Composition Concentration Requirements

The mission of the Composition Program is to provide student composers with the resources to develop a broad set of creative skills, and the opportunities to explore approaches to composition in all media and styles. Interested students should ask one of the faculty composers to serve as an advisor.

Core Requirements (42 Units)

Lower-Division Music Theory: 12 units

Develop aural skills

  • Music 24A24B24C: Ear Training I, II, III (1-2 units each)
  • Ear training exit exam
  • Piano proficiency exam

Analytical approaches: from the common-practice era to today

  • Music 212223: Elements of Music I, II, III (3 units each)
Lower-division Music History: 12 units

Develop proficiency with the history of Western art music

  • Music 40: Music History to 1600 (4 units)
  • Music 41: Music History from 1600 to 1830 (4 units)
  • Music 42: Music History since 1830 (4 units)
Upper-division Music Theory and History: 12 units

Complete three upper division courses:

1. Choose one course among these three:

  • Develop compositional and analytical skills focus on tonal and post-tonal contrapuntal practices
  • Learn analytical methods
    • Music 122B: Analysis of Tonal Music (4 units)
    • Music 122C: Introduction to 20th- Century Composition (4 units)

2. Choose one course among these eight that satisfy the Writing In the Major (WIM) requirement:

  • Acquire the capacity to write about music
    • Music 140: Studies in Music of the Middle Ages (4 units)
    • Music 141: Studies in Music of the Renaissance (4 units)
    • Music 142: Studies in Music of the Baroque (4 units)
    • Music 143: Studies in Music of the Classical Period (4 units)
    • Music 144: Studies in Music of the Romantic Period (4 units)
    • Music 145: Studies in Western Art Music Since 1900 (4 units)
    • Music 146: Studies in Ethnomusicology (4 units)
    • Music 147: Studies in Music, Media, and Popular Culture (4 units)

3. Choose one more course among the remaining nine listed in 1 and 2.

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one major requirement.

Performance: 3 units

Choose a course or some courses among the following, for a minimum of 3 units

1. Develop proficiency with at least one instrument or voice

2. Ensemble

3. Acquire conducting skills

  • Music 130B: Elementary Instrumental Conducting (2 units)
  • Music 130C:  Elementary Choral Conducting (2 units)

4. Play/Perform electronic music

  • Music 128: Stanford Laptop Orchestra: Composition, Coding, and Performance (3-4 units)

5. Play/Perform improvised music

  • Music 126A: Introduction to Thoroughbass, historically informed stylistic improvisation  (1-3 units)
  • Music 156: [sic] Improvisation Collective (1 unit)

6. Play/perform contemporary music, and collaborate with performers in having your music performed

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one major requirement.

MST/Composition/Orchestration: 3 units

Choose a course or some courses among the following, for a minimum of 3 units

MST (Music, Science, and Technology)

  • Music 101: Introduction to Creating Electronic Sounds (3-4 units)
  • Music 155: Intermedia Workshop (3-4 units)
  • Music 192A, B, C: Sound Recording (192A & B: 3 units each, 192C: 1-2 units)
  • Music 220A, B, C: Computer Generated Sounds (2-4 units each)
  • Music 223: Composition for Electronic Musicians (3-4 units)
  • Music 223B: Sonic Experiments in Composition (1-3 units)
  • Music 223C: Tradition, Experimentation, and Technology in String Quartet Composition and Performance (1-3 units)
  • Music 223D: Sound Practice: Embodiment and the Social (2-3 units)
  • Music 250A, C: Design of Digital Sounds for Interactive Performance (3-4 units each)
  • Music 256A, B: Music Computing, Design (3-4 units each)

2. Composition

  • Music 20C: Jazz Arranging and Composition (3 units)
  • Music 112: Film Scoring (3 units)
  • Music 113: Introduction to Instrumental Composition (2-3 units)
  • Music 123A: Composition seminar: Rhythmic design (1-2 units)
  • Music 123B: Composition seminar: Pitch design (1-2 units)
  • Music 123C: Composition Seminar: World Music (1-2 units)
  • Music 123i: Undergraduate Seminar in Composition (2-3 units)
  • Music 124A: Songwriters Workshop (1-2 units)
  • Music 131A: Musical Indeterminacy & Advanced Notation (2-3 units)

3. Orchestration

  • Music 127A: Instrumentation and Orchestration (3 units)
  • Music 127B: Advanced Orchestration (3 units)

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one requirement.

Composition Requirements

Foundational Courses: 12-14 units

1. Undertake diverse compositional experiences.

  • Music 123A: Composition seminar: Rhythmic design (1-2 units)
  • Music 123B: Composition seminar: Pitch design (1-2 units)

2. Expand your creativity through individual composition lessons with multiple faculty composers, and build a portfolio of pieces of solo, chamber, and large ensemble music.    

