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Unit of study_

CMPN1221: Digital Composition 1

Semester 2, 2023 [Normal day] - Sydney

Digital Composition units of study support the sustained development of compositional craft and creativity through the practical integration of music technology and digital music techniques in the preparation of sound based compositions to be submitted throughout the semester. The unit will focus on the approaches taken over the last century to record, transform and organise sound in a variety of creative contexts, ranging from early electroacoustic music experiments, through to contemporary electronic music production.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CMPN1221
Academic unit Composition and Music Technology
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Daniel Blinkhorn,
Lecturer(s) Patrick Carroll,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Online task 1. Online Proficiency Quiz
Give answers to the multiple choice and short answer proficiency quiz.
10% Week 04
Due date: 24 Aug 2023 at 13:00
ca. 30-40 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO5
Assignment 2. Sound-based composition
short composition/study using pre-approved audio material
30% Week 07
Due date: 17 Sep 2023 at 23:59
2 - 3 minute short study or composition
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment 3. Portfolio of short digital music compositions
Portfolio of music/sound (one or more works) & 5-min. class presentation
60% Week 09
Due date: 05 Oct 2023 at 23:59
5 - 6 minute of music/sound
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Assessment summary

Assessment number 1–

  • basic general working know of home studio environments (assumed knowledge
  • proficiency test upto Week 3

Assessment number 2 –

  • Working in one of the studios, (i.e 1016, 1015 etc), or your home studio compose a work 2-3 minutes in length that responds to various elements of digital media compositional techniques and concepts discussed in class. This piece can be in any style, and may take the form of a study. Use as your source material the audio material provided by the lecturer, or your own recordings using ‘extra-musical’ materials (i.e field recording) after discussion with lecturer.
    You may transform the sound material for the piece using any software available to you, such as Soundhack, AudioMulch, IxiQuarks or by using plugins (such as GRM Tools,
    AbletonLive plugins etc) as well as various DSP/ equalising tools.
  • Submit your work in a folder in digital, compressed format (i.e. mp3) during class time via flash drive (which will be returned). The folder should be labelled with your name, student number and title of the work. Accompanying this should be an extended program note of 1- 2 pages as PDF (in digital format) giving an overview of the piece, summarising the sound transformations used, and describing in detail the concepts/ functionality/ techniques/
    aesthetics used within the work.
  • Assignments are to be submitted either online or in person to Dr Blinkhorn
  • Note that late work will not be accepted without a medical

Assessment 3 -

Working within the conservatorium or your own studio spaces, compose an acousmatic/ fixed- media piece. The work should be 5-6 minutes in duration, and should reflect the subject matter addressed throughout the unit.

The work should be based on one, or all of the following:
▪ ‘Sound objects’ (extra-musical materials i.e. objects that emit sound that aren’t instruments),
▪ Sound synthesis (i.e. electronically synthesized)
▪ Location sound (i.e. field recordings of either the built or natural environment),
▪ Combinations of all of the above.

The main criteria is that the works reflect digial music composition, specifically referencing  aspects discussed in-class’, i.e. suitably reflecting the nature of the material covered throughout the unit.

Edit and mix the materials in a DAW of your choosing. You may use any sound processing plug-ins or software, including those studied last semester (GRM tools and Soundhack etc).
You can also make use of the Waves plug-ins available in the studio.
When finished, encode the audio in a specific, compressed format (i.e. QuickTime format/ AAC, AC3/ Mp3 etc).

Supporting Documentation

Accompanying the submission should be 1 - 2 pages giving an overview of the piece (such as the sound transformations used, aesthetic orientation, recording process etc) and an articulate explanation of how you approached and realised the numerous concepts employed in your work.
Submitting and presenting your piece

Submit your finished composition (in digital format) during class time.
Complete the Academic Declaration for submissions (in ASSIGNMENTS - CANVAS). Note that late work will not be accepted without a medical certificate – assignments submitted after the due date will receive no marks.
present your completed work in class on 18th November. Students will be given approximately 5 minutes to talk about their piece during this time. We will move through the class alphabetically by surname.

Please note;  Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria are used for performance work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Comprehensive and outstanding technical control and musical integrity in relation to developmental expectations. Musical individuality consistently projected to create a persuasive personal representation of the work. Performance flair indicative of soloist standard. A mark of 95 or above indicates extraordinary technical virtuosity and musical artistry.


75 - 84

Excellent technical, musical and stylistic achievement. Consistently coherent and expressive performance. Some personal interpretation of the work suggesting soloist potential. 


65 - 74

Confident technique with evidence of solid musicality and some stylistic achievement. Occasional lapses indicative of unresolved technical, artistic and/or stylistic issues. Projects potential for further development.


50 - 64

Satisfactory level of preparation and musical engagement. Some inconsistencies in musicianship, style and/or technique. Musical imagination and overall performance sense developing though some insecurity in this area.


0 - 49

Unsatisfactory technical achievement and/or unsatisfactory level of musical and artistic engagement. Limitations may be of such a scale and consistency as to call into question the student’s future direction in the programme.

The following assessment criteria are used for written work in this unit of study:

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.


75 - 84

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


65 - 74

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


50 - 64

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

A penalty of 5% per day applies to assignments submitted late without prior written permission or agreement with the UoS Coordinator or Tutor. Please see the Conservatorium Handbook for further information on the late penalties.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction - digital music and media: designing a basic home studio Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 02 Concurrent trends in digital music and media: an examination surrounding types and approaches to digital music in a wide variety of environments Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 sampling - an overview to a variety of industry standard software sampling unit Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 Introduction to DAW's - an overview and examination of various workflows within industry standard DAW environments Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 05 an intro to sound generation via digital synthesis synthesis, and basic audio recording concepts Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO4
Week 06 introduction to MIDI processing, and working with MIDI and audio sound processing/Effects environments Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Parameter Automation and Modulation in a DAW Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Week 08 benefits of using a computers and digital media environments for composition, various compositional concepts and techniques will be discussed Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 09 lab time - in class discussions and individual consultation time preparing for final assessment submission Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 11 lab time - in class discussions and individual consultation time preparing for final assessment submission Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 12 in class presentations for final assessment Presentation (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned. The Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned may determine that a student fails a unit of study because of inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at their discretion, they may set additional assessment items where attendance is lower than 90%.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

provided in-class and via the course canvas website

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. organise, name, and categorise sound objects in a variety of ways
  • LO2. explore single versus multi-track sound-based composition
  • LO3. create sound banks for digital composition
  • LO4. compose short studies based on sound parameters explored in class
  • LO5. demonstrate a further understanding of the relationship between sound and space in a studio environment, and develop experienced and enhanced knowledge on the function of sound in various media contexts.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

A new quiz to support revision and new material has been added and generally refined assessment tasks. Now held on campus and not online.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.