BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Sonic Invention A

Unit code MUSC10311
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? No


Sonic Invention consists of two parallel strands of study, one in instrumental composition, the other in electroacoustic composition. These strands are both offered in both semesters, to ensure they are taught in smaller classes.

MusB students take one of the strands in Semester 1 as MUSC 10311 and the other in Semester 2 as MUSC 10312.

BA Music and Drama students may take either strand in either semester (10cr) or take both (10cr + 10cr).


Sonic Invention is not exclusively designed for composers: it is for any music student with aural curiosity and a spirit of sonic discovery. In fact central to the ethos of this course is a rediscovery of what is possible through sound, whether through exploring the sounds of instruments and voices, or through the unlimited potential of technology. The instrumental strand considers ways of building compositions and organising musical time through experimentation, focussing on the possibilities of parameters and processes of transformation, ways of getting the best out of ideas. The electroacoustic strand takes full advantage of the cutting edge technology of the NOVARS Research Centre, learning some of the history from early electronic instruments to novel applications of game-engine technology, and gives a basic training in some of tools of writing for fixed and interactive media.


To provide a foundation in aspects that relate to the composing of music, namely current musical notation/processing, instrumentation, as well as the creation and development of musical ideas.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:


Please see course outline.

Teaching and learning methods

A weekly schedule which comprises lectures, workshops, tutorials and performances

Formative compositional tasks (including group work within instrumental), on which ongoing feedback is given.

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate musical literacy and an appropriate level of imagination in the development of musical ideas and gain a basic knowledge of electroacoustic music composition.

Gain a greater understanding of how to break down compositional tasks into ways of thinking that can be combined to gain greater control of compositional method.

Intellectual skills

Contextualise and argue reasons for the purpose and effectiveness of basic compositional techniques.

Apply imaginative solutions to achieve desired musical result.

Give feedback to other students on their work, and reflect on their own, regarding the effectiveness with which they have achieved their compositional aims.

Practical skills

To present a musical score and performance material to a good standard and demonstrated a basic competence in writing for groups of instruments through instrumentation or composition.

To understand the fundamentals of electroacoustic composition, and start to use some of the software.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Utilise graphic notational and recorded communication of ideas to others; coherently respond to visual and auditory stimuli to enhance sensory experiences in listeners; expanded methods of communication via sound and written directions.

Employability skills

¿ This course provides a framework for approaching any compositional task, and will give students something to build on if they pursue a career in composition of concert music, of music incorporating electronics, and indeed any kind of commercial music. ¿ In addition, this course gives performers experience in experimenting with expanded capabilities of their instruments and performing extended techniques. ¿ The framework provided can be applied to teaching music at all levels.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

One marked composition assignment according to a specific brief.

 Original work approximately 2' 30” minutes in duration




Feedback methods

Formative feedback on ongoing work through workshops and tutorials

Summative written feedback to final assessment.

Recommended reading

Blatter, Alfred, Instrumentation/Orchestration (New York, 1981)

Cole, Hugo, Sounds and Signs: Aspects of Musical Notation (London, 1974)

Duckworth, William, Talking Music (Schirmer, 1995)

Gould, Elaine, Behind Bars – The Definitive Guide to Music Notation (Faber London, 2011)

Harvey, Jonathan, Music and Inspiration (Faber and Faber, 1999)

Homewood, S., and C. Matthews, The Norton Manual of Musical Notation (New York, 1987)

Schoenberg, Arnold, Fundamentals of Musical Composition (London, 1970)

Whittall, Arnold, Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1999)



Michel Chion. Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York, 1994).

Francis Dhomont and Paul Lansky, My Cinema for the Ears (2002) [DVD]Simon Emmerson, ed., The Language of Electroacoustic Music (London, 1986).  

Robert Rowe, Machine Musicianship (Cambridge MA, 2004).

Barry Truax, Handbook for Acoustic Ecology

Trevor Wishart, ed. Simon Emmerson, On Sonic Art (London, 1997).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 16.5
Independent study hours
Independent study 83.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Berezan Unit coordinator
RICHARD Whalley Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course is supported by Thursday Composers' workshops, seminars and research afternoons,  departmental contemporary music concerts including student performances, Quatuor Danel, lunchtime concerts and MANTIS – 3-5 hours per week


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