Music Composition Seminar

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

One or more semesters of composition and/or harmony, counterpoint, or advanced theory. Assignments and projects will be customized with students' goals and backgrounds in mind.


The Composition Seminar offers exposure to a broad set of perspectives and issues encountered in the composition process. The course will promote analysis and discussion of meaningful scores of the 20th and 21st centuries. The focus will be on classical music and contemporary classical music, but discussion will also include soundscape composition. Students also will increase their self-awareness through in-class discussion of their process of planning and crafting structured composition projects.

The class is open to students pursuing a degree in composition, as well as students who are simply interested in composition. There will be enough time reserved to concentrate on each student’s compositions in order to emphasize individual progress. Students’ compositions will be compared with selected compositions from the past and present, from the West and East. Various instrumentations in the field of chamber, vocal, and choir music will be discussed.

Students will have the unique opportunity to organize a Composer’s Recital and present their new compositions at the beautiful IES Vienna concert hall. Taking advantage of the course's setting in the city of Vienna, field study opportunities include many concerts around the city.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Learning outcomes: 

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Recognize and interpret form, texture, style, instrumentation, sound material, and mood in the medium of the compositions assigned.
  • Develop innovative concepts and approaches to composition.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the specific nature of the Viennese cultural context and its neighbouring countries (former Eastern bloc countries) that produced favourable composition outcomes.
  • Prepare their own composition(s) for concert performance.
Field study: 
  • Festival Wien Modern, Wiener Konzerthaus
  • Stravinsky, Theater an der Wien, ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna
  • Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Musiverein, Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Schwertsik, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Musiverein, Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich
  • Mozart, Mahler, Musiverein, Wiener Symphoniker
  • Gubaidulina, Schlee, Kahowez, Radulescu, Jesuitenkirche (Universitätskirche), Österreichische Gesellschaft für zeitgenössische Musik
  • Mozart, Dvorak, Musikverein, Altenberg Trio
  • Cattaneo, Wiener Konzerthaus, Ensemble Klangforum Wien
  • Mozart, Neuwirth, Stravinsky, Festival Wien Modern, Wiener Konzerthaus, ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna
  • Varese, Webern, Britten, Dallapiccola, Zemlinsky, Musiverein, Ensemble Kontrapunkte
  • Eötvös, Sciarrino, Nono, Festival Wien Modern, Wiener Konzerthaus, ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna
  • Aphergis, Wiener Konzerthaus, Ensemble Klangforum Wien
  • Tüür, Britten, Lutherische Stadtkirche, Musik am 12ten
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • In-class oral analyses and presentations  to learn specific composing concepts and techniques regarding form, texture, style, instrumentation, sound material and mood - 40%
  • Completion of one new substantial composition - 40%
  • Participation in class work and discussion - 20%
Required readings: 
  • Dittrich, Marie-Agnes. 2013. Das große Zickzack: Der scheinbare Gegensatz von Logik und Zufall (oder Ratio und Intuition) in der Musik. In A. Ellmeier, D. Ingrisch and C. Walkensteiner-Preschl (eds) Ratio und Intuition, pp. 45-57. Vienna: Böhlau Verlag.
  • Proy, Gabriele. 2002. Sound and sign. In L. Landy and T. Myatt (eds) Organised Sound 7(1), pp. 15–19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Takemitsu, Toru. 1995. Confronting Silence. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Other Ressources:

Excerpts from the following works:

  • Martin Folz, O Lux for Female Choir a cappella, 1995
  • Orlando Jacinto Garcia, Silencios imaginados for Flute, Clarinet in Bb, Violin, Cello and Piano, 2001
  • Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina, In croce for Cello and Organ, 1979
  • Leos Janacek, String Quartet No. 2, Intimate Letters, 1928
  • György Kurtag, Hommage à Mihaly Andras, 12 Mikroludes for String Quartet Opus 13, 1977/1978
  • Gabriele Proy, Alchemilla vulgaris for Flute and String Trio, 2010
  • Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, No 2 from All-Night Vigil for Mixed Choir a cappella Op. 37, 1915
  • Other compositions will individually be chosen according to the special interests of students.