The primary aim of the major in composition is to provide aspiring young composers with the means to extend their musical imagination by studying the technique of composition with an experienced composer, by close examination of masterworks of all eras, and by a thorough knowledge of contemporary musical expression.
Another aim is to provide the means for effective transmission of musical ideas to performers and audiences through practical experience in notation of music, orchestration, new instrumental and technological practices, and the balance of form and content.
Lastly, since most majors who finish degrees at Oberlin choose to continue their education, a final aim is to prepare the student for success in graduate education and to facilitate placement in the institution of the student’s choice.
Private Study Committee Exams
At the end of the second and fourth semesters of enrollment, the Composition faculty will review the progress of each student toward completion of the major.
The faculty will consider progress in the following areas:
1. Composition department classes (quantity and quality of work, and general participation in performing and critiquing).
2. Conservatory classes (music theory, aural skills, and musicology).
3. College classes (liberal arts electives).
4. Creative projects outside of class (performances, collaborations with dance or theatre, and so on).
5. Overall progress.
The faculty determines whether the student is performing at a better than satisfactory level, a satisfactory level, or a less than satisfactory level. If the department determines that a student is not making appropriate progress within the major, the student may be refused continuance in the program. It may also be recommended that the student redefine his/her relationship to the program and seek a Composition minor, an Individual Major, or a more liberal arts-based College Music Major.
Detailed comments on individual work will not be offered in this process. Individual critique is provided within the class structure and the advising system.
First year Composition majors are required to assist departmental concerts and recitals. These activities may include: moving and setting instruments for rehearsals and performances, preparing and distributing posters for performances, striking instruments after rehearsals and performances, and so on. Assignments will be administered by the department.
Two performances on departmental concerts are required by the end of the second year. It is the student’s responsibility to seek out and follow concert submission guidelines.
The Junior Recital or Project consists of a public presentation of work. This normally takes the form of a 30-minute recital of original works. A lecture/demonstration on a topic from the field, or some other form approved by the department may also be accepted.
The Senior Recital or Project represents the culmination of the student’s work for the major. This may take the form of a 60-minute recital of original works. As with the junior requirement, a senior lecture/demonstration on a topic from the field, or some other form approved by the department may be accepted.
Work included in the junior or senior recital/project must be approved by the Composition department during the semester in advance of the presentation date. Junior and senior recitals/projects may not be given in the same academic year, other than in exceptional cases with departmental approval.
In addition to the junior and senior recital projects, composition majors are also required to complete two theses during the last three semesters of their degree:
1. A composition for a large ensemble such as orchestra or wind ensemble. The duration is not defined.
2. An extended work having a minimum duration of ten minutes or more that exhibits technical ability in the development of musical material. The ensemble is not defined.
Either or both works may appear on the senior recital.
Freshman Major Status is attained upon being accepted in the Conservatory as a Composition major.
Sophomore Major Status is attained upon completion of COMP 201 and 202 and completion of the First Major Committee Examination.
Junior Major Status is attained upon completion of COMP 203 and 204, the Second Major Committee Examination, and the Performance Requirements.
Senior Major Status is attained following completion of the Junior Recital or Project and six Composition or TIMARA electives.
Music Theory and Aural Skills Requirement
Students are expected to register for Music Theory and Aural Skills courses each semester until they have completed the requirements. Part or all of these requirements may be waived by placement examination when the student enters Oberlin.
Music Theory I-IV and Aural Skills I-IV must be taken concurrently, e.g., a student will register for Music Theory I (MUTH 130 or 131) and Aural Skills I in the same semester. Under certain circumstances, with the permission of the appropriate division director and the Music Theory division director, students will be allowed to take Aural Skills IV and Music Theory IV separately. A student’s aural skills requirement must be completed before the senior recital can be scheduled. Double-degree students will resolve any conflicts with these expectations in consultation with their advisors.
A student should select electives based on the following: a minimum of 76 hours of Conservatory coursework is required; a minimum of 24 hours of liberal arts is required.
Expository Writing Proficiency
Students with an SAT verbal score below 580 or an ACT score below 24, or a TOEFL score below 600 must complete one course chosen from RHET 101 or 102.