Beginning/Class Composition I (MUCP 1180/3080)

Welcome to the Beginning/Class Composition I supplemental course website. Please select a destination from the sub-menu under the Teaching tab above. Primary course materials are available on the Blackboard site for students currently enrolled in this course.

Students planning to enroll in this course should be aware of the fact that it is challenging and will require a lot of time and effort. Because prospective composition majors are required to take both MUCP 1180 and 1190, students in this degree program are expected to be up to the challenge of these courses in order to remain in the program. Those who do not have the drive, discipline, nor the dedication to learn all they can about contemporary music composition are advised to pursue another major.

Course Pre-requisites:

All students enrolled in MUCP 1180 must fulfill the following pre-requisite requirements:

  • Admission to the College of Music.
  • Enrollment in or completion of Theory I (MUTH 1400) and Aural Skills I (MUTH 1410).

All students enrolled in MUCP 3080 must fulfill the following pre-requisite requirements:

  • Admission to the College of Music.
  • Successful completion of all core MUTH courses (i.e., Theory I-IV and Aural Skills I-IV).

Students who do not meet the above requirements must make an appointment with the course instructor or risk being dropped from the course. Students enrolled in MUCP 1180 who have passed Theory I-IV and Aural Skills I-IV may wish to enroll in MUCP 3080 instead of 1180. The courses meet concurrentlyand have the same requirements, though they differ as follows:

  • MUCP 3080 is 3 credit hours; MUCP 1180 is 2 credit hours.
  • As a 3000-level course, MUCP 3080 may be applied toward advanced elective credits (e.g., for the Bachelor of Arts degree), whereas MUCP 1180 may not.

Course Objective: To explore a variety of compositional techniques, repertoire, concepts, and aesthetics from the recent past, and to provide students interested in composition with the basic tools needed to compose effectively in contemporary idioms. Because music history and theory curricula focus primarily on music from the “common practice” era (c.1600-c.1900), this course supplements that material by focusing on music composed since 1900. Thus, it serves as an important foundation for the study of composition at the undergraduate level.

MUCP 1180 is required for all prospective undergraduate composition majors, and is also offered as an elective course for qualified non-composition majors (including BA students).  Given the variety of students enrolled, the course attempts to achieve the following goals:

    • To provide a broad foundation for future composition majors, enabling them to effectively practice their craft in a variety of contexts.
    • To provide theory and jazz arranging majors with compositional experiences outside of those they are more familiar with in their respective degree programs.
    • To provide non-composition majors with the tools necessary to understand and appreciate a wide variety of contemporary musical idioms and aesthetic perspectives.

    The material covered in this course is critical to the understanding of current compositional trends; as a result, the amount of work required may be considered quite significant by many students. Prospective composition majors who do not feel up to this challenge should seriously consider pursuing another major! Although MUCP 1180 may be taken concurrently with Theory I and Aural Skills I (MUTH 1400/1410), students who have little or no previous experience in theory and/or composition may find the material beyond their grasp.  It is recommended that those students either consider another major or defer enrollment in this course until completing additional semesters of Theory and Aural Skills.

    Learning Outcomes: By the end of this course, students should attain the following skills:

    • Acceptance of a broader definition of the term “music” through exposure to contemporary musical idioms.
    • Strategies for listening to unfamiliar music, with an understanding of the appropriate cultural, historical, theoretical, and aesthetic contexts.
    • Development of critical thinking skills and the ability to assess “quality” in a wide variety of music.
    • Recognition and application of various melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and structural materials.
    • The ability to create short but cohesive and effective musical compositions, drawing upon a wide range of techniques and stylistic approaches.

    Class Structure: The class meets three days each week and consists of three interrelated components:

    • Lectures: This component is taught by the primary instructor (Dr. Klein) and includes intensive explorations of repertoire, techniques, concepts, and aesthetics presented in the listening, score study, and reading assignments. These topics set the context for the guided composition projects assigned throughout the semester.
    • Laboratories: This component is taught by the teaching fellow(s), and focuses primarily on the technical aspects of the composition projects and general compositional issues. Projects are read (performed) and discussed during the lab sessions and topics from the listening, score study, and reading assignments may be further explored through group discussions.
    • Departmentals (Music Now): These weekly meetings are attended by all of the composition students from entering freshmen to doctoral candidates. These presentations are intended to expose students to current musical practices and issues, thus supplementing the more historical material covered in the lecture portion of the course.

    The regular meeting schedule is departmental (Music Now) on Mondays, lecture on Wednesdays, and laboratory on Fridays; however, this schedule may change in order to accommodate guest artists featured on Music Now (see course schedule for details).

    Text books: Though not required, the following books may be used in this course (click image or title to order):

      David Cope: Techniques of the Contemporary Composer.  This overview of compositional techniques and approaches from the past century will help to clarify the concepts covered in the course, and is a handy reference for future compositional studies.
      Kurt Stone: Music Notation in the Twentieth Century.  This is a book that all composition majors — undergraduate and graduate alike — should own, as it will prove to be a useful resource throughout your entire compositional career.  While not required for MUCP 1180/3080, it is strongly recommended for any student who is seriously considering becoming a composition major.


    Course History: Since 1999, over 300 students have enrolled in this course, approximately 8% of whom have graduated with Bachelor of Music degrees in composition. Other students have gone on to complete degrees in a number of other majors, both within and outside the field of music, including the Bachelor of Arts degree in Music.