Composing In Traditional Forms (MCO4396.01)

Allen Shawn

This is a course primarily for notating composers,to give them the experience and pleasure of composing in a few of the musical structures often used in the Western Music of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will study works that exemplify Sonata Form, Theme and Variations, Passacaglia, and Fugue, among others, and try to create our own versions of these. In the early twentieth century these traditional forms were regularly taught in music conservatories (treated there almost as if they were sacrosanct and permanent) and continued to be a resources for many composers, helping to generate beautiful music, even in idioms far from those that gave rise to the forms themselves. In our current time, new ways of viewing the coherence of music old and new have somewhat replaced the study of these traditional outer structures. Nevertheless using them as models teaches us a tremendous amount about making music, no matter what kind of music we are normally involved in, and is a fun and valuable experience.
This course is also open to students of music history, those who hope to write about music, and to students of other art forms, provided they can read music and have some theoretical knowledge, and want to use this subject matter as a springboard for their own reading and writing or artwork.

The class will meet twice a week as a whole and will also include additional asynchronous meetings.


Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Hybrid in-person and remote, with faculty in-person
Prerequisites:Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. For composers, good notation skills, a music Composition class or one music theory class. For non-composing participants, music reading ability, and understanding of fundamentals of music theory. Those interested should send an email to Allen ( describing whether they plan to take the course primarily as composers or with what other goals, and adding a sentence about what they have done in music so far. Students who have worked with Allen in the past should simply express their interest in being in the class.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 8:30AM-12:10PM (1st seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Composition