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Syllabus


FPA 346 Course Description

FPA 346 Music Composition IV is a continuation of FPA 345. Prerequisite: FPA 345.

Week by week, we will take a deep look at one piece of music (recording and score) by using assigned readings, ancillary recordings and scores, and videos to frame an entry point into the work. This entry point may be an obvious one (exploring the composer’s perspective or intentions), or a speculative one (leveraging ideas from other materials to catalyze interrogation). Through presentations and group discussions, we will examine weekly concepts under an umbrella theme, while maintaining ongoing discussions around compositional techniques, orchestration, parameter management, pacing, structure/form, invention, analysis, and compositional process.  

The focus of weeks 2-5 (and composition assignment #1) is the examination of music that has material not created by the composer embedded into its construction. Over the course of these 4 weeks we will look at a bounty of perspectives regarding materials, concepts, techniques, problems, and forms related to the reimagining of materials.

In week six, we will take an introductory look at the resources and materials that enable a composer to enter the field professionally.

In weeks 7-12 (and composition assignment #2), our attentions will turn to works that subvert, or reconfigure our assumptions of materials, forms, practices, rituals, and common sense.

All materials (scores, readings, recordings, videos), sorted by week are available in (google folder address).

Learning Outcomes

A student who successfully completes this course will: 

  • gain a better understanding of their compositional process and aesthetic interests
  • deepen their understanding of contemporary compositional aesthetics, concepts, techniques, craft, and problems
  • become familiar with perceptual and intermedial approaches to composition and analysis
  • gain an understanding of the professional landscape
  • be able to engage in critical discourse around differing musical perspectives in a healthy and respectful manner

Grading

  • Attendance/ In-Class Participation (10%)
  • Online Listening Group Participation (20%)
  • Composition Assignment #1 - due week 6 (30%)
  • Composition Assignment #2 - due week 11 (30%)
  • Portfolio/ Application Project - due week 13 (10%)

Online Listening Group

You will become part of the private Facebook group “A-Z Listening”*. Over the course of the semester, you are expected to make 10 posts of music you are listening to in the moment you are listening. Your own recordings may be included in the posts. Additionally, you are encouraged to comment on the posts of others. All posts and comments should follow the guidelines outlined on the group page. Should you not have a facebook profile, please create an alias and inform me of you moniker. The purpose of this task is to have the group develop a better understanding of where everyone is coming from musically.

Composition and Portfolio Projects

See attached handouts for descriptions and grading breakdowns for each assignment.

Syllabus by Week

Below is a list of concepts and material covered by week. All the materials listed for each week should be listened to/ read/ watched prior to the class.

Week 1: Inflection Point

As a class we will review the syllabus and expectations for the class. In class we will listen to and look at the scores for Linda Catlin Smith’s Moi Qui Tremblais, Rodney Sharman’s Notes on ‘Beautiful’, and Sky Macklay’s Many, Many, Cadences. With each piece we will speculate on the initial idea that catalyzed its creation and potential problems that would arise when composing these works. Additionally, we will set up a framework for discussing compositional craft that will be carried through the semester. 

Week 2: Hearing Serial Structures and Attuning to Perceptual Tendencies in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Meditation on the Bach Chorale 'Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit'

Focus: Sofia Gubaidulina’s Meditation on the Bach Chorale 'Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit' (1995) for amplified harpsichord, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, and double bass.

Reading: Jennifer Denise Milne The rhythm of form: Compositional processes in the music of Sofia Gubaidulina (2007) and selections from the first chapter “the Auditory Scene” of Albert Bregman’s Auditory Scene Analysis (1994).

Additional listening and score study: Casandra Miller’s For Mira (2012) for solo violin and Martin Arnold’s Tam Lin (2003) for mixed ensemble.

Week 3: Reconfiguring Coherence and the Mobiusoïdal Linearity of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Meditation on the Bach Chorale 'Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit'

Focus: Sofia Gubaidulina’s Meditation on the Bach Chorale 'Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit' (1995) for amplified harpsichord, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, and double bass.

Reading: Jennifer A. Hudson "No Hay Banda, and yet We Hear a Band": David Lynch's Reversal of Coherence in Mulholland Drive (2016) and selections from the first chapter “the Auditory Scene” of Albert Bregman’s Auditory Scene Analysis (1994).

Video: David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive (2001).

Week 4: Ways of Hearing the Materiality of Pamela Z’s Pop Titles ‘You’

Focus: Pamela Z’s Pop Titles ‘You’  (1986) for solo voice and electronics.

Video: John Berger’s Ways of Seeing episode 1 (1972), and Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987).

