Composition Skills 4

Syllabus - Fall 2010 (preliminary)

Workshop in composition techniques, exploring use of styles and devices of contemporary art music.
    Credits: 1
Prereq: One year of basic music theory or written permission of instructor. Required for all majors in theory/composition.

Required Texts:

    (available online via numerous vendors)
Cope, David. Techniques of the Contemporary Composer.
(Schirmer Books, 1997).

Materials Required:

    High quality music manuscript paper
    Soft lead pencils, No. 2 or softer
    (6) CD-R blank disks for PROJECTS
    (1) 4 GB Flash Drive (for data backup)


    20% Class Participation (see Remember #4)
    20% Composition Assignments/Projects
    10% Small Concert Presentations
    15% Listening Reports
    5% Assigned Bibliography
    10% Composition Jury Grade
    20% Final Project

Office: Office 304/Lab 147/Studio 340
Office Phone No.: 273-3176
Office Hours: see schedule
Professor: Dr. James Paul Sain [email]
Graduate Assistant: Travis Garrison [email]
GA Office Hours: TBA
Studio/Lab Assistant: Adam Scott Neal [email]
Listserv (closed):


1) All listening selections are from the Music Library Listening Area; please plan your time accordingly. A lack of planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on the part of the library support staff.

2) Late work is not accepted.

3) We are very fortunate to have a highly skilled graduate assistant (GA) serving this course (among numerous other duties). The GA will have regularly scheduled weekly office hours. Limited time may be available outside these office hours only at their discretion. Please contact the GA well in advance of your needs via email or in person after class (please respect the personal time of our GA). Come prepared with your materials well underway when working with the GA. As the assignments are designed to require you to apply the techniques demonstrated in class, the GA will only review the techniques and concepts outlined in the class lectures. Again, like the library staff, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on the part of our GA.

4) Attendance is required at all classes. Should a class be missed, it is the student's responsibility to see that the lecture notes from the missed class are obtained from a classmate and any work assigned is completed by their return (a class list will be supplied to help facilitate this policy). After three (3) class absences your grade will be lowered one grade increment for each absence after three (ie A to A-, or C to C-). Your grade will be lowered one grade increment for each UnBalanced Connection concert missed. Each missed concert or presentation will also result in a reduction in your grade by one increment.

5) The Electroacoustic Music Studio will be reserved at a posted time for use by each electroacoustic music student. Additional time is possible by sign-up every two weeks. Each studio user has a five minute grace period after which the studio will revert to open use; the open use time will be available on a first come, first served basis.

6) Sign-in/out is required when using either the lab or studio. You must return the studio to the normal condition after each use or your use privileges will be removed.

7) Plan early for your final project...things have a way of happening at the last minute.

8) The requirements, emphasis, and timing of this course may be changed or adjusted to meet the specific needs of the class as determined by the instructor.

9) All students of The University of Florida are expected to conduct themselves in a reasonable and professional manner at all times as described in the Student Honor Code; please refer to The Code for specifics.

10) UF Software Copyright Policy: All faculty, staff and students of the University of Florida are required and expected to obey the laws and legal agreements governing software use. Failure to do so can lead to monetary damages and/or criminal penalties for the individual violator. Because such violations are also against the University policies and rules, disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.

11) UF Counseling Services - Resources are available on-campus for students having personal problems or lacking clear career and academic goals which interfere with their academic performance.

    These resources include:
    1.University Counseling Center, 301 Peabody Hall, 392-1575, personal and career counseling;
    2.Student Mental Health, Student Health Care Center, 392-1171, personal counseling;
    3.Sexual Assault Recovery Services (SARS), Student Health Care Center, 392-1161, sexual assault counseling;
    4.Career Resource Center, Reitz Union, 392-1601, career development assistance and counseling.

    12) Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office in Peabody Hall. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the Instructor when requesting accommodation.

    13) My office door is always open; please feel free to drop by to discuss class issues as the need arises.

Grading Scale:

Course Outline

Week 1 (23 Aug)

  • Introduction and Minimalism

Cope: Ch. 19, pp. 216-221

Week 2

    • Minimalism (cont)

- Analyze, Reich

Week 3

    • Minimalism (cont)

- Compose, composition for three to four class instruments

Week 4

    • Indeterminacy

Cope: Ch. 14, pp. 161-167

Week 5

    • Indeterminacy (cont)

- Analyze, Cage

Listening Report 1

Week 6

    • Indeterminacy (cont)

- Compose, composition for three to four class instruments

Week 7

    • New Techniques & Instruments

Cope: Ch. 12, pp. 136-149

- Finale, complete notation of "minimal" compositions (due Wed.)

Assignment of Bibliography Topic

Week 8

    • New Techniques & Instruments (cont)

Week 9

    • New Techniques & Instruments (cont)

Week 10

    • New Notations

Cope: Ch. 13, pp. 150-160

Listening Report 2

Week 11

    • New Notations (cont)

Week 12

    • New Notations (cont)

Week 13

    • Decategorization (cont)

Cope: Ch. 21, pp. 230-238

Bibliography Due

Week 14

    • Decategorization (cont)

Week 15

    • Decategorization (cont)

Listening Report 3

Week 16

    • Presentation of class works in concert

LISTENING REPORTS: A written critique of compositions on each listening list. These typed reports should contain objective prose describing the works on the listening list that demonstrates an understanding of the techniques used to produce the work as well as the aesthetic of the composition.

COMPOSITION ASSIGNMENTS/PROJECTS: The composition assignments will be handed in by the due date in Finale computer notation and bound for professtional presentation. Class projects could be, for example, the presentation of a contemporary composition recording (written within the last 30 years) at the beginning of each class.

CONCERT PRESENTATION: A composition is not "finished" until it is presented in concert. Each composition assignment will be presented by the class in a concert setting. The class members will determine an organizational structure that will produce a program and flyer/poster for the concert presentations. The class is encouraged to find alternative spaces appropriate to the assignment/project for the presentation concert.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Each student will be assigned a contemporary composer, born not earlier than 1950, and compile a bibliography/discography of the composer's works.

FINAL PROJECT: Creative work to demonstrate understanding and application of principles discussed and experienced during the course of the semester. The final project will be presented during the final examination time for the course. All final projects will be considered for performance a the SCI Student Chapter concert.

UNBALANCED CONNECTION CONCERTS: All students are encouraged to participate in the UnBalanced Connection concert on Friday, 5 Nov. 2010, at 7:30p. All students are required to set-up, attend, and tear-down for this concert (set-up usually begins at 4:30p on the concert day). The concert will be held in MUB 120 unless otherwise noted. Please clear your schedules early to avoid a conflict.

COMPOSITION STUDIO: All students studying composition at the University of Florida, as a major or non-major, must attend and participate in the Composition Studio. The studio meets every Monday during the 4:05 hour. Each student is required to present on at least one studio meeting (25 mins presentation for half the meeting). All topics music be approved by Dr. Sain at least two weeks prior to the presentation date. Dr. Sain must also be given a title for the presentation for the presentation when approval is requested.

SAFETY HINT: Always keep several back-up copies of your Finale files on multiple flash drives; if you have a personal computer you may wish to keep one copy on your personal hard-drive.

- last update 17 August 2017 -