MUS2017 : Historic Techniques of Composition

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


•1.       To acquire an informed understanding of historic repertories through the act of composition;
•2.       To draw upon historic theory and methods as compositional tools;
•3.       To illuminate scholarly understanding of historic techniques through practical experience;
•4.       To develop compositional facility in at least one historic idiom;
•5.       To deepen understanding of the relationship between theory and practice before 1900;
•6.•       To foster clear understanding of the key concepts relevant to the genres under investigation:
for instance, developing an awareness of the differences between concords/discords, essential/inessential, and structural/ornamental notes;
•7.       To draw upon, and contribute to, on-going research projects of relevance to this field of study.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module engages with musical repertories from before the twentieth century. Students are introduced to one or more idiom: counterpoint from the sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth century; fugue; Classical forms; or nineteenth-century harmony, usually song. The stylistic choices on offer will vary according to circumstances (staff availability and current interests, and the aptitudes of participants).

The rota of lectures and tutorials will therefore depend according to the stylistic specialism(s) on offer. Typically the module consists of fortnightly alternations of lectures and seminars (weeks 1-16) and a series of seminars and tutorials that focus upon composition projects.

In 2015-16 and 2016-17 there will be offered a choice of specialism in English music of the sixteenth century. This will enable students to participate in the project Tudor Partbooks: the manuscript legacies of John Sadler, John Baldwin and their antecedents (AHRC, 2014-17). In addition to their regular weekly tuition, participants will be invited to a project-funded workshop devoted to the reconstruction of incomplete polyphony, facilitated by specialists in Renaissance polyphony. They will thereby contribute directly to the publication of a facsimile reconstruction of the Baldwin Partbooks (GB-Och Mus. 979-983) by the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture82:0016:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice1001:00100:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00Group tutorials needed for performing ensemble pieces
Guided Independent StudyProject work601:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops102:0020:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The student experience is built around a series of alternating lectures and seminars in which a series of textural archetypes or technical challenges is introduced and practised (weeks 1-16). Towards the end of the module (weeks 17-24) small-group tuition becomes more frequent, as participants prepare their final assignments and focus on more individualised tasks.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Portfolio1MInterim portfolio set in December
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The final portfolio comprises between two and five composition tasks, the weighting of which will depend upon the scale and complexity of the repertory studied (indicatively: five short songs; four fugal expositions; three vernacular anthems; two Latin motets; one sonata movement; or appropriate combinations of the above). The task will also vary in scope according to the date of the repertory: an essay in Renaissance composition may include an element of transcription and commentary if appropriate, or the completion of an incomplete surviving piece through the reconstruction of missing voice-parts; other repertories, for instance, nineteenth-century song, will focus upon the choice and setting of appropriate texts in English, French or German.

The interim portfolio, submitted at the end of the first semester, provides evidence of engagement with (and understanding of) the content of the module, enabling the student to receive feedback and the module leader to respond to the cohort’s technical attainment.

Reading Lists