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Module WMP-4042:
Composition in Context

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

30 Credits or 15 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Pwyll ap Sion

Overall aims and purpose

This module aims to place students’ own creative practice in the context of contemporary composition across a range of genres and styles. By studying the work of established composers students will draw out technical, theoretical, aesthetic and philosophical insights which will help to inform and guide their own practice.

Part of the module addresses issues of direct relevance to composition in one of three areas/contexts: composition for instruments and voices; music for film and games; electroacoustic music and sonic art (students must specify which are they wish to study). The other part involves all composers together, discussing issues relevant to all composition and learning from each others’ specialisms and interests.

Course content

Seminars will focus on a particular area of composition (instrumental and vocal; film and games; electroacoustic and sonic art). Students will consider the theoretical and technical issues arising from particular works of contemporary composition, and from relevant critical studies of them.

Students and staff will also meet together as one larger group combining all areas of composition, and will hear presentations from staff, students and visiting lecturers on topics of relevance to all forms of composition. They will consider and discuss in what ways insights gained from considering one genre of composition might be applied to others

Assessment Criteria


For creative work: Threshold Work which displays a basic grasp of certain contemporary styles and techniques, capable writing for instruments, voices or other media, but showing limited creative ability. For essay-based work: Threshold Work which displays basic, restricted knowledge of the subject, with simple ability at conceptual thought, and a limited awareness of issues, but has some evidence of a generally intellectual approach, with fair expression.


Good for creative work: Work which displays confidence and assurance in its treatment of style, form and technique, an impressive level of creative promise and originality, and a sure understanding of musical instruments, voices or other media, and how to write for them. For Essay Based Work: The work should display a sound grasp of the subject, a good level of conceptual thought, awareness of the main issues, with evidence of intellectual acumen and good expression.


Excellent for creative work: Work which displays an advanced and highly refined understanding of contemporary musical styles, forms and techniques, an impressive range of technical resources and high degree of creative thought, and a developed awareness of how to write for musical instruments, voices or other media. For Essay based work: Work which displays a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of further study, deeper thought, originality of approach and excellent written skills.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand and appreciate a variety of theories, contexts and concepts relating to contemporary composition.

  2. Communicating ideas and express views effectively in writing

  3. Communicating ideas and express views effectively in orally

  4. Understand the theoretical foundations (aesthetic, philosophical and technical) of a specific genre of composition

  5. Be proficient in a variety of compositional techniques

  6. Work in a language and idiom which is artistically relevant to contemporary society;

  7. Place his/her own creative work in the context of the work of other composers;

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Essay (Written submission) 30
Presentation 30
Technical Exercises 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Supervised time in studio/workshop
  1. 10 weekly presentation and discussion seminars, 2 hours each.

  2. 10 weekly technical/theoretical seminars, 2 hours each

  3. In some weeks either 1 or 2 will be replaced by a talk from a visting composer or performer.

Private study 260

Transferable skills

  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Creative skills – conception, elaboration, adaptation, presentation, collaboration, preservation
  • Intellectual skills specific to Music – contextual knowledge, cultural awareness, critical understanding, repertoire knowledge, curiosity, analytical demonstration
  • Technological skills – digital capture, digital expression, digital innovation
  • Intellectual skills shared with other disciplines – research and exploration, reasoning and logic, understanding, critical judgement, assimilation and application
  • Skills of communication and interaction – oral and written communication, public presentation, team-working and collaboration, awareness of professional protocols, sensitivity, ICT skills, etc.
  • Skills of personal management – self-motivation, self-critical awareness, independence, entrepreneurship and employment skills, time management and reliability, organisation, etc.
  • Enhanced powers of imagination and creativity (4.17)


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: