Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module MUSI42560: Portfolio of Compositions

Department: Music

MUSI42560: Portfolio of Compositions

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.
Tied to MA in Music


  • We require evidence of standard at least equivalent to a strong 2:1 degree final year composition portfolio. A portfolio of at least two contrasting works of at least ten minutes total duration must be submitted to prove that the applicant is of the required level.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide an opportunity for independent compositional research, both as a major component of the chosen field at MA level and both as possible preparation for further research at doctoral level
  • To facilitate the acquisition of advanced skills and technique in composition
  • To enable students to develop a critical understanding of, and reflective approach to new directions in art music, above all as the basis for the critical evaluation of their own compositional research


  • Under the guidance of the module leader the student will submit a portfolio of new art music consisting of several musical compositions of contrasting nature, lasting a total duration of 20 minutes, and including at least one substantial work.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will apply independently a range of advanced compositional techniques, as well as the perspective and critical understanding required to demonstrate them, where appropriate, in their own compositional research.
  • advanced knowledge of chosen areas of compositional specialism
  • advanced understanding of theoretical and methodological approaches relevant to musical composition
  • knowledge appropriate to work at Masters level of the research context and of scholarly and creative work previously undertaken in the chosen areas of specialism
  • advanced knowledge of relevant musical repertories
  • advanced knowledge of relevant creative and performative praxes
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will learn how to apply the skills necessary to compose complete works with fluency, authority, and originality.
  • Where performance opportunities allow, students will engage directly with the practicalities of creative communication and expression via the medium of music composition.
  • advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • critically- and historically-informed awareness of technical and aesthetic dimensions of musical works
  • an in-depth understanding of the ways in which music relates to its socio-cultural context
  • skill in articulating and substantiating at a high level a refined and imaginative response to music
  • advanced knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to the study of music
  • sophisticated skills of effective communication and argument
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation
  • the ability to communicate ideas in sophisticated prose of an appropriately high linguistic register befitting a formal academic presentation
  • an appropriate command of specialised vocabulary and critical terminology
  • an advanced ability to engage critically with theories and methodologies pertinent to the academic study of music
Key Skills:
  • The module will facilitate the further development of those compositional techniques most appropriate for the articulation of each student's musical ideas.
  • engage in close readings of a wide range of challenging texts (musical, verbal, audio-visual, as appropriate)
  • deploy independent research skills using appropriate specialist tools and resources;
  • synthesise complex materials from a wide range of sources and to present them cogently in the form of written documents, oral reports, presentations, and musical performances, as appropriate
  • demonstrate competence in information technology skills to support MA learning and research (e.g. by means of: word-processing and music-processing software; databases; presentation software; audiovisual editing and analysis software; graph- and image-processing; web-based resources; relevant technologies)
  • deploy advanced knowledge of professional conduct in meeting academic standards, including appropriate use of relevant ethical codes of practice and correct referencing of sources
  • deploy problem-solving skills
  • deploy organisational skills, including time management
  • demonstrate the ability to design and execute a major project appropriate to the chosen area of specialism which is conceptually and methodologically sound, meets appropriate professional standards, and is potentially worthy of dissemination to a critical and discerning audience

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

  • The seminars will enable the students to express their own creativity and develop their own compositional voice in response to a range of ideas associated with contemporary art music. Through tutorials, students will acquire skills additional to those already obtained at lower levels of study (e.g., how to articulate musical ideas clearly and authoritatively, preparing scores, parts and electroacoustic materials (where applicable) to a professional standard). Opportunities will arise for works or excerpts thereof to be performed in the context of workshops and/or performances. The course will facilitate suitably critical, student-led evaluative and reflective appraisals with respect to the development, articulation and dissemination of research ideas.
  • Supervisions will provide students with guidance on all aspects of the project and feedback on work-in-progress, but without jeopardising the independence of their research.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Individual consultations 6 three in term 2, three in term 3 1 hour 6
Preparation and reading 594

Summative Assessment

Component: Composition Portfolio Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Composition Portfolio 30' of original composition 80% yes
Critical commentary 3,000 words 20% yes

Formative Assessment:

Supervisors may set brief formative tasks at their discretion, or at the request of the student.

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