  • Music 125: Individual Undergraduate Projects in Composition (Must complete 3). (1-3 units each)
  • Music 198: Concentration Project (2 units)

3. Develop competence with instrumental and orchestration technique. Choose one course among these two:

  • Music 127A: Instrumentation and Orchestration (3 units)
  • Music 127B: Advanced Orchestration (3 units) 

4. Become proficient in electronic music techniques. In consultation with your advisor, choose one course among those offered by CCRMA:

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one major requirement.

Electives: 6-8 units

Choose courses among the following for a minimum of 6 to 8 units. Depending on the number of units of your CCRMA foundational course, you need 6 - 8 units of electives, where CCRMA course units + electives units = 10 or more. 

1. Develop competence with instrumental technique and orchestration. Understand new performance practices, compositional techniques, and notational strategies.

  • Music 123D: Undergraduate Seminar in Composition- Extended Performance Techniques (1 - 2 units)
  • Music 127B: Advanced Orchestration (3 units)
  • Music 223: Composition for Electronic Musicians (3-4 units)
  • Music 223B: Sonic Experiments in Composition (1-3 units)

2. Experience the creation of vernacular music (popular, jazz and indigenous music cultures)

  • Music 20C: Jazz Arranging and Composition (3 units)
  • Music 123C: Composition Seminar: World Music (1-2 units)
  • Music 124A: Songwriters Workshop (1-2 units)

3. Become proficient in electronic music techniques and media. Explore areas such as intermedia composition, installation, instrument and interface design, interactive composition, sound art, and other contemporary creative enterprises

  • Music 112: Film Scoring (3 units)
  • Music 123i: Undergraduate Seminar in Composition: Music, Art and Intermedia (2-3 units)
  • Music 128: Stanford Laptop Orchestra: Composition, Coding, and Performance (3-4 units)
  • Music 155: Intermedia Workshop (3-4 units)
  • Music 192A, B, C: Sound Recording (Music 192A & B: 3 units, Music 192C: 1-2 units)
  • Music 220A, B, C: Computer Generated Sound, Psychoacoustics, and Computational Music (2-4 units each)
  • Music 250A : Design of Digital Sounds for Interactive Performance (3-4 units)
  • Music 250C: Interaction - Intermedia - Immersion (2-3 units)
  • Music 256 A, B: Music Computing, Design (3-4 units each)
  • You may also consider other CCRMA courses (2-4 units)

4. Gain experience in contemporary music performance and improvisation (Limited to a maximum of 2 units)

  •  Music 131A: Compositional Indeterminacy & Advanced Notation (2-3 units)
  • Music 156: "sic" Improvisation Collective (1 unit)
  • Music 160B: Stanford New Ensemble (1 unit)
  • Music 161B: Jazz Orchestra (1 unit)
  • Music 161E: Stanford Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra (1 unit)

5. Further develop your compositional and analytical skills  

6. Get familiarized with music perception, psychoacoustics, cognition, and neuroscience of music.

  • Music 251: Psychophysics and Music Cognition.

 

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one major requirement.

Sample Four-Year Plan

Sample Four-Year Plan

This generic four-year plan is a condensed version of this webpage. Its aim is to assist students who are considering a major in Music with a Concentration in Composition, setting up a four-year plan.

  • Required courses are listed at the bottom of the plan.
  • A dashed course is one that has been moved in the four-year plan.
  • A blued area is one whose requirements can be fulfilled via a large selection of courses, listed on the webpage.
  • Yellowed courses in the plan are recommendations.

Download the Sample Plan Here

Recommendations

Beyond the Major

The 62-unit structure is designed to offer a preliminary basis in composition. Students intending to delve deeper, and, in particular, interested in professional careers and graduate studies should work with their advisor to be prepared to meet the anticipated expectations and requirements.

This can be achieved by taking additional courses from the above listed electives but also others offered occasionally or by visiting artists. Taking multiple quarters of composition lessons (Music125) with more than one faculty member can be particularly beneficial. The following is also recommended:

  • Be part of the community: Expand existing music communities or create a new one.
  • Develop collaborations with fellow musicians
  • Use the library and online resources to expand and diversify your knowledge of contemporary composers 
  • Attend concerts and rehearsals. Follow the contemporary music scene.
  • Take advantage of the Stanford Overseas Study Program
  • Look into various summer courses and find out about available partial funding
  • Take advantage of the available funding during your Sophomore summer to develop and carry on your research
  • If you are considering graduate studies in composition, select target programs and study their entrance requirements and exams 

Student Composition Archive

The composition program offers a myriad of courses to help you develop or investigate your potential as a composer. There are two ways that one can do composition at Stanford, and one does not need to be a music major to enroll in these courses.

One-time composition

Music 113: One-time course split into two parts: Five weeks of class meetings followed by five weeks of 30-minute private lessons, leading to a composition that is performed during exam week. This course can be counted toward a Music minor

Spring 2021

The featured musicians on these recordings are Dale Wolford, soprano sax;  Isaac Lopez, alto sax; David Henderson, tenor sax; and Kevin Stewart, baritone sax; conducted by Hans Kretz.