Additional listening: Naama Tsabar’s Babies (2008), Eric Blau and Mort Shuman’s Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (1968), and James O’Callaghan’s Isomorphia (2014) for Orchestra and Tape.

Week 5: Contemporaneity, Sampling Praxis, and Emergence in Nicole Lizée’s This Will Not Be Televised  

Focus: Nicole Lizée’s This Will not be Televised (2005 -2007) for 2 percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, turntables.

Reading: Tom Perchard “Hip Hop Samples Jazz: Dynamics of Cultural Memory and Musical Tradition in the African American 1990s” (2011).

Additional Listening: Brigitte Bardon't’s Infinite Poolside: Motel 1989 (2015), and Xenaudial’s Adjacent Exposure (2013), Doctor Octagon’s Blue Flowers (1996).

Week 6: Professional Development

We will review standards and practices in the creation of portfolios, biographies, CVs, and web presence for composers as well as investigate artistic and professional resources for early-career composers.

Week 7: The Skewed Topology of Charles Ives’ Three Quarter-Tone Pieces

Focus: Charles Ives’ Three Quarter-Tone Pieces (1923–24) for two pianos, one tuned a quarter-tone sharp, S. 128 (K. 3C3).

Additional listening and score study: Anna Hostman’s Murmuring (2014) for baroque quartet. Additional listening: Tristan Perich’s 1-bit Symphony (2010) for microchip, Fathmount’s A yoke of oxen (2007) for electric guitars. 

Week 8: Hearing Positivistic Analysis and Aprosodia in the Resonant Melodic Structure of Linda Catlin Smith's Knotted Silk

Focus: Linda Catlin Smith’s Knotted Silk (1999) for clarinet, trumpet, 2 percussionists, piano, violin and double bass.

Reading: Chris Mayo Knotted Silk - Linda Catlin Smith (2015) and selections from the third chapter “Integration of Simultaneous Auditory Components” of Albert Bregman’s Auditory Scene Analysis (1994)..

Additional listening and score study: Charles Ives’s In Re Con Moto et al (1915/16) for string quartet, piano and optional drum, and Eldritch Priest’s Glossolalia (stress positions) (2008) for violin, clarinet, flute, double bass, percussion), and tape. 

Week 9: Performance Ritual and Interface Reconfigured in Naama Tsabar’s Propagation (Opus 3)

Focus: Naama Tsabar’s Propogation (opus 3) (2015) for Wood, speakers, amplifiers, mixers, wires, cables, piano strings, bone, cable holders, contact microphones, brass, sheet rock. 6.5 meters high x 6.8 meters wide.

Reading: Marc Couroux Evryali and the Exploding of the Interface: from Virtuosity to Anti-virtuosity and Beyond (2002).

Video: Marc Couroux le contrepoint académique (sic) (2000) for piano, James O’Callaghan’s Among Am A (2015) for mixed ensemble.

Week 10: The New Discipline and Experimentalism in Jennifer Walshe’s THIS IS WHY PEOPLE O.D. ON PILLS/AND JUMP FROM THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

Focus: Jennifer Walshe’s THIS IS WHY PEOPLE O.D. ON PILLS/AND JUMP FROM THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE (2004) open score.

Read: Bob Gilmore’s don't do PERMISSION ISN'T (2014).

Additional listening: Bob Gilmore’s audio documentary Five maps of the experimental world (2014), Pamela Z’s Sonic Gestures Installation (2007).

*Bring instruments to class today, we will be engaging with THIS IS WHY… as musicians.

Week 11: Finding Organic Music in the Open Score of Julius Eastman’s Evil Nigger

Focus: Julius Eastmans’ Evil Nigger (1979) for open instrumentation.

Additional listening and score study: John Mark Sherlock’s Life’s Rich Pageant (2003) for Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Clavinet, Allison Cameron’s In Memoriam Robert Ashley (2014) for open instrumentation.

Week 12: Beat Generation, Drones, and Exclusive Allocation: Chiyoko Szlavnics’ Gradients of Detail

Focus:  Chiyoko Szlavnics’ Gradients Of Detail (2005/6) for string quartet.

Read: Selections from the seventh chapter “The Principles of Exclusive Allocation In Scene Analysis” of Albert Bregman’s Auditory Scene Analysis (1994)..

Additional Listening: Chiyoko Szlavnics; Inner Voicings (2014) for sine waves and ensemble, Beard Closet & Bodies that Matter’s Monument to Monument (2016), and Alvin Lucier’s Silver Streetcar for Orchestra (1988) for triangle.

Week 13: Performance of Composition Assignment #2

The final week is a concert with all of the works from composition assignment #2 performed by (predetermined ensemble).