Composition Year Two

Unit of Study - Composition 201

The following applies to Year Two Bachelor of Music students.

Unit Outlines

Unit NameCOMPOSITION 2: Non-score-based composition
Unit CodeCOMPOS 201
Unit DescriptionIn this unit, students will explore non-score-based composition options such as improvisation, electroacoustic, graphical notation and computer music. Forms and structures more clearly adaptable to these genre will be taught, with particular emphasis being given to the use of timbre, spatial location, and rhythmic development. A folio of 20 minutes’ duration will be required either with a graphic score or a prose description. As in 1st year, students will develop a compositional plan for the semester, present in-progress works weekly for feedback, and keep a reflective journal to examine their various compositional processes and to ensure the adoption of a good reflective practice. There will also be a review (comprising of a written and an oral presentation) from a list of texts supplied below. Students will also be encouraged to keep an online portfolio of their works on platforms such as, or on their own websites.
Award(s)Bachelor of Music
Unit Duration1 Semester (12 weeks)
Year LevelYear 2, Semester 2
Unit CoordinatorDr Houston Dunleavy
Teaching StaffLecturer: Caleb Garfinkel, Dr. Houston Dunleavy
Credit Points10 credit points
Mode of Deliveryx Face to face
x E-learning (online)
o Intensive/block mode (where the unit or a face to face component is delivered in a block)
x Distance/independent learning (un-timetabled)
x Full-time
x Part-time
o External
x Fast track
Student Workload
Delivery/ Contact Hours
Number of timetabled hours per week
• Lecture Theory 1 hour
• Practical Session - 1 hour
• Tutorial n/a
• Personal Independent Study - 6 hours
Total hours per week - 8 hours
Resource Requirements• Personal computer and internet access
• MIDI Keyboard or USB interface
• External Technical Assistance if required
Resources Provided• Noteflight Online Music Notation Software
• Finale and Sibelius notation software.
• Online streaming video and additional referencing videos.
• DVDs are available upon request and given/posted to students
• Library resources (see prescribed or recommended texts below)

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Compose music using traditional and non-traditional composition techniques.
  2. Understand of the capabilities, ranges, timbral characteristics of analogue and digital music generation.
  3. Notate compositions in a suitable style of musical notation.
  4. Compose music for instrumental, vocal and electronic sources in a manner that is suitable from the point of view of idiosyncratic writing.
  5. Compose music that could allow for integration of electronic and computer-generated instrumentation in contemporary composition methods.
  6. Reflect on their compositional processes and their reactions to non-musical and musical events in their lives.
  7. Compose vocal music with appropriate understanding of the communicative abilities of sound.

Teaching Outline

Weekly Teaching Outline
Week 1 Rhythm, timbre and pitch – how does this relate to electronic music?
Week 2 Improvisation. Rules or no rules? What is “free improvisation”? Chain form, aleatoric music, minimalism. Free jazz.

Works to be discussed:

Joel Forrester Nerve
Third Rail Improvisation at Lebowskis
Lutosławksi, Chain 3
Eno Airport Music
Young The Tortoise, His Dream and Journeys
Week 3 Spatial location as form and structure

Works to be discussed:

Tallis Spem In Alium
Reich Come Out
Week 4 Musique concrète techniques

Works to be discussed:

Schaeffer Etude de Chemins de Fer
Pierre Henry Fantasia
Week 5 Early Music in progress: discussions of current student projects
Week 6 Early electronic music techniques: music recorded on tape

Works to be discussed:

Halim El-Dabh Wire Recorder Piece
Edgard Varèse Poemè Électronique
Week 7 Early electronic synthesiser music techniques

Works to be discussed:

Delia Derbyshire Pot Au Feu
Dr Who Theme realisation
Week 8 Fluxus techniques and philosophies – The Scratch orchestra; Portsmouth Sinfonia

Works to be discussed:

Fluxus Happening
Cardew The Great Learning
Portsmouth Sinfonia play Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss
Week 9 More improvisation techniques; Found objects, instrument making and improvisation:

Zorn Cobra
Cage Composed Improvisiation for Snare Drum Alone
Week 10 Computer music 2: sampling and hip hop; live interactive software


MAX MSP demo
Week 11 Computer music 3: improvisation!

Burt Improvisation for Jeremy Yeo
Improtek – Composed human-computer music improvisation
The Reactable
Bjork Declare Independence
Week 12 Folio presentations – discussion of works in progress for final submission

Student Assessment

Assessment TypeAssessed DateWeighting
Learning Outcomes
Assessment 1: Reflective journal part 1
(equivalent 300 words)
Week 310%2, 6
Assessment 2: Book/text review
(600 words)
Texts for review will be posted on Moodle
Week 620%6
Assessment 3: Folio part 1
Completed work or work in progress (c. 8 minutes of music)

(equivalent 600 words)
Week 720%1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7
Assessment 4: Reflective journal part 2
(500 words)
Week 1220%6
Assessment 5: Folio part 2
Completed folio (c. 12 minutes of music)

(equivalent 1100 words)
Week 1330%1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7

Recommended Readings:

Online Resources (books/video)

  • Tutorials and lecture notes from your lecturer posted on Moodle
  • A subscription (free of charge and available when you are logged into Moodle) to Oxford Music Online and Grove Music Online
  • A subscription to JSTOR and book subscriptions

Recommended Reading List

Agrell, J. 2007. Improvisation games for classical musicians: A collection of musical games with suggestions for use. Chicago: GIA Publications

Bailey, D. 1993. Improvisation: Its nature and practice in music. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.

Mazzola, G., Park, J. and Thalman,  F  2011. Musical creativity: Strategies and tools in compositions and improvisation. Berlin: Springer.

Vella, R., 1999. Musical environments: A manual for listening, composing and improvising Sydney: Currency Press.

Williams, Davey, 2011. Solo gig: Essential curiosities in musical free improvisation. Scotts Valley, Ca.: Create Space


The following links will help with the process of writing the book/text review:

#Course Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should be able to demonstrate:
Unit Learning OutcomesAssessments
1A broad knowledge of the applied, theoretical and historical basis of the discipline1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 71, 3, 5
2A depth of disciplinary knowledge in a professionally applicable specialisation1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 71, 3, 5
3An understanding of the processes of musical scholarship and research1, 2, 5, 62, 4
4The ability to work both independently and collaboratively in diverse and complex musical settings3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5
5Effective written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills3, 4, 5, 6, 72, 4
6Critical thinking and analytical skills appropriate to a range of contexts including further study5, 6, 72, 4
7The ability to apply specific musical skills to a wide range of professional contexts4, 5, 6 ,71, 3, 5
8The capacity to apply technological and creative solutions to contemporary musical practices4, 51, 3, 5
9The ability to incorporate knowledge from the business and legal fields to a portfolio career in the music profession.

#Graduate Attribute
Successful completion of this unit will contribute to the attainment of the following graduate attributes:
Unit Learning OutcomesAssessments
1Deep disciplinary knowledge2, 3, 4, 5, 71, 3, 5
2The ability to apply knowledge and skills in innovative ways1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 71, 3, 5
3A commitment to lifelong learning2, 4, 5, 6, 72, 4
4Effective communication skills for diverse contexts2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5
5The capacity to work independently and collaboratively1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5