  • Dominic DeMarco: A Day in the Fields | Audio
  • Anna Gao: Hiraeth Audio
  • Idalis Ibrahim: Spiral | Audio
  • Ireh Kim: Time lapse | Audio

Winter 2019

The featured musicians on these recordings are Dale Wolford, soprano saxophone; Isaac Lopez, alto saxophone; David Henderson, tenor saxophone; and Kevin Stewart, baritone saxophone.

  • Liam Fay: Max | Audio
  • Hui Ting Goh: Life of an umbrella Audio
  • Dan Holland: Stopgap | Audio
  • Nicholas Lai: Journeying Home | Audio
  • Cam Lincoln: The Salmon | Audio
  • Jack Lindsey: Quartet | Audio
  • Sam Silverman: Cloud 9 | Audio

Winter 2018

The featured musicians on these recordings are David Henderson, soprano saxophone; Isaac Lopez, alto saxophone; Kevin Stewart, tenor saxophone; and Luke Colbert, baritone saxophone.
 

  • Haeli Baek: Gemini | Audio
  • Ayoade Balogun: Jollities | Audio
  • Casey Butcher: Said and done | Audio
  • Eli Hiss: Quartet 1.2 | Audio
  • Yadanar Hnin: Equinox | Audio
  • Marisa Lin: Death of the Moth | Audio
  • Pablo Ocampo: Saxophone Quartet | Audio
  • Cheyenne Sadeghi: Sandinista | Audio
  • Amanda Sussman: Eerie Shadows | Audio
  • Allan Zhao: Intersections | Audio
Composition individual lessons

Music 125: Private lesson in Composition. These are 50-minute lesson spread over ten weeks leading to a composition that is performed during yearly Undergraduate Compositions Concert, by a visiting ensemble of professional musicians. After completing the course’s two prerequisite: Music 123A and Music 123B, one can enroll in Music 125 as often as wanted. These three courses can be counted towards a Music minor or Music major

Composers enrolled in Music 125 (Individual Undergraduate Projects in Composition) have made audio of their compositions available for auditioning.

2022

Featured musicians are the Earplayers: Terrie Baune, violin; Tod Brody, flute; Peter Josheff, clarinet; Thalia Moore, cello; Ellen Ruth Rose, violin; and Karen Rosenak, piano; conducted by Hans Kretz.

  • Grant Bishko: to walk, untethered Audio
  • Mitchell GarmanySonatesque | Audio
  • Katie Pieschala: Pink House | Audio
  • Kevin SuA Meditation on Two Paintings by Clifford Still | Audio
  • Jennifer Xiong: Jennifer’s Vermeer Audio
  • Andrew Zerbe: Pygmalion and Galatea Audio

2021

Featured musicians are Quinteto Latino: Diane Grubbe, flute; Kyle Bruckmann, oboe; Leslie Tagorda, clarinet; Shawn Jones, bassoon; and Armando Castellano, horn.

  • Mitchell Garmany: Quotidian (2021) | Audio
  • Howard QinLa nuit transcendentale, Op. 34 (2021) | Audio
  • Wiliam Shabecoff: Thoughts on a Breezy Hill (2021) | Audio
  • Kevin SuSounds of Rusting Metal (2022) | Audio
  • Jenny Xiong: Family (2021) | Audio

2020

Featured musicians are the percussion trio of Jimmy Chan, Michael Downing, and Tony Gennaroe.

  • Noah Berrie: Trio (2020) | Audio
  • Brody SkiffBeast Molt (2020) | Audio

Featured musicians are the Friction Quartet: Jimmy Chan, violin; Otis Harriell, violin; Lucia Kobza, viola; and Doug Machiz, cello.

  • Mitchell Garmany: Feud (2020) | Audio
  • Joss Saltzman: Three Surprise Dances (2019) | Audio
  • Brody SkiffHoly Water Ocean (2019) | Audio
  • Kevin Su: Three Frames of Mind (2019) | Audio

Featured musicians are the piano trio of Erica Hwang, violin; Gaby Li, cello; and Hanna Yip, piano.

  • Tiffany Shi: Piano Trio No. 2. For Kirk and Sarah (2019) | Audio

Winter 2019

Featured musician is Shao-Wei Chou, solo flute.

  • Joss Saltzman: Pneumatos Audio
  • Amanda Sussman: Unwonted | Audio

Featured musicians are the brass quintet of Steven Newman & Masha Gorkovenko, trumpets; Kyle Julian, horn; Olivia Li, trombone; and Jonathan Lin, tuba. 
 

  • Joss Saltzman: Strands of Time | Audio
Orchestration

We offer two courses of orchestration: Music 127A Instrumentation and Orchestration and Music 127B Advanced Orchestration.

Students enrolled in Music 127B have made audio of their compositions available for auditioning.

2022

Featured musicians are the members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Phillips.
 

  • Miles Goedert: The Kraken Audio
  • Caleb LiuMourning | Audio
  • Jenny Xiong: The Princess Zen | Audio
  • Jenny XiongFamily (2021) | Audio