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MUSIC 4Z03 Composition (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Matthew Woolhouse


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 428

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23669

Office Hours: Mon 11.30-12.30 and 2.30-3.30

Course Objectives:

This course is designed to familiarize student composers with principles and techniques applicable to a broad range of musical styles, from concert pieces to film scores and video game music. By the end of the course, students will know and be able to execute the following in their own compositions: (1) construct and use synthetic scales, (2) pentatonic and hexatonic scales, (3) chromatic scales, (4) chords by 4ths, (5) added-note chords, (6) polychords, and (7) compound and mirror harmony. In addition, students will have learned how to compose short pieces in a range of musical forms, including binary, ternary and compound forms for a range of vocal and instrumental groups.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course materials will be supplied to students via Avenue to Learn.

Method of Assessment:

Students will be required to write 4 original compositions and a reflection-analysis essay outlining the techniques they have employed throughout their pieces. The assessment-marking scheme is as follows:

x4 original musical compositions: 80%

Reflection essay: 20%

Total: 100%

Note: there is no final exam

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Suggested reading:

Musical Composition: Craft and Art (2018) by Alan Belkin

Twentieth-Century Harmony (1961) by Vincent Persichetti


synthetic scales, pentatonic, hexatonic scales, chromatic scales, chords by 4ths, added-note chords, polychords, compound and mirror harmony.

binary, ternary and compound forms