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Module WXK-2233:
Composition Year 2

Module Facts

Run by School of Music, Drama and Performance

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Pwyll ap Sion

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To study the compositional techniques of a variety of musical periods, and to apply the lessons learned to the composition of original musical works;
  2. To consider aesthetic, philosophical and musicological issues of relevance to composition, and to explore the implications of these through the act of composing;
  3. To develop facility in a variety of compositional techniques through the study of those techniques in detail;
  4. To encourage bold experimentation and creative innovation in composition work;
  5. To offer experience composing in non-tonal styles (pre-tonal, post-tonal, atonal), and using new approaches to form;
  6. To contribute to the personal development of student composers through the development of their creativity as individuals.

Course content

This module seeks to build on Level 4 (year 1) Composition (WXK/WXC1011), while at the same time introducing new ideas and techniques. Throughout, the emphasis will be on introducing students to a variety of styles and techniques that have emerged during the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. This may include bold experimentation and creative innovation, including working with non-tonal styles (pre-tonal, post-tonal, atonal, noise, sound, silence), or the study of avant-garde, post-tonal and post-minimal, and or post-dogma styles of more recent decades. The module will also lay the foundation for undertaking Composition Projects during Year 3.

The module will also lay the foundation for undertaking Composition Projects during Level 6 (year 3).

Assessment Criteria


The composition displays some limited creative imagination, with restricted control of musical materials, and minimal understanding of the capabilities of resources (instrumental and vocal). There is scant evidence of a generally intellectual approach.


The composition displays a good level of creative imagination, with good control and elaboration of musical materials, based on technical competence in use of resources (instrumental and vocal). There is also evidence of intellectual acumen.


The composition displays a high level of creative imagination, with emergent individuality of compositional voice, skilful control and elaboration of musical materials, and technical mastery of resources (instrumental and vocal). There is also evidence of high level of ability at conceptual thought, penetration of issues, originality of approach and/or insight.

Learning outcomes

  1. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to evaluate the compositional merits of a specific piece of work composed in a contemporary style, and apply these judgments to their own work;

  2. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to demonstrate some originality of thought and will have begun moving towards creative independence;

  3. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to employ a range of relevant compositional techniques;

  4. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to confidently work with the tools and materials of composition;

  5. Upon successful completion of the module, students will be able to write music which: a) achieves a measure of balance of unity and diversity;
    b) displays an economy of means;
    c) makes use of techniques studied on the course;

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Coursework 1 15
COURSEWORK Coursework 2

Compose a short suite of THREE miniatures for EITHER a keyboard instrument (e.g. piano, harpsichord, organ), OR harp, OR pitched percussion instrument (e.g. vibraphone or marimba). Your composition should therefore be for one performer on one instrument.

The suite should last in total around two minutes and should be informed or inspired in some way by one or more of the techniques studied in class in relation to Howard Skempton’s Eirenicon series for solo piano.

Written assignment, including essay Main assignment 1

A piece for 5 instruments based on a specific chord and making use of formal structures such as the Golden Section, Fibonacci series, and so on.

Written assignment, including essay Main Assignment 2

Either a work for string quartet or a text setting (exact nature to be confirmed in the module description handed out in the first week of term).


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 167

11 weekly lectures of up to 2 hours. Other classes coinciding with the Bangor New Music Festival or the visit of a composer or ensemble may also be arranged as appropriate.


11 weekly seminars of 1 hour's duration.


Transferable skills

  • 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

  • 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
  • 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)


Resource implications for students


Reading list

No reading list required for this course. A list of recordings and scores will be provided at the beginning of the course.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: