage with these topics: through live performance, arranging and manipulating recorded audio, working with live electronics, using improvisation and employing various types of notation. The module content draws on techniques and case studies from a wide range of practices including classical, popular and non-Western musics with topics changing frequently to match lecturers' own compositional projects and research. This close link between the module content and the lecturers' own practice as composers aligns the module with aspects of 'real world' musical practice; this is to the benefit of students because it helps to show how ideas and techniques from the module can be applied.              

Module provider

Music and Media

Module Leader

ARMSTRONG Thomas (Music & Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

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

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 2

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 18

Seminar Hours: 2

Guided Learning: 4

Captured Content: 18

Module Availability

Semester 1

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 indicates the broad sorts of topics likely to be covered but the specific content in terms of techniques, ideas and repertoire is subject to change from year to year (see Module Overview):

  • Compositional methodologies of other composers and musicians covering a wide range musical styles and genres

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

  • Working with musicians including your peers and visiting professionals - this covers appropriate notational methods and collaborative skills 

  • Composing for instruments and voices in both idiomatic and 'extended' fashion

  • Writing for small and/or medium sized ensembles of all kinds and appropriate to all musical styles 

  • Using electronic resources (DAWs or live electronics) creatively 

  • Conceptual and historical study of relevant bodies of work as appropriate to a given topic; this provides students with important contextual knowledge and an understanding of the histories and traditions of compositional practices

  • Writing about and presenting your work including in audiovisual form.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate the development of their compositional skills towards a threshold professional standard by the conclusion of the module. Students are also able to demonstrate their ability to explain and contextualise personal compositional processes and/or their knowledge of compositional practice relevant to the topics taught and their area(s) of interest. 

The formative assessment for this module (that which does not accrue a mark but enables students to monitor their progress) may consist of (according to lecturer preference):

  • Compositional exercises set after certain lectures and designed to reinforce particular techniques studied

  • Miniature pieces to be composed for workshops given by students or visiting professional performers in response to a brief 

  • Work in progress presented in tutorials and/or a scheduled session during the module

Feedback on formative assessment will be given in written form (via SurreyLearn), orally or by peers depending on the assessment in question. 

Summative assessment for this module includes

  • A video presentation no longer than 10 minutes, either about the student’s own work or an artist who is important to them and relating to the module topic not covered by the compositional responses. This is assessed on knowledge (theoretical, practical, contextual as appropriate), communication/organisation and presentation. (Learning outcome 5). The student is free to choose which of the three module topics to use for the video presentation.

  • Two compositional responses to two of the three topics covered on the module. The compositional responses are to be submitted both as scores and audio realisations in ways appropriate to the style and genre of the student's music. Each compositional response should be accompanied by a brief commentary of between 500 and 750 words. The compositional responses are assessed on knowledge of module concepts and their idiomatic, imaginative and effective musical application, contextualisation of (and, where appropriate, reflection on) creative practice, score and commentary presentation, and writing style (Learning outcomes 1-5). 

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

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

Module aims

  • Instil a professional attitude in students towards their work and composition in general by providing opportunities to interact with professional artists, by emphasising recent/current compositional practice in module content and by reflecting the experience of staff as composers.
  • Develop students' ability to respond flexibly and imaginatively to creative challenge by presenting up to date concepts, techniques and repertoire (informed by the compositional practice and research of staff) that students can explore from the perspective of their own musical tastes and experiences.
  • Foster the acquisition of new compositional skills and refine existing ones by presenting three topic areas for students to explore through music creation and research.
  • Develop students' confidence in collaborating with performers when composing by creating opportunities to work with peers and/or professional performers during the module. Composer/performer collaboration may take place in live and/or recorded contexts.
  • Enable students to become articulate, informed composers by requiring they undertake research to explain and contextualise their work. Students' research will be presented in written and audio-visual media.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Create compositions at a threshold professional standard utilising instrumental, notational, technological and production skills as appropriate. PT
002 Display a grasp of relevant compositional practice and theory in music composed for assessment and the way that music is contextualised. KCP
003 Carry out research and analysis to support creative practice, maintaining a critical attitude towards sources of knowledge drawn on. KCPT
004 Improve listening skills and the understanding and appreciation of a wide range of musical styles and genres. KP
005 Develop the ability to present and communicate pertinent practices and/or theories in the field of contemporary composition via written and audio-visual media. KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The teaching and learning strategy is designed to:

