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Unit of study_

CMPN2614: Comp Techniques: Tonality and Process

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Sydney

Tonality and Process emphasises the study of important and innovative composition techniques that apply to various alternative processes using tonality emerging throughout the 20th century. The focus is on key works of various Russian composers, American minimalist composers, Louis Andriessen and other influential composers of the 20th century. The studied techniques will enable students to strengthen and expand their compositional repertoire and provide an understanding of how their work appears in a clear historical context.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CMPN2614
Academic unit Composition and Music Technology
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Peter McNamara,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Composition
A composition that includes techniques studied during the semester.
Due date: 04 Jun 2023 at 23:59
4-5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Assignment Assignment 1
Compositional Analysis
30% Week 09
Due date: 30 Apr 2023 at 23:59
1800 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Presentation Assignment 2
In-class Oral Presentation
20% Week 12
Due date: 10 May 2023 at 10:00
10 minutes (1200 word equivalent)
Outcomes assessed: LO1

Assessment summary

  • Assignment 1: An analysis essay of a work chosen by the lecturer.
  • Assignment 2: A presentation that includes a concise analysis of the student’s final composition that outlines applied techniques studied during the semester, plus score and audio examples.
  • Composition: A composition that applies alternative tonality techniques studied during the semester.

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.

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: Summary of alternative tonality, 20th Century Russian Music, Minimalism and Andriessen Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Early 20th century scale-based approaches to tonality. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 Polytonality. An alternative view point of Stravinky's Rite of Spring. Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Alternative chord progressions I (3rds) Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Alternative chord progressions II (2nds) Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 Minimalism Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 The music of Louis Andriessen I plus others (McNamara) Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 08 The music of Louis Andriessen II plus others (Alicia Grant) Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 09 The music of Louis Andriessen III plus others (Kats-Chernin) Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 10 Special Projects Week (no class) Independent study (2 hr)  
Week 11 The music of Louis Andriessen IV and alternative tonal centres in the music of Scelsi Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 12 Class presentations Seminar (2 hr) LO1
Week 13 Class presentations. Seminar (2 hr) LO1

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%.
  • Due to COVID-19, this information is subject to change and in-class attendance may be substituted for online activities. Please always refer to your timetable and information on Canvas.

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. Demonstrate a greater understanding of compositional techniques that apply alternative approaches to tonality, as well as the cultural and aesthetic environments during which they evolved.
  • LO2. Apply alternative approaches to tonality in your own compositions.

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.

This unit of study is now offered in semester 1 to more effectively prepare students for the Comp Techniques: Number and Process UoS. Some minor adjustments to course content have also been made.

Before enrolling, students should be aware that strong notation and score analysis skills are required to complete this course.


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.