Music 123A: Introduction to Composition

This course is an introduction to music composition, essentially the technique of composition. Good composers with great musical ideas are born: all I can do is explain what compositional technique is and how to work more efficiently.

The course meets on Monday from 10:00 until 11:50 and Wednesday from 11:00 PM until 11:50. Wednesdays will consist of a demonstration lecture which poses a problem that the student will take home and solve in his/her own style and return on Monday. The following Wednesday will give more examples and following Monday will be devoted to the rewrites. There will be five projects and a final project, and they must be completed on time. All musical examples will come from the works of Beethoven, because he is a better composer than anyone in the class, including the teacher.

A packet of xeroxed materials must be purchased from University Reader Printing Service. This packet has all of the Beethoven examples mentioned below. In addition, other materials will be distributed in class. If you lose this syllabus, check in at the Reale-Rydell Website, under Educational Resources for this document online.

Monday(9/29) Introduction: What composition is and what it isn't.
Wednesday(10/1) Beginnings: small to big, or how to enlarge a musical idea to encompass the total musical space.
Examples: Op.110 Fugue (Example 1), Op. 106 Slow Movement from meas. 45 (Ex. 2).
Project 1: write a simple idea and make it grow in the space of twenty meas. or less.

M(10/6) Critique of project 1
W(10/8) Structural Upbeat: the idea before the idea.
Examples: Symphony No.2 theme I (Ex. 3), Op 135 Opening (Ex. 4), Opening of Op. 111 (Ex. 5)
Project 2: Construct a theme with a pre-theme.

M(10/13) Critique of P1 rewrites and P 2.
W(10/15) More examples for Projects 1 and 2.

M(10/20) Critique of rewrites.
W(10/22) The Slow Introduction and the ultimate thematic prep.
Examples: Symphonies Nos.4 (Ex. 6) & 9 openings (Ex. 7), Op 18 No.6 "Malinconia." (Ex. 8); Op 135 Finale (Ex. 9).
Project 3: Write a slow introduction to your Project 1 theme.

M(10/27) Critique of P 3.
W(10/29)Endings: What is a Coda?
Examples: Op.57 Finale Coda (Ex. 10), Symphony No2. Finale to the end (Ex. 11), Archduke Trio Finale coda (Ex. 12).
Project 4: Using the P 1 idea ( or a new one) create a ten-measure slowdown of pitch and harmonic activity, leading to a cadence.

M(11/3) Critique of P 3 rewrites and P 4.
W(11/6) More examples of endings: specific ways of stopping a piece.

M(11/10) Critique of P 4 rewrites.
W(11/12) First look at final project progress.

M(11/17) Second look at final projects.
W(11/19) Development and reprise.
Examples: For motor rhythm, Symphony no. 6 Dev. Section (Ex. 13).
For variation, Diabelli Var. (Ex. 14) And Op. 111 Arietta (Ex. 15).
For dev. Surprises, Symphony No. 3 dev. Section (new theme) (Ex. 16).
Project 5: write a transitional passage of one minute in length.

M(11/24) Critique of P 5
W(11/26) More examples of dev: Start Beethoven Quartet Op. 132, Slow Movement (Ex. 17).

M(12/1) Critique of P 5 rewrites.
W(12/3) Complete discussion of Op. 132 and the large scale structural planning.


1) Final project is due on the exam day of the course, along with a portfolio of the five short projects.
2) The instrumentation and style of the projects are up to you, but only two may be for a solo instrument.
3) You may not write in the style of Beethoven.

Feel free to call Reale at home any time between 9AM and 9PM or e-mail him for questions.