  • Develop students' compositional skills with reference to a very broad repertoire of recent and contemporary music

  • Challenge students to respond directly to a limited number of topics in composition through the lens of their own musical tastes, musical backgrounds and future ambitions. This encourages students to expand the boundaries of their current music-making without losing touch with their core musical concerns  

  • Broaden students' knowledge of recent and current music to enrich the basis of their own creativity 

  • Expose students to the professional practice of composition

  • Support students to become informed creative practitioners by sharing diverse knowledge of repertoire, historical and contemporary trends, and offering suitable forums in which to present about their own and others' music.  

The teaching and learning methods include:

  • Lectures delivering key module content; opportunities for discussion and/or tasks will be included according to each lecturer's style

  • Tutorials with composition staff teaching the module for support with lecture content and/or feedback on work in progress

  • A workshop with student performers or visiting professionals in which a topic is explored in a more practical manner through music-making

  • A guest presentation by a professional composer  

  • Undertaking your own independent study by: listening further (and beyond) to repertoire covered in the module, reading around a topic using the module reading list and engaging with the Department's events relevant to composition including visits by professional artists 

  • Use of the University’s VLE ‘SurreyLearn’ to host lecture content and additional resources to support students in becoming independent learners; these may include exercises based on lecture content, self-tests and resources to support presentation skills including tips on video recorded presentation. 

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: MUS3049

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.

Resourcefulness and resilience: This module builds resourcefulness by challenging students to respond to a limited number of topics in the music they compose for assessment. The module is not about students learning a 'house style' or carrying out exercises in pastiche so, in their responses, students have to find a means by which they can reconcile what they have been taught with the music they want to compose. Composition is not a straightforward practice and resilience is required to see an idea through from, often, basic/unpromising beginnings to a finished piece the composer can be proud of. By building in as much time as possible for students to select and respond to each topic in the most effective way - all assessments are submitted together very late in the semester -  the module allows students time to take the 'wrong turns' and make the reworkings that characterise artistic creative practice.  

Employability: Professional composers need to be able to describe, explain and promote the music they create in a clear, well informed and appropriate way for the musical culture in which they are working. By including written and audiovisual modes of presentation in each assessment this module inculcates these attributes. By exposing students to a wide range of compositional practices and providing theoretical and conceptual knowledge where helpful the module allows students to appreciate the breadth of contemporary musical practice and so position their own music against this, putting them in a better position to argue for its relevance, originality and/or utility.  

Global and cultural capabilities: Students on the module are required to engage with a wide range of current and contemporary repertoire from different musical cultures covering pop/rock, jazz, contemporary classical, experimental, electronic music, sonic art and so on. Staff teaching the module aim to present their topics in a way that represents the diversity of musical practices across cultures, genders, styles and genres. Guest artists visiting the department to give professional practice/careers talks, masterclasses and performances will bring their individual cultural ‘selves’ and, when planning events, the Department endeavours to represent a broad range of musical cultures; through the teaching and learning activities on the module students have the opportunity to interact with all these visitors.

Digital capabilities: Students on the module will tend to work with a host of software tools for music creation including: Logic, Cubase, Ableton, Max, Musescore and Sibelius. Whilst students are not directly taught composition via such platforms lecturers may well analyse aspects of audio production, the use of algorithms and AI, for example, in the music they share in class. If use is made of individual tutorials then lecturers' knowledge of digital music creation can easily be put at the disposal of students. Students' work is, in part, assessed through production quality (this can include notation) so making use of formative feedback (again, probably in tutorials) can help students hone these skills as appropriate to their specific cases.   

Sustainability: Concern for sustainability has been evident in compositional practice since the mid-twentieth century and is manifest in practices such as sonic art, the use of homemade/recycled instruments, sonification of climate-related data, installation art, community projects and a host of other musical and sonic productions. Through the content used to deliver specific topics lecturers will aim to discuss the work of certain artists working in these fields whenever the opportunity arises. Students will also be guided in the efficient use of materials such as paper (printing parts and scores at the correct size to avoid excessive numbers of pages) and the ethical use of resource such as musicians' time by adopting efficient rehearsal strategies and presenting clear performance materials.    

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Music BMus (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) BMus (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics with Music BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Creative Music Technology BMus (Hons) 1 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.