SFU Application

assignment #1 - composition

Due: week 6


For the first assignment, you will choose material created by another artist as your starting point for this composition. Your piece can be any instrumentation (acoustic or electro-acoustic), and must be between 5-10 minutes long. You will need to connect at least one idea raised in the first five weeks of class to your composition or your composition process.

The materials that you borrow can be musical - melodies, chord progressions, full pieces, recordings -, or otherwise - poems, movie dialogue, etc. What is important is that material be recognizable as being from a work other than your own. This is to say that while you may borrow concepts or processes that may not be recognizable as being from an outside work, the purpose of this project is to use someone else’s material as the catalyst for your composition (see assigned listening for weeks 2-5).

Assignment Components and Grading

Your assignment will be a digital package that will be delivered to (my email address) as a link that gives me access to a google drive folder containing all the components of the assignment. The folder should be labeled: class code_your name_assignment 1

In the folder you will be required to have the following:

  1. Work Log - labelled: class code_your name_work log 1 (25%)
  2. Rationale - labelled: class code_your name_rational 1 (25%)
  3. Recording -  labelled: class code_your name_recording 1 (10)%
  4. Score - labelled: class code_your name_score 1 (40%)

All written materials should be .pdf files and the recording should be an .mp3 file.

Work Log

The purpose of a work log is for you to be able to track the evolution/progress of your ideas, and bring a deeper understanding to your creative process and workflow.

The log is an informal document and can take any form you like. However, each entry should be dated. It is expected that you to make entries into the log prior to and after working on your composition. Please be cognizant that “working on your composition” should include research processes (such as reading, note taking, web browsing, creation research etc) and any imagining (work done in your head) that you do.

I am not looking for a list of topics that you googled, what I am after is a document that: reflects your process throughout the writing of the piece; illustrates how your ideas have changed from beginning to end; shows that you are doing research, illustrates that you are raising questions, formulating hypotheses, and revising your work/ideas as you come in contact with new materials, resources, inspirations etc.

A successful (read: achieving a higher grade and being more beneficial to you as a composer) work log will contain: regular entries, questions with speculated outcomes and follow up reflections, lists of resources accompanied by any notes/thoughts; and reflections on practical/aesthetic/conceptual/technical aspects of your process/piece.

Lastly, there is no minimum/maximum page requirement. However, the more material in your log that there is, the easier it will be for you to demonstrate all of the above.


500 words double spaced (minimum).

The rationale for the assignment is a formal paper. End notes should be in the Chicago Manual Style of citation.

I expect in you writing of the rationale, that you will connect the most salient aspects of your process/research (see work log) to the work itself, while demonstrating an exploration of the core of the composition assignment.

A successful rationale will address: the genesis of the work (why did you choose the starting material you did? How did this material catalyze your initial ideas for the piece? And so on...), questions that arose through the process, inspirations/connections to ideas/works/material etc, compositional tools employed, management of parameters, structure/form, orchestration, your intentions for how the listener may perceive the work, and any practical/ aesthetic/ conceptual/ technical aspects of your work. Please also include some reflection on how you would improve the piece if given the opportunity.


The recording should reflect the piece that you have written - meaning everything in your score should be audible. The recording will not be graded on production value. It will be a recording of acoustic instruments or an electro-acoustic piece. No midi playbacks will be accepted.

A successful recording will have all written parts audible to the listener.

Advice: when planning your piece, consider that you will have to record it. Recording an orchestral piece will require a lot more resources (personnel, rehearsal time, recording space etc) than a piece written for an instrument (or instruments) that you can play. By all means, put together an ensemble with friends/ colleagues but plan well to accommodate practical concerns that may emerge in the process.

Should you not have access to recording equipment, please talk to me immediately and we can work something out.


The score can be hand-written or done with engraving software but should strive to meet professional engraving standards.

Your score will be assessed on:

  1. Completeness and tidiness - page numbers, rehearsal letters, title page, notes, dynamics, etc. (15 marks),
  2. formating - is everything where it should be? Do the page turns make sense? Are the bar numbers large enough for a conductor to see? Are measures crowded? And so on. (15 marks), 
  3. and quality of the composition - clear illustration of the ideas highlighted in the rationale, inventiveness. (10 marks)

For electro-acoustic pieces, you will need to submit a detailed transcription (visual representation) of your piece as you hear it and all of your DAW files. If you are not familiar with electro-acoustic transcriptions, please see me for guidance.

Advice: when working on engraving your score, you should reference pieces with similar orchestration or ways of operating for insight into formatting. Should you find discrepancies between reference scores, make a choice and address your choice in your rationale.