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Module WXK-2191:
Songwriting

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Pwyll ap Sion

Overall aims and purpose

The Songwriting module aims to offer students an introduction to several important elements that belong to song composition. Analytical insights into aspects of popular songs from the 1960s onwards will be provided in order to enable students to work both individually and together to develop ideas in order to perform, record and compose their own songs or create arrangements of other songs as part of the module’s assessment.

Course content

Students will be introduced in each lecture to the basic elements (the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ if you will) of songwriting, including melody (melodic shaping), harmony (harmonic patterns), formal archetypes, word-setting (word-painting), rhythm, texture and so on. These will be illustrated with reference to several song idioms ranging from singer-songwriters of the 1970s such as Elton John and Joni Mitchell to more recent pop and rock styles. On successful completion of the module students will have produced a portfolio of songs and song arrangements, which they will have either successfully performed on their own or in a group context, or recorded to a high standard, or composed using music notation software such as Sibelius.

Assessment Criteria

good

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.

The presentations are competently researched and presented.

excellent

First class: A- and A (70%-83%) 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 realization of electroacoustic presentation).

The presentation shows detailed research and is presented to a high standard.

First class: A+ to A** (84%-100%) Compositions in this category would be convincing and credible within a programme of professionally composed works. Marks in this band will only be awarded in exceptional cases in which the composition offers an utterly compelling musical experience achieved through real creative originality combined with an absolutely assured technical realization.

The presentation shows detailed research and is presented to a very high standard.

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.

threshold

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.

The presentations are poorly researched and presented.

Learning outcomes

  1. Acquired the creative tools and procedures that will enable them to compose songs to a satisfactory standard;

  2. Acquired a broad knowledge of songwriting styles and techniques;

  3. Developed the necessary skills to present assessed work to a standard expected at this level;

  4. Acquired the ability to articulate informed ideas about song styles and their historical development, and be able to apply sound methodological and conceptual approaches to specific examples.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK 1. Coursework 1

A series of short exercises on melody, rhythm and harmonic accompaniment. You will be given the option of submitting this work either (1) in full musical notation, or (2) as an audio recording, along with a lead-sheet;

10
COURSEWORK Assignment 1

You will be required to submit two song arrangements. The first song will be a specific example set by the module coordinator (the precise song will be different for Years 2 and 3). The second song will be an arrangement of a song chosen by you of around 3 minutes in length. You will be required to provide a copy of the original version of this song, plus lyrics where relevant, with your submission (either as audio or in the form of sheet music). You will be given the option of submitting the two song arrangements either (1) in full musical notation; (2) as an audio recording, along with a lead-sheet; or (3) performed live in the Week 8 class (for more information on live performance, see comments below). An instrumental arrangement of an existing song is also acceptable.

30
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Presentation

A presentation of around 8 minutes in length describing and explaining a song of your choice. This can be a song by someone you admire or a song written by you. Your presentation should aim to apply some of the analytical techniques introduced in the module. You must play part of a recording of the song to the class and the time taken for this is in addition to the 8 minutes. Your description should mainly address the relationship between musical elements, lyrics and meaning but you may also include some relevant contextual information. All presentations will be audio recorded. All students must be ready to give their presentations in the class in either the lecture or seminar slots in weeks 10 or 11. Presentation materials (e.g. slides, notes) must be uploaded onto Blackboard.

20
Written assignment, including essay Assignment 2

The submission of two original songs lasting in total between 6-7 minutes (for Year 2 students) or between 7-8 minutes (for Year 3 students). The words may be original or selected from a pre-existing source. If the lyrics are not in either English or Welsh a translation should be provided with the original words. You will be given the option of submitting the two songs in either (1) in full musical notation; (2) as an audio recording, along with a lead-sheet; or (3) performed live at a time to be confirmed in Week 13 (for more information on live performance, see comments below).

40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Lecture

22 classes (lectures and workshops, of up to 2 hours each) during weeks 1-12 of both semesters (Week 7 of Semester 1 and Week 12 of Semester 2 are Reading Weeks: no classes). The first part of each class will usually deal with the content to be covered. In the second part there will be an opportunity for feedback on songs in progress, to listen to and discuss songs the students suggest, and to play songs together.

44
Private study 156

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
  • 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.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • 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
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Musicianship skills – recognition, classification, contextualisation, reconstruction, exploration
  • Re-creative skills – interpretation, innovation, versatility, and other skills relating to performance
  • 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
  • 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)

Resources

Resource implications for students

Students performing their songs will require the use of the School's PA system.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: