Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module MUSI40430: Compositional Techniques

Department: Music

MUSI40430: Compositional Techniques

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To facilitate the acquisition of advanced skills and techniques through the close engagement with specific learning contexts in composition.
  • To enable students to develop a critical understanding of, and reflective approach to, the field of contemporary music, above all as the basis for the evaluation of their own compositional research.


  • A selection from the following learning contexts will be explored:
  • Composition for Ensemble;
  • Composition for a Given Film Extract;
  • Composition for Antiphonal Ensembles;
  • Composition using Borrowed Materials;
  • Music Theatre Composition;
  • Composition for Dance;
  • Vocal/Choral Composition;
  • Composition using electroacoustic techniques 1 (Electroacoustic Composition for Recorded Media)
  • Composition using electroacoustic techniques 2 (Live Electronic Composition and Digital Music);
  • Computer-Assisted Composition;
  • Film Scoring 1;
  • Film Scoring 2 (can only be done in conjunction with Film Scoring 1);
  • Students will be guided through various means of producing compositional studies, which will develop and exploit specific skills. The student can tailor aspects of the modules to their own compositional strengths, interests and learning needs.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • 1. Students will become familiar with a range of advanced compositional techniques, as well as the perspective and critical understanding required to apply them, where appropriate, to their own compositional research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • 2. Students will acquire the skills necessary to write compositional exercises with fluency, authority, innovation and originality.
  • 3. Through organised workshops and performance opportunities, students will engage directly with the practicalities of creative communication and expression via the medium of music composition.
Key Skills:
  • 4. The module will facilitate the development of those compositional techniques most appropriate for the articulation of each student's musical ideas.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The seminars will enable students to express their own creativity and develop their own compositional voice in response to a range of ideas associated with the development of contemporary music (LO 1, 2, 4).
  • Through tutorials, students will acquire skills additional to those already obtained at lower levels of study (i.e., how to articulate their musical ideas clearly and authoritatively, preparing score and parts and/or electroacoustic materials to a professional standard) (LO 1, 3, 4).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshops 4 4 per year 2 hours 8
Tutorials 8 1 per fortnight 1 hour 8
Seminars 6 1 per month 2 hours 12
Preparation and Reading 272

Summative Assessment

Component: Folio Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Collection of four compositional studies, 4-5 minutes each (two compulsory, two chosen by the student) 16-20 minutes duration 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One-to-one feedback on work submitted by students for tutorial sessions. Feedback given by performers and tutors in response to workshop sessions and public performances.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University