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Unit outline_

CMPN2222: Digital Composition 2

Semester 1, 2020 [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 create sounds using modular synthesis techniques and computers to generate and synthesise sounds based on acoustic properties of instruments and other sound sources.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Composition and Music Technology
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ivan Zavada,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Skills-based evaluation Portfolio of short digital music compositions
60% Multiple weeks 3-5 minutes per composition
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Presentation Sound Synthesis Presentation
40% Week 13 5-8 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Sound Synthesis Presentation: Present and describe the outcome of the patches created during group tutorials with the appropriate terminology and presentation style.
  • Portfolio of short digital music compositions: Three composition tasks created as part of a class workshop.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

Digital music portfolios are assessed to four criteria with the following weightings:
• Creativity: 40%
• Craft: 30%
• Application: 20%
• Presentation: 10%
The following guide provides a reference with regards marking expectations. However, it should be noted that staff may interpret the criteria as deemed appropriate to the creative form and media
of the portfolio:

Creativity (40%)
Exceptional (34-40): An original contribution to musical thinking. Convincing, confident, imaginative, personal, bold, risk-taking, engaging.
Superior (30-33): Convincing musical logic and direction. Engagement with repertory goes beyond imitation.
Competent (26-29): Influences of other composers are evident, and display steps towards taking such influences into a new, personal direction.
Acceptable (20-25): Engaged with contemporary music culture and ideas but may parrot rather than seek to extend the ideas of other composers.
Unacceptable (19 or less): Generic, hackneyed, pastiche.

Craft (30%)
Exceptional (26-30): Obvious and unequivocal command of resources. Technique is matched to creative intentions.
Superior (23-25): Musical structure is fluent and lucid throughout. Displays sophisticated ability to develop and manipulate material. Advanced use of colour.
Competent (20-22): Displays coherent structure and convincing clarity in orchestration and standard of production.
Acceptable (15-19): Capacity to express musical ideas with appropriate instrumental and/or digital media.
Unacceptable (14 or less): Fundamental technical errors evident in notation, digital production, understanding of instruments, musical form, etc.

Application (20%)
Exceptional (17-20): Is consumed by his or her artform and actively contributes to the music community at large.
Superior (15-16): Is highly committed to composition as evidenced via engagement with the repertory, attendance at concerts, etc. Generally seizes opportunities to extend learning as they arise.
Competent (13-14): Demonstrates independent motivation and works consistently throughout the semester. Engaged in generating opportunities for public dissemination of work.
Acceptable (10-12): Attends lessons, seminars, workshop opportunities and demonstrates some openness to learn from tutors although somewhat inconsistently. Only somewhat engaged with the composition community / cohort.
Unacceptable (9 or less): Unmotivated, fails to work in a consistent fashion.

Presentation (10%)
Exceptional (9-10): The standard of a professional commercial publication or recording with coherent visual identity.
Superior (8): Presentation of work demonstrates awareness of user-friendliness and attention to consistent and individual visual style.
Competent (7): Attractive scores presented with clarity and supported with recordings. Non score-based work informed by concise and compelling supporting documentation.
Acceptable (5-6): Notation legible but may still include unnecessary ambiguity. Electroacoustic and non score-based work supported with appropriate documentation.
Unacceptable (4 or less): Illegible scores. Audio format errors.

Oral presentations will be assessed against the following criteria:

Shows evidence of broad research, taking into account a variety of sources
Clear argument, supported by relevant reasons and evidence
Shows evidence of critical thinking about the topic, including:
§ Considers alternative views
§ Where appropriate, questions assumptions implicit in the literature
§ Draws meaningful connections between facts and / or concepts
Uses terminology accurately and appropriately

Is clearly expressed
Is interesting and engages other students
Makes appropriate use of examples and presentation methods relevant to the material presented (e.g. presentation software, handouts, recordings where relevant)
Covers the topic effectively in the available time


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:

Standard University penalties apply to all assignments.

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 – What is sound synthesis?; Concurrent global trends in digital music and media Lecture (3 hr)  
Week 02 Synthesising sound with computers – a survey of digital synthesis techniques; Early examples from Max Mathews, Chowning, DX7, UPIC through to contemporary techniques Lecture (3 hr)  
Week 03 Sound synthesis software Tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 04 Sound synthesis software Tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 05 The modern sound studio – development of studio technologies for sound production, the analogue studio Lecture (3 hr)  
Week 06 Sound synthesis hardware Lecture (3 hr)  
Week 07 Analogue audio Tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 08 Sound synthesis hardware Lecture (3 hr)  
Week 09 Sound synthesis patching Tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 11 Creating your own sound synthesis patch for performance Tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 12 Tutorial 6 Tutorial (3 hr)  

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.

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. recognise and utilise various tones and noise generators
  • LO2. build modular synthesis patches using standard production software
  • LO3. create compositional systems based on synthesis parameters
  • LO4. compose short studies based on modulation techniques explored in class
  • LO5. better understand the role of sound synthesis 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.



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