21M.065 | Spring 2014 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Musical Composition

Listening and Readings

For each topic, listen to the recordings, watch videos, and read the accompanying material. Then submit a one-paragraph written response. I want to know your reactions to the music, what you heard, what it made you feel, etc. I don’t need to know whether you liked the music or not.


John Cage

  • Listen: “I. Quietly Flowing Along.” From: String Quartet in 4 Parts. Arditti Quartet. Mode, 1992.
  • Watch video: jdavidm. “John Cage about Silence.” July 14, 2007. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcHnL7aS64Y

Bregman, Albert S. “The Auditory Scene.” Chapter 1 Buy at MIT Press Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound. MIT Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780262521956. [Preview with Google Books]

Alvin Lucier

I am sitting in a room (1969)

  • Listen: 1970 recording by Lucier at 454 High Street, Middletown, Connecticut. [Listen on UbuWeb.]
  • Read: Lucier, Alvin. “I Am Sitting in a Room.” In Chapter 8 “Sonic Arts Union.” Music 109. Notes on Experimental Music. Wesleyan University Press, 2012, pp. 88–91.

Music for Solo Performer (1965)

  • Listen: “Music for Solo Performer.” In Sferics, Music for Solo Performer. Lovely Music, Ltd, 2009. (2007 recording at Wesleyan University Experimental Music Studio by Ron Kuivila, Ivan Naranjo, Phillip Schulze, and Forrest Leslie. Duration: 39'14")
  • Read: Lucier, Alvin. “Music for Solo Performer.” In Chapter 6 “Rose Art Museum.” Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music. Wesleyan University Press, 2012, pp. 51–3.

Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas

  • Listen: “Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas: Voice (1972–74).” From: An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music. Fourth A-Chronology, Vol. 4. Sub Rosa, 2005. (A 1983/84 recording by Rebecca Armstrong at Radio City Music Hall, NY. Duration: 11'39".)
  • Read: Lucier, Alvin and Douglas Simon. “Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas.” Chapter 10 Chambers: Scores by Alvin Lucier; Interviews with the Composer by Douglas Simon. Wesleyan University Press, 1980. pp. 127–44.


Feldman, Morton. Projection IV (1951)

  • One of Feldman’s early graphic scores for piano and violin.
  • Watch video, which includes the opening page of the score: minirausch. “Morton Feldman: Projection IV (1951).” January 24, 2009. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk74GH-_HzM

Brown, Earle.“December 1952,” from Folio

  • View score and listen to concert and rehearsal recordings (23 July 1964, Darmstadt, Germany) on UbuWeb.

Ligeti, Györgi. Artikulation (1958)

  • Watch video, which synchronizes a graphic score created by Rainer Wehinger with an audio recording. Donald Craig. “Ligeti – Artikulation.” May 28, 2007. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71hNl_skTZQ

Yang, Justin. Webwork I (2010)

  • Justin Yang, a student of Alvin Lucier, composed Webwork I for network, instrumentalists at physically dislocated sites, live scoring, and live-generated animation.
  • Watch video of a three-site network performance of the piece, including the live score: Justin Yang. “Webwork I by Justin Yang.” December 6, 2010. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2F7M1Wh8n4

Ferneyhough, Brian. Sisyphus Redux for solo alto flute (2010)

  • This work is a recent example of the complexity of Ferneyhough’s notation.
  • Watch video: No Exit New Music Ensemble. “Sisyphus Redux for Solo Alto Flute by Brian Ferneyhough.” October 21, 2013. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoveweG6gSQ

The Human Voice

Berio, Luciano. Sequenza III (1965)

Beckett, Samuel. Not I (1973)

  • Watch video and read the monologue text on UbuWeb.

Reich, Steve. Different Trains (1988)

  • This is a work for sampled voice and string quartet.
  • Watch video of a performance by Ensemble Modern in Tokyo, on UbuWeb. Start at 89'25".

Schwitters, Kurt. Ursonate (1922–32)

  • Listen to 4-part recording by Kurt Schwitters’ son Ernst and view the score on UbuWeb.
  • Supplemental: See this five-video YouTube playlist of a performance by Steven Schick with audio processing by Shahrokh Yadegari.

Ablinger, Peter. Voices and Piano (since 1998)

Supplemental reading: class handout on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) (similar to what’s posted in Wikipedia).

Choral Music

Perotin. “Sederunt Principes” (12th c.).

  • Video of audio recording synchronized with score: Xandertrax.“Pérotin - Sederunt Principes, Sheet Music + Audio.” June 2, 2011. YouTube. Accessed August 19, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhqWgfGK1Xw
  • Listen: Hillier, Paul. From: Perotin. The Hilliard Ensemble. ECM, 2000.

Machaut, Guillaume de. Messe de Nostre Dame (before 1365). From: Machaut: La Messe De Nostre Dame; Songs from Le Voir Dit. Oxford Camerata. Jeremy Summerly. Naxos, 1996.

Prez, Josquin de. Missa Pange Lingua (c. 1515). From: Josquin des Prés: Missa Pange Lingua; Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi. Tallis Scholars. Peter Phillips. Gimell Records, 2001.

Tallis, Thomas. Spem in alium (c. 1570). From: Spem in alium - Music for Monarchs and Magnates. The Sixteen and Symphony of Harmony and Invention, Harry Christophers. Coro, 2003. (A 40-part Renaissance motet for eight choirs of five voices each.)

Ligeti, Györgi. From: Lux Aeterna (1966). Cappella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss. Harmonia Mundi, 2008.

Instrument Building

Sachs, Curt. “Terminology.” From: The History of Musical Instruments. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1940. pp. 454–67. ISBN: 9780393020687.

Dreyblatt, Arnold

Fullman, Ellen

Partch, Harry

Nancarrow, Conlon

Musique Concrète

Schaeffer, Pierre. Cinq études de bruits (1948).

  • Listen to all five movements on UbuWeb

Xenakis, Iannis. Concret PH (1958) and Bohor (1962).

  • Listen to both works on UbuWeb

Varese, Edgard. Poeme Electronique (1957–58).

  • Listen to the complete recording on UbuWeb

Henry, Pierre and Pierre Schaeffer. Symphonie pour un homme seul (1950).

  • Listen to all twelve movements on UbuWeb

Supplemental Material

Keyboard Music was an additional topic I had hoped to cover, but there wasn’t enough time during the term. Its listening assignment would have included the following:

Bach, Johann Sebastian. Invention No. 9 in F minor, BWV 780. From: 2 and 3 Part Inventions and Sinfonias. Glenn Gould. Sony Classical, 2012 reissue.

———. Sinfonia No. 9 in F minor, BWV 795. From: 2 and 3 Part Inventions and Sinfonias. Glenn Gould. Sony Classical, 2006 reissue.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. I. Allegro, Piano Sonata No. 13 in B flat major (K.333). From: Mozart: Complete Piano Sonatas and Variations. Daniel Barenboim. Warner/EMI, 2012.

Beethoven, Ludwig von. I. Allegro con brio, Piano sonata No. 21 in C major (op. 53) “Waldstein.” From: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas. Vladimir Horowitz. RCA Records, 2004 reissue.

Chopin, Frédéric. From: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major (op. 9). Brigitte Engerer. Harmonia Mundi, 2010.

Brahms, Johannes. “Intermezzo in E minor” (op. 119, No. 2)." Four Piano Pieces. From: Inger Södergren plays Brahms Sonatas. Inger Södergren. Calliope Records, 1994.

Lizst, Franz. From: Piano Sonata in B Minor, S178/R21. Daniel Barenboim. Warner Classics, 2011.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2014
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