Composition and Sonic Art A
Run by School of Music, Drama and Performance
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Prof Andrew Lewis
Overall aims and purpose
This module is a companion to Composition and Sonic Art B. The aim of this module is to equip you with the fundamental knowledge and understanding of composition using instruments, voices and technology. You will learn how to compose music and create sonic art in a structured and guided way, using examples from of significant works and creative approaches from the 20th and 21st centuries. You will explore a range of compositional methods, aesthetic approaches and technological applications, and will consider compositional principles of harmony, rhythm, motivic development and structure. You will undertake a series of projects developing their knowledge of instrumentation and orchestration, vocal writing, and music software and hardware. The module will provide the foundation required to progress to second year modules that further explore composition and sonic creativity.
The module will focus on a wide variety of specific creative, technical and practical approaches:
Creative approaches (for example, Impressionism, Neoclassicism, Minimalism, Serialism, Acousmatic music, Gitch, Plunderphonics, Soundscape composition, live electronics)
Technical approaches (for example, harmony, rhythm, melody, form, texture, recording, editing, sound transformation)
Practical approaches (focusing on specific instruments, voices and technologies).
(Grades B- to B+.) The distinguishing quality is the creation, technical realisation and organisation of imaginative musical ideas to create an aesthetically convincing overall outcome. The composition exhibits a majority of the following: a well articulated and effective global structure; a clearly discernible musical argument, constructed through the exploration and development of musical ideas and materials; imaginatively conceived and articulated musical ideas; unity and diversity well balanced, such that the composition achieves a good degree of interest and coherence; appropriate and effective use of instrumental, vocal, sonic and/or technological resources contributing to creative ends; assured use of appropriate technical means; good sensitivity to the shaping of phrases, gestures, pacing, tempo, dynamics, sonorities and textures, showing an appreciation of their overall effect on the musical outcome; presentation of a good standard, with good attention to detail and some evident consideration of the practicability of performing materials.
(Grades A- and above.) The distinguishing quality is the creation of a compelling, engaging and aesthetically satisfying overall outcome through sustained musical imagination and technical command. The composition exhibits a majority of the following: a coherent, tightly constructed global structure; a cogent, convincing and sustained musical argument, constructed through the exploration and development of the full potential of musical ideas and materials; musical ideas conceived and articulated with evident flair and imagination, and some degree of originality; an entirely appropriate (but not necessarily equal) balance of unity and diversity, such that interest and coherence are sustained throughout; distinctive, creative and idiomatic use of instrumental, vocal, sonic and/or technological resources; confident, fluent and discerning use of appropriate technical means; evidence of acute sensitivity to the effectiveness of, and assured control over, the shaping of phrases and gestures, pacing, tempo, dynamics, sonorities and textures, and the combination, juxtaposition and relationship of ideas and materials; impressive presentation, with excellent attention to detail and full consideration of the practicability of performing materials (whether for live performance or the realisation of electroacoustic presentation).
(Grade D- to D+). The crucial element is the creation of musical ideas. Factors which may limit a mark to this level include: a simplistic or over-complex global structure not supportive of or supported by the material of which it consists; musical argument only intermittently discernible with only limited exploration of materials; musical ideas few and/or of questionable value; an imbalance in unity and diversity at the expense of sustained interest (especially through uncritical repetition of material verbatim); variability in the appropriateness of the use of instrumental, vocal, sonic and/or technological resources; technique restricted to a rather basic level; some basic, though not always successful, attempts to achieve musical shaping and control phrases, gestures, pacing, tempo, dynamics, sonorities and textures; mostly adequate presentation, though with some significant lapse, and materials that may need some revision to be of practical use in performance.
C- to C+
(Grade C- to C+.) The main quality meriting a mark in this category is the creation and technical realisation of musical ideas to achieve an effective overall outcome. Factors which may limit a mark to this level include: a global structure not always fully supportive of or supported by the material of which it consists; intermittent lapses in the cogency of musical argument; some aspects of musical ideas left unexplored or under-developed; invention present but limited; mixed success in the effective juxtaposition and relationship of ideas and materials; some imbalance in unity and diversity (especially though overuse of material without development); occasional inappropriate use of instrumental, vocal, sonic and/or technological resources; technique solid but not always assured and fluent; intermittent and limited musical shaping and control of phrases, gestures, pacing, tempo, dynamics, sonorities and textures; some presentational lapses, with some limitations as to the practicability of materials in performance.
