UConn’s bachelor of music degree with an emphasis in composition is intended for students who demonstrate an aptitude for creative thinking and expression through musical composition. Students will be exposed to multiple contemporary techniques and genres and will be encouraged to develop their own compositional style.
The composition degree complements the jazz program, which focuses on jazz composition and arranging.
Student composers will have access to student performers and performance opportunities for their music through existing large and small ensembles. They will also be exposed to major performing artists and ensembles that visit the University of Connecticut under the presentation of the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, student composers will contribute an emphasis on contemporary music making that will have a positive effect on the musical life of the Department of Music.
Essential Competencies, Experiences, and Opportunities
The goal of the composition emphasis is to achieve the highest possible level of skills in musical composition. Students interested in pursuing an emphasis in composition enroll in composition and composition-related courses as outlined in the curricular chart. Course objectives include the following:
To exercise creative imagination for sound.
To learn and utilize new compositional techniques.
To develop compositional skills through regular and focused practice.
To expand awareness of the richness and diversity of contemporary music.
To foster an environment for creative exchange and constructive criticism.
To move toward the acquisition of a personal musical language.
To develop skills in effective notation.
To develop skills working with specific instruments and voices.
To prepare scores and parts for performance.
To produce a substantial portfolio of compositions.
The curricular foundation for the composition emphasis ensures that students develop a knowledge base of the fundamental elements of musical composition. In composition classes and private lessons, students explore a wide variety of compositional techniques through various composition assignments, score study, analysis, and discussion.
Topics span a wide range of concepts including composing for strings and winds, extended instrumental and vocal techniques, setting text to music, and working with electronic media. Completed compositions are performed during reading sessions with large ensembles and at student composition concerts and Convocation performances. Students receive assessment and evaluation on their work throughout the semester, both from the professor and from their peers in composition classes and forums. Grades in composition are based on assessed quality of completed work and progress throughout each semester.
Students first study the fundamental elements of music and composition in the four-semester sequence of Harmony, Ear Training, and Musicianship during the freshman and sophomore years. At the conclusion of the sophomore year, students submit a portfolio of compositions to the major professor in composition be considered for admittance to the composition emphasis. The portfolio should include a selection of original works that demonstration ability in conceiving music for wind instruments and brass instruments, percussion, piano, and voice. Acceptance is based on assessed quality of completed compositions and assessment of student’s likelihood to succeed in the program.
Once students are admitted into the composition emphasis, they become upper-division composition students and enroll in applied composition study through classes (Music Composition MUSI 3331, 3322, 4333, 4334) with the major professor of composition. In addition to applied composition study, students are required to take in the junior and senior years the following courses: Composition Forum (MUSI 4339), Introduction to Electronic Media (MUSI 3341), Orchestration 1 (MUSI 3351), Introduction to Improvisation (MUSI 1601), and Jazz Arranging 1 (MUSI 3631). By permission of the instructor, students may also register for Music Composition Independent Study (MUSI 4999), in which students work under the supervision of the instructor on large-scale composition projects.
To successfully complete requirements for the emphasis in composition, students must participate in Convocation (MUSI 1101) each semester of undergraduate study and present a senior recital of 50 minutes featuring original compositions. Convocation performances include preparing original compositions written in the composition classes. Active involvement in the rehearsal process is expected, and students are encouraged to conduct or perform their works in Convocation and Recital performances when appropriate. The major professor of composition will oversee recital preparation and execution and ensure that achievement standards are met.
Fluency in Compositional Skills
Musicianship: The acquisition of musicianship is central to the training of all students in the Department of Music, and it has been an important structural principle in the design of all plans of study. The academic foundations of musicianship are provided by a four-semester sequence of music theory classes (Harmony I-IV) taught in conjunction with a parallel sequence in ear training and functional music skills. The harmony classes provide grounding in music fundamentals, notation, counterpoint, harmony, analysis, and fundamentals of composition. The aural skills classes meet separately twice a week and concentrate on perceptual and aural skills including dictation and sight singing. Keyboard skills are addressed for all students in two ways. First, all music majors complete a four-semester class piano sequence. These courses comprise keyboard technique and reading skills as well as simple improvisation. Second, each student in aural skills classes meets weekly in groups of three students for keyboard harmony and sight singing tutorial sessions with a teaching assistant.
Spoken and Written Language: All undergraduate students focus on the acquisition of writing and speaking skills in the General Education Program. In addition to skills gained in these classes, composition students make regular presentations of their works in progress in composition classes, helping them to learn how to communicate with other musicians about their musical intentions. Students gain experience writing about music in music history and analysis classes.
Conducting and Rehearsal Skills: All composition students are required to take Conducting (MUSI 4731), a class that prepares them to lead and effectively rehearse an ensemble. In addition, composition students gain extra practice with this skill through their participation in reading sessions of their works and preparing performances for Convocation and Recitals.
Analytical Techniques: The required four-semester Harmony sequence provides the foundation for analysis for all music majors in the Department. In addition to this, students enrolled in the Composition emphasis also take Twentieth Century Theory and Analysis (MUSI 3371Q), which provides an in-depth exploration of contemporary works.
Applicable Technologies: All first semester students, including both freshmen and new transfer students, enroll in “Introduction to University Musical Study,” which is part of the Convocation (MUSI 1011) requirement. While there are several components to this course, one of its important features is instruction for all students in the use of music notation software.
Beyond this experience, extended technology expectations are embedded in the syllabuses of other courses. These skills addressed in these courses include greater mastery of notation software skills, MIDI sequencing and looping, the use of simple digital recording software, musical accompaniment software as applied to music teaching, and experience in evaluating instructional software.
Opportunities for Performances: There exist multiple opportunities for students to hear fully realized performances of their music. Students are encouraged to compose music for other students and ensembles in the Department or to work with outside performers, ensembles, and other creative individuals in the community. The large ensemble conductors are very supportive of student composers, and they read new student compositions during rehearsals; they sometimes program these works as well.
Student composition recitals will be scheduled to feature newly created works and to provide music to a community of listeners eager to experience contemporary music. The required Senior Recital will be the most significant achievement in the area of performance, as well as required performances in Convocation.
Facilities relevant to the Composition Emphases include two large rehearsal rooms suitable for composition reading sessions, several classroom-sized rooms suitable for general classroom work, a multiple-station piano lab, and the computer lab.
The computer lab houses thirteen Macintosh G-5 workstations operating under the current Mac OS. Each station is equipped with either a Rolland or a Korg MIDI keyboard and synthesizer, and full Internet access. The classroom is equipped with an instructor’s station with playback equipment and an LCD projector. Five of the student workstations and the instructor’s station are equipped with ProTools software and interfaces. There is a networked printer available that prints up to 11×17-inch score pages.
Software includes, the most current suite of Mac “iLife” programs, including GarageBand, iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD. Sibelius 4.0 music notation software is available on each station. Finale 2006 is available on five of the workstations for students and instructors who prefer it. Microsoft Office, which is the University standard for office productivity and presentation software, is maintained on each computer. Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer 4.0 is installed on all stations primarily for its MIDI sequencing function.
In addition to the University’s main library, the Homer Babbidge Library, the School of Fine Arts has a full-service Resource Center that houses a large collection of scores, recordings, critical editions, periodicals, and online resources. The University provides a full-time librarian and support staff assigned to serve the needs of the School of Fine Arts. The Department also houses both instrumental and choral libraries, which include performance editions of band, orchestral, chamber, and choral works.