MUS 212

Composition Projects

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One of the best ways of learning about music is by composing it.  During the latter part of the semester we will be focusing on the music of the Romantic, Impressionistic and Twentieth-Century eras.  You will be required to compose a short work in each style.  (See syllabus for due dates.)  Each of your scores will be graded on neatness, notational accuracy, musical content and how well you captured each period's style characteristics.

Please make enough photocopies of your score so that the class may follow the music during the performance (2-3 persons per score).  You will turn in one copy of the score.  Please number every measure on each of the projects.

Do not wait until the last minute to begin composing.  The best approach is to begin a couple weeks in advance of the due date and compose a few measures each day.  Please feel free to call on me if you encounter problems you are not able to solve.  (And, yes, writer's block is normal ... so allow extra time for it.)

You may wish to make extra photocopies of the blank score paper provided so that you will have sufficient working copies, plus clean pages for your final, neatly-copied version.

Grading:  Excellent = 95, Good = 85, Average = 75, Poor = 65, Incomplete = 0.

Romantic Composition

  1. The original composition must be at least 24 measures in length, not including repeats, if any.

  2. The work must be a complete composition, coming to a logical finish.

  3. The piece should be scored for voice and piano--an art song.  You may write your own text if you desire.  Otherwise, find a book of Romantic-era poetry in the library.  There are also several poems in the textbook, pp. 168-170.  The text should be characteristic of Romantic-style poetry/lyrics for "proper inspiration."  For example, "I drove my Chevy to the levee" somehow wouldn't quite fit the 19th-century motif.  Bear in mind appropriate vocal ranges as you write.  The works will be performed in class, so if you are not able to sing the voice part yourself, please compose accordingly for one of your classmates (or singer-friend who can come to class).  It may be wise to first ask the person if s/he will be willing to perform your work.

  4. Your composition should contain a "tasteful smattering" of elements typically found in 19th-century works, which we have examined in class, such as:  9th, 11th, 13th chords; N6, augmented 6th chords; secondary embellishing chords; brief periods of modulation, foreign modulation; unresolved dissonance; nonfunctional harmony; chromaticism; enharmonic spellings; etc.  Needless to say, you will not use all of the above, but your piece should contain several of these characteristic devices (or it will not sound Romantic).  

Impressionistic Composition

  1. Same as numbers 1 and 2 above.

  2. This will be an instrumental work, scored for either solo piano, or piano and another instrument--whatever is available from the class pool.  If you include another instrument, an individual part must be copied--and transposed, if necessary--so the composition can be performed in class.  Your concert-pitch score must include all parts.

  3. Your piece should contain (some of) the essential elements of the music of this genre, such as:  church modes; pentatonic scales; whole-tone scales; 9th, 11th, 13th chords; chords of addition / omission; quartal / quintal harmonies; traditional, linear, 3rd-relationship cadences; chord planing; melodic doubling; etc.

Twentieth-Century Composition

  1. Most importantly, the composition should be of the "art music" genre, as opposed to the "popular" genre.

  2. Same as numbers 1 and 2 from the Romantic Composition description.

  3. This may be either and instrumental or vocal work.  Any combination of instruments / voices available in class is acceptable.  Be creative.  

  4. Provide individual, transposed parts as before, if necessary.  Your concert-pitch score must include all parts.

  5. Your piece should contain (some of) the essential elements of the music of this genre, such as:  primitivism, neoclassicism, pandiatonicism, polytonality, dual modality, shifted tonalities, free tonality, polychords, quartal / quintal chords, tone clusters, changing meter, etc.  Or, you may compose a serial composition, providing your matrix along with the composition.

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