Composing for Jazz Orchestra

Photo of part of a large jazz ensemble on stage - saxophones and trombones - with conductor and composer out front.

Mark Harvey conducts the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra through a reading of student Mike Lee's final composition project "Empty Bottles."  A video of this workshop/performance and a complete score are among the materials provided on the assignments page. (Image courtesy of Mark Harvey.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2008



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Highlights

This site features:

  • An extensive discography on the listening page, plus several full-length MP3 recordings by the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra and MIT Festival Jazz Orchestra;
  • Several video and audio classes on various composition topics, with particular focus on Walter Thompson's Soundpainting technique;
  • Two student compositions as completed for the final class assignment, with full scores and videos of performances by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.

Course Description

This class explores composition and arrangement for the large jazz ensemble from 1920s foundations to current postmodern practice. Consideration given to a variety of styles and to the interaction of improvisation and composition. Study of works by Basie, Ellington, Evans, Gillespie, Golson, Mingus, Morris, Nelson, Williams, and others. Open rehearsals, workshops, and performances of student compositions by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.


Related Content

Mark Harvey. 21M.342 Composing for Jazz Orchestra. Fall 2008. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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