Students are encouraged to contact the composition faculty to evaluate their portfolio of compositions prior to application to ISU. Acceptance to study in composition and to composition as an area of concentration requires a portfolio of work as an audition. For transfer students with prior coursework in composition, the portfolio should include works of a type and level of advancement of the equivalent courses at ISU.
Composition is available to qualified students as an area of concentration for the Bachelor of Music degree. All composition students begin their study with a concentration in an instrument or voice, with simultaneous enrollment in composition studies (Music 290C). As part of the continuation exam (see music major requirements), which is normally taken in the fourth semester of a four-year program, students intending to change their area of concentration to composition submit a portfolio for review by the composition faculty. This portfolio must provide evidence of preparation for work in larger forms for a variety of instrumentations, with qualities of advanced compositional development.
Once accepted to the concentration in composition (see Preliminary Studies, above), students work in 490C, in which creative activity is directed toward expansion of compositional method and development of a unique compositional voice. Students are expected critically to examine historical and contemporary models of composition, and to pursue activities in which they rehearse and conduct their own works. A recital of 4-5 original works, written during the period of study for the degree and approved by the composition faculty, is required for completion of the concentration.
Students with exceptional talent in composition but who will pursue different major may audition for Music 290C, subject to faculty availability. These students work in composition at the same level as those who are working for the emphasis in composition.
In addition to courses in composition, the ISU Music Department offers courses in music technologies and electroacoustic music, in which composition plays a significant role. An open-access 20-workstation lab provides music notation, sequencing, and audio mastering software, which have direct application to music composition. See Music Technology.
Students primarily interested in arranging, songwriting, and orchestration should consult the course offerings in music theory and music education.
contact Dr. Christopher Hopkins
Composition is available (by audition) as an area of study within two interdisciplinary programs: Interdisciplinary Electronic Arts Cluster (Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies) and Human-Computer Interaction. Students enroll in either 590C (acoustic composition) or 590I (electronic music).
In addition to core and upper division courses in music theory, the composition-theory faculty may be available to mentor qualified students interested in advanced analytical projects through Music 490B, Independent Study (Theory). There is no undergraduate degree with a concentration in music theory.
What should I include in an audition portfolio for Music 290C?
While evidence of talent in compostion may be shown in many ways, a normal portfolio for composition consists of music committed to notation in a musical score. The typical portfolio has three brief (2-6 page) compositions, but if the compositions are longer and for larger ensembles then there could be just two. Where there are recordings to go with the compositions, these may be included, but these are not required.
I primarily improvise. Why do I need to submit notated scores?
Composition begins with improvision of some kind, either directly on an instrument or by means of pure imagination. But composition is different than improvisation in how it develops musical ideas into advanced autonomous forms, and discussion of such techniques is best done with reference to notated scores. This is why a portfolio of compositions notated in musical score is a requirement to begin study in composition. I suggest that you notate your improvisations, and try to develop them in a set of variations. This will give you an idea of how your improvisations can become compositions.
I have written several songs and produced my own album. Can I use this as an audition, and earn a composition degree emphasizing songwriting?
We will not prejudice our evaluation of a portfolio by the style of the pieces, so it is possible for an album of songs to be an audition portfolio. However, the composition degree does require writing music of the artistic complexity characterizing Classical music, so it differs significantly from a curriculum limited to songwriting. So when we receive an audition portfolio for that consists of Pop songs with the intention to study Classical-type composition, we look for clear signs of preparation to succeed in writing Classical-type music at the college-level program. The most basic thing is that the music is notated into score. This is the medium through which composition is taught, and one can't start a degree program in composition without this basic skill. The best pathway to take to break into the music entertainment industry is to go to an industry-oriented program in one of the large entertainment centers such as LA, Nashville, Miami, or New York, or in a major metro like Boston or Minneapolis. You need to be near the action, and to get apprenticeship and ghost-writing opportunities along with your formal schooling.
I already have a portfolio of works. May I be accepted to the composition area early, without completing the two years of study in an area of performance?
The short answer is no, you must first complete the initial study in performance. This is an essential element in your "core" study in preparation for advanced work in composition. If however the composition faculty determines that your accomplishments in composition already are near or equal to those required formally at the continuation exam, you may be offered registration in 290C with more advanced work in private sessions. This, in terms of composition study itself, allows you to pursue the concentration early, but you need to understand that you must continue in your performance studies on the normal schedule to pass your continuation exam. The advance mentoring in composition is provisional and has a limitation in the number of credits that can apply to your degree. Twelve credits in 490C is required for the area of concentration in composition, and you may only register for 490C after completion of the continuation exam.
I know that Sibelius music notation software is provided in the music computer lab. Am I required to use notation software, and in particular this notation software, for composition?
No. You do not need to use any computer technology to assist your process of composition. If you have good facility at the keyboard enough to play multiple parts from score, then you can bring in your work to composition classes this way, with a hand-written score. The composition faculty will not play your scores for you, nor can we provide an assistant keyboardist for class. You otherwise should learn to be proficient with Sibelius, as this provides an aural model of your composition to play in class as well as provide a much more facile way to prepare professional quality scores and parts quickly. The first semester theory sequence provides the basic instruction in Sibelius. Either way, the final work will be with performers reading and peforming your music. If you already are very proficient with other music software, you may use this to prepare materials and to present work, however, the composition faculty may not be in the position to advise you about advanced use of the software necessary in the final four semesters of composition studies.
I want to be an electronic music composer but do not want to be a music major or music minor. Can I take composition and just compose electronic music?
For you the option is to take music technology courses and develop your basic skills in electronic music this way, primarily through completing Music 346 and 446. By audition then, work in electronic music composition may be available through 490I. This is subject to availability of the instructor. You may also be interested in the Minor in Music Technology.
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