composition syllabus

Trinity Western University

MUSI 327, 328, 329 (section A for 2 s.h. credit, section B for 3 s.h.)

Composition – Fall 2016

Prerequisites:   for 327, MUSI 225/226 or instructor’s permission; others are sequential

Instructors:       Dr. David Squires, local 3469; h. 604-855-5171;

Location:            DS’ office

Office Hours:     Music Building – MW 11AM-noon (usually), other times by appointment

Course Description

The study of composition with an emphasis on the student producing pieces in a variety of genres and styles (generally short works for soloists, small ensembles, or digital media.) The course format involves weekly sessions of a private or semi-private nature, with the instructor guiding the student in his or her work. (The workload expectations vary with the credit assigned, since the course may be taken for 2 or 3 s.h. credit.)

Student Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes of this course relate to several of the university’s Student Learning Outcomes   [ ], as referenced below. This course is designed in such a way that the diligent student will:

  • develop technical skills in working with melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and formal organization when creating original pieces of music in a variety of media; [knowledge and its application, SLO 1; aesthetic expression and interpretation, SLO 3]
  • expand their knowledge of registration and instrumentation of musical sounds, and skill in applying this knowledge; [knowledge and its application, SLO 1; aesthetic expression and interpretation, SLO 3]
  • gain experience in writing music in a variety of styles, some of which may be beyond their stylistic preference; [aesthetic expression and interpretation, SLO 3]
  • develop a greater understanding of the integration of the compositional gift with the Christian faith, exploring the relationship between God the Creator and the composer as a creator; [spiritual formation, SLO 5]
  • gain valuable experience in the collaborative composer/performer relationship; [aesthetic expression and interpretation, SLO 3; leadership,. SLO 7]
  • develop and nurture a personal compositional voice which stresses individuality, creativity and the pursuit of authentic communication with the composer’s audience/community. [aesthetic expression and interpretation, SLO 3; leadership,. SLO 7]


Course Format and Requirements

The course involves weekly private lessons and a few group meetings/discussions as follows:

  • Private lessons (1/2 hour) are designed for presentation and discussion of the student’s works/projects. There will be 10 weekly lessons in total, starting the week beginning Monday Sept 19. Students are expected to be diligent in working on pieces, and prepared for lessons. Missed lessons may be made up at the discretion of the instructor.
  • Group meetings/discussions are designed to provide opportunity for student composers to engage topics of common concern, examine together compositions from many genres and styles, and engage with each other’s ongoing projects. These meetings will be arranged/announced in advance.
  • Composition Projects: It is expected that several works will be completed in the semester, as the focus of the private lessons. These are individual projects for each student, acoustic works in a variety of media (i.e. solo, chamber ensemble, or perhaps standard larger ensemble).
    • MUSI 327: Generally 2-3 works are expected, depending on size and scope. The first of these will be assigned by the instructor, and possibly the second.
    • MUSI 328/329: The size and scope of each work/project is to be mutually agreed upon, with the expectation that there will be an increase in output (in terms of complexity and scope) beyond that of the previous composition course taken.
    • In general, specific works/projects will either be assigned or mutually agreed upon. The instructor reserves the right to assign a specific project depending on the pedagogical needs of the student. While there is no specified or preferred stylistic approach in TWU’s teaching of composition, the instructor may encourage the student to explore different or unfamiliar styles for pedagogical reasons.
    • The course is available for either 2 or 3 semester hours. The difference relates to student output in number and/or scope of works, with the higher semester hour course requiring significantly more.
  • Periodic reading assignments may be given to prepare for individual or group discussion.
  • Opportunities exist to write for and work with fellow musicians at the university, in workshop, rehearsal, and performance of pieces specifically designed for their instrumentation. This is strongly encouraged as a component of the course.
  • final concert presentation of student works will take place in the relatively informal setting of the MUSI 100 (Repertory and Studio) class, Wed Nov 30 at 4PM in rm. 210. Programmed works are to be prepared and rehearsed in advance for performance by the composer/performers. While the concert atmosphere is informal, student composers are reminded that their works are to be represented professionally. Inclusion of a particular work is at the discretion of the course coordinator.


Determination of Final Grade

Quantitative evaluation is difficult with respect to creative work. However, the following guidelines apply to grading in these courses.

Final performance of at least one of the semester’s projects will account for 10% of the grade. The professional presentation of works within the musical community is a high value for student composers, and students are expected to take this seriously. This portion of the grade is not related to the quality of the work being performed, but the appropriate quality and preparation of the presentation itself. Under certain circumstances (e.g. a single large project which is either too lengthy or not yet completed) the student may appeal in favour of an alternate performance scenario. This will be at the instructor’s discretion.

The balance of the grade (90%) will reflect the instructor’s assessment of the student’s work habits and the projects themselves, taking into account the following:

  • The instructor will balance the assessment of quality and quantity, taking into account the purpose of the assignments or projects of the individual student.
  • The instructor will qualitatively assess the student’s ongoing responsiveness to critique while work is in progress. While composition is an act of personal creativity, it is nonetheless undertaken in these courses within a respectful mentoring environment.
  • The instructor will qualitatively assess the consistency and diligence of approach to each compositional task. Faithful attendance at and preparation for lessons is encouraged as a primary indicator of consistency and diligence.

The following standard university descriptions apply in this course:

A:              outstanding, excellent work

B:              good, competent work

C:              adequate, reasonably satisfactory work

D:             minimally acceptable work

F:              inadequate work

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