The Composers' Workshop - III

Course details

From £215.00
10 CATS points

22 Apr 2020 - 24 Jun 2020
Day of week

The Composers' Workshop - III


This is a practical course for those interested in composing music of any genre. We will study the skills common to all composition but there will be a focus, this term, on non-traditional approaches to composition - serialism, the role of chance, minimalism and electro-acoustic sound sculpture.

The classes will consist of a combination of structured teaching and workshops on students’ own work.  Students can bring any musical ideas to the class - it might be just a short phrase or some interesting chords - and we will discuss their implications and ways in which they might be expanded and developed.

It is hoped that each student will finish the term with a completed piece of music, although this may vary in scope from a simple but well-crafted tune to a substantial work.  The important thing is not the scale of the piece but the extent to which it has developed and been polished during the term.  An alternative, but equally acceptable, outcome of the course would be for a student to produce a series of short structured exercises in compositional technique.

Students are welcome to join this class in any term.

Programme details

Term Starts:   22nd April  

Week 1:   Composition workshop

Special topic: Composing the opening of a piece

Week 2:   Composition workshop

Week 3:   Composition workshop

Special topic: Musical transitions

Week 4:   Composition workshop

Week 5:   Composition workshop

Special topic: Composing effective endings

Week 6:   Composition workshop

Week 7:   Composition workshop

Special topic: Writing larger scale works

Week 8:   Composition workshop

Week 9:   Composition workshop

Composer profile: Gustav Mahler

Week 10:  Composition workshop

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course Fee: £215.00
Take this course for CATs points: £10.00


Jonathan Darnborough

Jonathan Darnborough is Director of Studies in Music and Departmental Lecturer in Music at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.  He is a composer and pianist and has worked in continuing education throughout his career.

Course aims

To give students a greater understanding of the craft and techniques of composition and to apply this to their own compositions.

Course Objectives

1.   to introduce students to a wide range of non-traditional approaches to composition.

2.   to encourage them to experiment with these different approaches to composition.

3.   to increase the level of craftsmanship with which the students approach each compositional task.

Teaching methods

A mixture of lecture and workshop but with the emphasis on workshop.  During workshop sessions the students' work will be projected on to a big screen so that all the class members can see it.

In the special topics the tutor will illustrate his teaching with relevant extracts from the works of the great composers as well as with the use of specially written examples - projected on to the screen using Sibelius software.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

1.   to be familiar with a wide range of non-traditional approaches to composition.

2.   to have experimented with at least some of these different approaches to composition.

3.   to have increased the level of craftsmanship in their own compositions.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be based upon the music written by the students during the term.  They may choose to write one substantial piece, several short pieces or even to undertake compositional exercises.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Basic musical literacy and some knowledge of music theory are necessary in order to gain the full benefit from this course.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)