BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Instrumental Composition

Unit code MUSC20321
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Music
Available as a free choice unit? No


A practice-based course in which students create original compositions for a variety of instrumental resources to set briefs.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Sonic Invention A MUSC10311 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Sonic Invention B MUSC10312 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


This course unit provides knowledge of instrumental resources (their technical features and sonic characteristics) and how these may be employed in the handling of musical parameters to articulate musical shapes.  By the end of the course students will have applied this knowledge by completing two original compositions and bringing these to a well-prepared performance standard.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course-unit students should be able to:

Apply the technical and timbral features of string instruments, wind instruments, brass instruments and piano creatively. Students will be able to use musical parameters (pitch, rhythm, timbre, register, dynamics, articulation etc.) in a sophisticated manner, and use these to articulate coherent musical shapes and temporal strategies.






Manipulating the parameters of musical composition - dynamics, register, pitch, rhythm, density (textural, rhythmic and harmonic), articulation, phrase lengths and timbre - in a concerted manner to articulate musical shapes and sophisticated modes of musical discourse.The study of relevant repertoire in support of the above.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, tutorials, workshops, performances, consultation hours, Vaganza concerts, Composers’ Fora

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- Understand the technical and sonic characteristics of instrumental resources;

- Demonstrate knowledge of the principles of their combination in scoring;

- Be knowledgeable of the craft of composing within musical parameters.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Analyze, evaluate and develop sonic material within aesthetic and technical contexts;
  • Research existing repertoire for guidance on completing the set tasks;
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different compositional strategies in bringing their own ideas to fruition;
  • Plan sophisticated musical structures and solve technical and practical problems in bringing these to successful realization in performance;
  • Apply standard professional musical notation and evaluate its applicability to creative objectives.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Apply knowledge of the technical and practical features of instruments creatively;
  • Articulate shapes and dramatic strategies through sound;
  • Supervise and direct rehearsals;
  • Produce performance materials to professional standards;
  • Notate musical ideas such that they can be learnt by musicians without the composer.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

 - Demonstrate organizational and management skills in booking musicians, arranging rehearsals and preparing performances;

- Demonstrate attention to detail through preparing and editing performance material to professional standards;

- Demonstrate creative problem-solving;

- Collaborate with other students in realizing their ideas, and the ideas of others.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Surveying repertoire, analyzing materials for musical potential
Group/team working
Team work (collaborating with musicians); - Interpersonal skills (collaborating with other students and musicians);
Initiative (inventing a creative concept and putting into motion);
Leadership skills (being responsible for overseeing a creative product from inception through to final performance).
Project management
Time management (running workshops and rehearsals); Working to tight deadlines (composing music, and preparing performance materials in time for workshops and performances); - Organizational skills (finding and booking musicians and rehearsal space);
Problem solving
Creative problem-solving (fulfilling set task with set resources);
Editing (in preparing performance materials);

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Original composition for solo, unaccompanied string instrument

Approx. 3 minutes


Original composition for wind or brass instrument and piano

Approx. 3 minutes



Feedback methods

  • Weekly tutorials and workshops on work in progress
  • Feedback from peers in tutorials, workshops and in collaboration with performers
  • Written feedback on Projects 1 and 2
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading


Harrison Birtwistle – Verses for clarinet and piano

Benjamin Britten – three Suites for solo cello

Elliott Carter – Duo for violin and piano

Ronald Catalbiano - Lines from Poetry (solo violin)

Peter Maxwell Davies - Eight Songs for a Mad King

GF Handel - Messiah

WA Mozart - Don Giovanni

Vincent Persichetti - Parables (mostly for various solo instruments)

Judith Weir - King Harald's Saga



Blatter, Alfred,  Instrumentation and Orchestration (New York & London: Longman, 1997).

Gould, Elaine, Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide To Music Notation (London: Faber, 2011).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 4
Practical classes & workshops 10
Seminars 3
Tutorials 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 179

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Camden Reeves Unit coordinator

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