Produce coherent, consistent and imaginative creative outcomes through the development of musical and sonic ideas and materials
Apply a basic understanding of instrumentation/orchestration and music-technology tools to the creation of music and sonic art
Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of a variety of art-music and sonic art genres
Demonstrate competence and confidence in the use of instrumental/vocal resources
Demonstrate competence and confidence in using music technological resources and tools
Compose a piece of 1’30 – 2’ duration (around 30–50 bars’ length) for either a) a solo instrument of your choice, or b) up to three instruments of your choice, that demonstrates ONE of the following harmonic and/or melodic techniques: 1. Quartal OR Quintal harmonies (i.e. superimposing 4ths, 5ths and/or Tritones) 2. The use of a mode or scale (i.e. combination of whole tone and octatonic) 3. Bitonality OR Bimodality Please note on your score which technique you have used from the above list. Your composition should not consist simply of a series of chords. Try to develop melodic or thematic ideas from your chords and/or scales, in addition to interesting rhythms. Since you will be limited to only around 40 bars, your material should be economical, engaging and direct.
Choose EITHER Option A or Option B
OPTION A Compose a piece of around 4 minutes duration for the wind quintet: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon The exact duration of the piece will depend on several factors, including the speed and complexity of the material itself, the number of simultaneous lines, the amount of doubling, etc. However, as a general rule, aim to write a piece that is around 120 bars’ length. Your piece should be based upon, inspired by, or relate to, either: 1) A picture of your choice (a painting, photograph, postcard, etc.) OR 2) A text of your own choice (but do not set the text)
OPTION B Compose a short study which illustrates some of the principles and approaches of Acousmatic Music. Your study should be between 1 and 2 minutes in duration, and should exploring and developing one particular sound source that you have recorded yourself. Although the focus will be on one sound, you may also include others, but these must be sounds you have recorded or synthesised yourself. You may develop your sounds using any techniques and software you feel appropriate. You study should be in stereo.
Record, edit and produce a recording of live musicians playing in one of the following styles: popular music; classical music (including new music); jazz; world music; hybrid/fusion. The music may be original, or pre-existing. Your finished recording should be between 3 and 4 minutes in duration. It should involve more than one musician, but musicians must be recorded separately and overdubbed. You may not have more than one musician in the studio at once. The recording may be made using different takes, and edited to combine the best parts of different takes. There must be at least one instrument/voice recorded using a microphone. You may also include electric instruments (e.g. bass guitar) and synthesised instruments (e.g. keyboards, sequenced samples). You should ‘produce’ your recording using EQ, reverb and other processing, as appropriate to the musical style or genres involved. Your recording should be in stereo. The quality of the performances heard on the recording will not be assessed directly, but you should demonstrate that you have taken steps post-production to lessen the impact of any shortcomings in the performances (for example, by correcting poor intonation). The quality of musical composition will not be assessed directly, but be aware that it is hard to make a convincing and satisfying recording of a poor piece!
Teaching and Learning Strategy
Listening to music, reading relevant literature, developing musical material in notated form, working on sonic material in the studios
Two 2-hour seminar-style lectures each week, one focusing on instrumental/vocal music and the other on sonic art. Eleven weeks across the semesters
- 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
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 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)
Talis Reading listhttp://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/wxk-1113.html
Pre- and Co-requisite Modules
Courses including this module
Compulsory in courses:
- W3W4: BA Music with Theatre & Performance year 1 (BA/MUSTP)
- W304: BMus Music (with International Experience) year 1 (BMUS/MIE)
- W302: BMUS Music year 1 (BMUS/MUS)
- W32F: BMus Music [with Foundation Year] year 1 (BMUS/MUSF)
Optional in courses:
- WW93: BA Creative Studies and Music year 1 (BA/CSTMUS)
- 32N6: BA English Literature and Music year 1 (BA/ELM)
- 32N7: BA English Literature & Music with International Experience year 1 (BA/ELMIE)
- VW13: BA History and Music year 1 (BA/HMU)
- VW14: BA History and Music with International Experience year 1 (BA/HMUIE)
- WW39: BA Music and Creative Writing with International Experience year 1 (BA/MCWIE)
- W3H6: BA Music and Electronic Engineering year 1 (BA/MEE)
- WV33: Music & Hist & Welsh Hist (IE) year 1 (BA/MHIE)
- W303: BA Music (with International Experience) year 1 (BA/MIE)
- PW33: BA Media Studies and Music year 1 (BA/MSMUS)
- RW13: BA Music/French year 1 (BA/MUFR)
- WR32: BA Music/German year 1 (BA/MUGE)
- WR33: BA Music/Italian year 1 (BA/MUIT)
- W300: BA Music year 1 (BA/MUS)
- WW38: BA Music and Creative Writing year 1 (BA/MUSCW)
- W30F: BA Music [with Foundation Year] year 1 (BA/MUSF)
- WW36: BA Music and Film Studies year 1 (BA/MUSFS)
- WR34: BA Music/Spanish year 1 (BA/MUSP)
- VVW3: BA Philosophy and Religion and Music year 1 (BA/PRM)
- VW2H: BA Welsh History and Music year 1 (BA/WHMU)
- H6W3: BSc Electronic Engineering and Music year 1 (BSC/EEM)