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Module WXK-1011:
Composition Year 1

Module Facts

Run by School of Music, Drama and Performance

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Guto Puw

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To teach students how to compose in a structured and guided way, using examples from early twentieth century as a guide.

  2. To illustrate how the main compositional principles of harmony, rhythm, motivic development and structure evolved during the early part of the twentieth century and to show their relevance to composition in the twenty-first century.

  3. To present students with tools of composition to use as they wish.

  4. To teach students the basics of instrumentation and orchestration, and to look at vocal writing.

  5. To discuss issues of score layout and presentation, whether processed or hand-written.

Course content

This course will introduce students to some of the compositional techniques used in the twentieth and twenty first centuries and show how harmony, rhythm, structure, instrumentation and pitch have evolved, presenting students with the basic tools for composition. The first half of the course will look at these techniques in relation to a number of important musical styles that evolved during the twentieth century. The course will also consider individual instruments and their particular characteristics, in addition to vocal writing. Students are then encouraged to try out these techniques in exercises and assignments, which will be set throughout the course.

Assessment Criteria


To compose showing some use of basic twentieth-century harmonic, rhythmic and structural elements, and an understanding of instruments and layout.


To compose showing a clear understanding of twentieth-century harmonic, rhythmic and structural elements, and to be able to write practically for the instruments used and lay out scores correctly.


To compose showing imaginative and innovative use of twentieth-century harmonic, rhythmic and structural elements, and to be able to write practically and idiomatically for the instruments used, laying out scores according to publishing principles.

Learning outcomes

  1. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to develop an individual compositional style, based on twentieth-century models;

  2. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to acquire an understanding of basic concepts of instrumentation/orchestration, by writing idiomatically for particular instruments/voices;

  3. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to confidently develop musical ideas and material to form a coherent, consistent and imaginative composition.

  4. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to acquire an awareness of specific twentieth-century repertoire and should be able to show differentiation of different idioms of style and genre from this period.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Repertoire Test 10
Main Assignment 1 50
Coursework 1 20
Coursework 2 20

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 167

11 lectures (2 hours each), held weekly


11 seminars (1 hour each), held weekly


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • 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
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • 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

  • 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: