21M.351 | Fall 2008 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Music Composition


This page covers both listening in class as well as assignments for listening outside of class.

In Class

Melodic composition
Debussy, Claude. Syrinx, L. 219. (1913) Small is Beautiful: Short Pieces for Solo Flute. Manuela Wiesler, flute. BIS CD-869, 2000. Paris, France: Editions Jobert, 1954. [View this score at IMSLP.]
Britten, Benjamin. “Narcissus.” From Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op. 49. (1951) Britten/Saunders/Jackman: Music for Solo Oboe. Gordon Hunt, oboe. BIS CD-769. London, UK: Hawkes & Son, 1952.
Varèse, Edgard. Density 21.5. (1936)

Small is Beautiful: Short Pieces for Solo Flute. Manuela Wiesler, flute. BIS CD-869, 2000.

Alternate performance by John McMurtery (MP3 - 4.7 MB)

New York, NY: G. Ricordi & Co., 1956.
Composition in two parts
Hakenberg, Stefan. Brücke mit Reiter. (2008 audio guide for exhibit at the Franz Marc Museum, Kochel am See, Germany.)

Das Springende Pferd. Oliver Klenk and Hans Ernst, clarinets. Horncastle Verlag, 2008. ISBN: 9783938822210. (Courtesy of Horncastle Verlag. Used with permission.)

Internet Archive (MP3 - 5.2MB)

Score (PDF) (Courtesy of Stefan Hackenberg. Used with permission.)

Composer Web site

Translations of German titles and text in the score (PDF)

Songs (guest instructor: James Matheson)
Harbison, John. “Mirabai Songs.” (1982 - original version with piano accompaniment) Music of John Harbison, Vol. 1. Georgine Resick, soprano; Warren Jones, piano. Bridge Records, 2006.  
Salonen, Esa-Pekka. “Five Images After Sappho.” (1999) LA Variations. Dawn Upshaw, soprano; London Sinfonietta. Sony, 2001. [Composer notes](http://Use: https://web.archive.org/web/20151009020355/https://www.esapekkasalonen.com/compositions/five-images-after-sappho)
Schoenberg, Arnold. “The Book of the Hanging Gardens” Op. 15. (1908-1909) Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; The Book of the Hanging Gardens. Jan de Gaetani, voice; Gil Kalish, piano. Nonesuch, 1992.  
Kim, Earl. “Where Grief Slumbers.” (1982) The Girl with Orange Lips. Dawn Upshaw, voice. Nonesuch, 1991.  
Schubert, Franz. “Der Doppelgänger.” No. 13 in Schwanengesang, D. 957 (1829) Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin; Schwanengesang; Winterreise. Olaf Bär, baritone; Geoffrey Parsons, piano. EMI Classics, 2007. Schwanengesang, D.957. [View this score at IMSLP.]
Kurtag, Gyorgy. “Kafka Fragments.” Kafka-Fragments. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; Andras Keller, violin. Hungaroton, 1995.  
Kraft, William. Divinations. (1995) Divinations. Dean Anderson, percussion. Neuma NMA 93, 1996. Van Nuys, CA: New Music West, 1995.
Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Zyklus, nr. 9 (for solo percussion). (1959) Remedy. Morris Palter, percussion. Centuar CRC 2742, 2006. London, UK: Universal Edition, 1961.
Varese, Edgard. Ionisation. (1929-1931) Passeport pour le XXe siecle. Ensemble intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez. Auvidis Montaigne MO 780518, 1989/1994. New York, NY: G. Ricordi & Co., 1938.
String quartet
Webern, Anton. Six Bagatelles, Op. 9. (1924) Webern: Werke fuer Streichquartett. Emerson String Quartet. Deutsche Grammophon, 1995. Sechs Bagatellen für Streichquartett, Op. 9. Vienna, Germany: Universal Edition, 1952.
Stravinsky, Igor. Three Pieces for String Quartet. (1914) Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon, 2000. Trois Pieces pour quatuor a cordes. Minature score edition. London, UK: Boosey & Hawkes, 1983.

Outside of Class

I ask that you immerse yourself in the music of our time on your own. As with language acquisition, immersion is a key to understanding and competence. Outside listening should include both recordings (with scores) and live concerts, with a weekly journal assignment.


To help you organize your developing familiarity with twentieth century music, I ask that you keep a journal of your listening, and hand it in to me once a week. Each journal submission should deal with at least two new works. Your writing should not exceed 1-2 pages per piece. Each entry should identify the composer, the work and its date, and it should record your impressions of the music. That’s all. This is not a tough assignment or a rigorous writing exercise; it is a means of organizing your immersion in twentieth-century music while you are in the process of writing it. In the course of your explorations you may find a score that particularly fascinates you and that you think will be interesting for the rest of the class. I encourage you to bring such scores and recordings to the seminar and share them.

Recordings and Scores

For an international perspective, check out the BBC Radio 3 Web site ‘Hear and Now.’ Concerts of contemporary music are broadcast every Saturday night (UK time) and remain on line for a week.

MIT Libraries maintains a collection of online music resources. Among these resources, many available only to the MIT user community, two are particularly recommended for our class:

You may also, of course, use the listening resources of the Lewis Music Library. Here you will frequently have the great advantage of also being able to find a score to follow. The following list is a starting point, but you need not limit yourself to it:

  • John Adams, Shaker Loops, The Chairman Dances
  • Milton Babbitt, Philomel
  • Bela Bartok, String Quartet No. 4, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
  • Alban Berg, Violin Concerto, Lyric Suite
  • Luciano Berio, Circles
  • Pierre Boulez, Le marteau sans maitre, Sur incises
  • Benjamin Britten, Les Illuminations, War Requiem
  • John Cage, Credo in US, Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano
  • Elliott Carter, Double Concerto for Piano and Harpsichord, String Quartet # 1
  • Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring, Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2)
  • Ruth Crawford Seeger, String Quartet
  • George Crumb, Ancient Voices of Children
  • Mario Davidovsky, Synchronisms No. 6
  • Jacob Druckman, Prisms
  • Lukas Foss, Echoi
  • John Harbison, Flight Into Egypt, Symphony No. 2
  • Charles Ives, 3 Places In New England
  • György Ligeti, Atmospheres, Piano Études
  • Keeril Makan, The Noise between Thoughts
  • Donald Martino, Notturno
  • Oliver Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time
  • Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, 8 Songs for a Mad King
  • Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima
  • Sergei Prokofiev, Violin Sonata no. 2, Lieutenant Kijé Suite
  • Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians, Tehillim
  • Elena Ruehr, Shimmer
  • Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire, 5 Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16, String Trio
  • Joseph Schwantner, Music of Amber
  • Roger Sessions, Concerto for Orchestra
  • Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mantra, Stimmung
  • Igor Stravinsky, Le sacre du printemps, Symphony of Psalms, Requiem Canticles
  • Edgard Varese, Octandre, Hyperprism
  • Anton Webern, 5 Bagatelles for String Quartet, Symphony
  • Stefan Wolpe, Piece for Trumpet and Seven Instruments
  • Iannis Xenakis, Aroura
  • Evan Ziporyn, Drill


In addition to your journal, you are required to attend a minimum of 3 concerts of contemporary music during the semester. Hand in a short concert report, similar to the journal, within about a week after the concert. Some particular concerts to look out for include:

Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music, September 18-21, 2008.

Boston Musica Viva, October 4 and November 14, 2008 @ Tsai Performance Center.

Firebird Ensemble, October 6, 2008 @ Longy School of Music.

Dinosaur Annex, October 14, 2008 @ First Church in Boston.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Projects with Examples