Experiments in Music Composition and Theory

Department: Music

Instructor: Kevin Zhang
Instructor's Email: kevinzhangcomposer@gmail.com
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

How do musicians transform complex sounds into comprehensible and meaningful artistic experiences? This course begins by exposing students to a history of Western musical composition, from classical to contemporary experimental forms. After studying the the social and cultural contexts behind major movements in musical history, students will begin building a proficiency in some of the technical aspects of composition, including score reading, music theory, notation and notional software, and digital audio editing. The final week of the course will be consisted of project-based workshops, in which students will create their own original musical or multimedia artistic projects.

Note: a prior knowledge of the rudimentary concepts of music theory and/or a basic proficiency in playing a musical instrument may be helpful to participate in this course, but neither are required. It is recommended that students bring a personal laptop and a good pair of headphones, as there will be assigned audio or audiovisual examples that they will listen or watch for homework.


Content and Evaluation

  • Lectures and discussions about topics related to Western music history and theory
  • Field trips to summer concerts and/or sound-art installations in the Stuart Collection on UCSD’s campus
  • Homework will consist of assigned readings and listenings, and written reflections
  • Two weekly mini-research assignments in response to readings and listenings
  • Final artistic project
  • Last day of instruction will be a recital/exhibition of students’ creations. Parents and the general public are welcome to attend.

Course Outline

Week 1 - Contexts

  • Broad interdisciplinary introduction to Western music history
  • Exploration of the major movements through the lens of cultural, political, social, and technological developments
  • Discussion of the roles of music in contemporary society

Week 2 - Theory and Technique

  • Foundations of music notation
  • Understanding concepts of pitch, harmony, rhythm, form, instrumentation, etc.
  • Experiment with technology: develop skills in digital audio editing and processing

Week 3 - Creative Practice

  • Develop a concept for an original artistic project
  • Collaboratively workshop these ideas and receive feedback from others
  • final day of instruction will be an exhibition of student work

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