BA Film Studies and Music

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Instrumental Composition

Course unit fact file
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 instrumental and vocal 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


Knowledge and understanding

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

Assessment methods

Asessment task Weighting within unit
Original composition for solo, unaccompanied string instrument    40%
Original composition for wind or brass instrument and piano    60%



Feedback methods

  • Weekly tutorials and workshops on work in progress
  • Feedback from peers in tutorials, workshops and in collaboration with performers
  • Written feedback on two summative assignments
  • Oral feedback on two formative assignments
  • 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 8
Practical classes & workshops 2
Tutorials 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 187

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Camden Reeves Unit coordinator

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