Students concentrating in Composition will prepare a portfolio of original compositions and write an analysis paper and, for their spring semester senior year recital, program notes.

The Composition Senior Project Proposal requires the following information:

  1. A description of the type and amount of music you intend to write (i.e., chamber pieces including instrumentation and projected durations, electronic and film score works with projected durations, etc.), and any other relevant information. Submit as a PDF.
  2. A 250-350 word proposal for an argument-driven academic essay that will engage with and contribute to recent and relevant scholarship in the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, sound studies, and/or music theory. Your essay must focus on a piece or pieces by a composer or composers who have influenced your approach to composition. Submit as a PDF. This paper is completed in MUSC 490.
  3. A bibliography for this topic proposal that includes ten relevant scholarly sources. Submit as a PDF.
  4. A portfolio of acoustic, electronic, and/or electro-acoustic compositions that you have already completed as part of a class or under the supervision of Music faculty. For acoustic compositions, submit a PDF score and mp3 recording or MIDI mock-up. For electronic and electro-acoustic compositions, submit an audio file or movie file. You will need to create a Google Drive folder containing these materials and whose link you will copy and paste into the project proposal form.

You will be emailed a proposal submission link and directions by October 15.

Composition Recital

Students intending to give a composition recital will assemble a portfolio of original compositions with the guidance of one or more Music department faculty members. The portfolio may also contain preliminary sketches and revisions in addition to the final copy of each composition. The portfolio will include works begun or completed in MUSC 148, 257, 258, and independent study courses, and may contain up to two works composed independently. This portfolio must be submitted digitally, with recordings if available, to the faculty along with the senior project proposal. You will be sent a link and directions for digital submission by February 15.

Composition Recital Content

Students must discuss compositional goals for the recital with their composition teacher no later than the spring semester of the junior year. Practical considerations, such as space and performer requirements, must be included in this planning process. During the senior year, the student and faculty composition teacher(s) will choose compositions in the portfolio, resulting in 25 to 30 minutes of music. Composition recitals must include at least one work for electronic media. Students must begin recruiting performers immediately upon approval of recital repertoire. Composers are invited to apply to the Barbara Johnson '43 P'71 Fund for New Music for funding to support their Senior Comprehensive recitals (i.e., the hiring of professional musicians). All Occidental student performers must agree to perform without financial compensation.

NOTE: All applicants are required to first apply for Academic Student Project Grants (ASP grants) in the amount of $300. Read the information about and the application for the ASP grants carefully.

The student is responsible for completing instrumental and vocal parts no later than five weeks in advance of the recital date. The student is also responsible for scheduling coaching and rehearsal sessions as needed. The student may perform in their own recital, and may choose either to conduct ensemble performances, or to recruit a conductor.

Composition Jury

A student presenting a senior composition recital must participate in a recital jury at least four weeks prior to the recital date. A committee comprised of at least two Music department faculty members, including the student’s composition teacher and another faculty member outside of the composition area, will hold the jury. At least five days prior to the jury, the student must give the composition teacher a complete portfolio, consisting of all scores intended for the recital, the analytic paper (completed in MUSC 490), and a draft of the recital program notes, which will include the title page; complete titles of all repertoire, movements or sections as appropriate; names of all performers; program notes for all compositions, prepared in MUSC 490; and texts in English for all vocal works, including the original language where relevant (see below for templates). 

Composers should have finalized the performers (including student, faculty, and professionals), rehearsal schedule, and room bookings by one week prior to their jury date. Room bookings must be made through the Department Services Coordinator.

At the jury, the student will meet with the committee for a thorough evaluation of the portfolio. The final decision regarding compositions to be included in the recital will be made at the jury. If the portfolio does not demonstrate adequate evidence of achievement, and/or the recruitment of personnel to perform in the recital has not been completed satisfactorily, the student will be asked to take an exam in lieu of the recital.

The student shall submit their recital program notes to the Music department Production Manager no less than two weeks before the recital date. The Production Manager will then layout and make copies of the program notes for the student's recital.

Analytic Paper and Program Notes for Composition Recitals

When composers submit their senior project proposal during their junior year, they will include a paragraph-length topic proposal and preliminary bibliography for their 2,500-word paper (one of the two written components of their senior comprehensive project, along with their program notes). This paper will consist of an argument-driven analysis of the music of one or more composers who have influenced their approach to composing, focusing on a piece or pieces to analyze. It is expected that students will be reading on their topic and composing during the summer before their senior year.

Students will work with their senior seminar (MUSC 490) instructor on this paper and program notes during the fall semester of their senior year. An annotated bibliography is due in the 4th week of the fall semester, an abstract proposal is due in the 6th week, and a complete first draft, along with a complete first draft of program notes, is due in the 10th week. The final paper and program notes are due on the last day of classes, fall semester. Download the senior analytic paper rubric used for assessment.

Composition Assessment

Each senior project component is graded Pass with Distinction (PD), Pass (P), or Fail (F). The portfolio and recital preparation are worth 70%, the comps paper 20%, and the program notes plus your oral introduction of your pieces at the recital 10%. Notwithstanding your comps paper counting for only 20% of your overall comps assessment, you must receive a PD or P on your comps paper in order to receive a PD or P as your final comps grade. In other words, you cannot pass your comps with a failing comps paper.



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