Coming to study composition at CSULB means joining an active group of undergraduate and graduate composition students who are working closely with an enthusiastic and accomplished faculty. The faculty, composers themselves, actively write works for the concert hall, television, film, and other venues and media. Composition study with us also means entering a department that supports an amazing variety and number of new music activities every term, from student composer recitals, to guest artist events, from composition degree recitals, to faculty composer concerts, to film score recording sessions and experimental Happenings, as well as New Music Ensemble concerts, Laptop Ensemble concerts, and much more.
We are a welcoming department, and our student composers support each other by playing each others’ pieces, serving as stage hands on fellow composers’ degree recitals, and working together to produce recording sessions of student works and late-night concerts and to bring in guest artists to campus.
The composition program at CSULB provides students with advanced skills covering a wide range of compositional techniques and technologies in order that they become more informed, literate musicians, better prepared to develop their own unique creative compositional voices. Skills taught include: beginning and advanced film scoring, advanced theory, electronic and computer music, experimental music and digital media, sound design, advanced topics in listening and analysis, text setting and strategies for working with contemporary poetry, contemporary and computer music notation, beginning and advanced orchestration, and sound engineering and recording. In addition to the expertise that the composition faculty members bring to the program, our musicology faculty includes specialists in 20th-Century music and in film music, regularly offering seminars that are also open to composition students. Recent musicology seminars, for example, include ones focused on Stravinsky, John Cage, 20th-century Latin American music, and music in film noir.
One of our greatest strengths is that we offer many, many performance opportunities for students in the program. In part supported by our student group, the Composers’ Guild, the department brings in professional ensembles at least once a term to workshop and perform student works. In recent years, our student composers have heard their works in concerts by many great performers including the Eclipse Quartet, the Robin Cox Ensemble, the Mojave Trio, the Elixir Piano Trio, Ensemble FRET, Conundrum, the Definiens Project, a duo from the California E.A.R. Unit, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, and others. In addition, recent/upcoming workshops have allowed BCCM composition students to work with the Kronos Quartet, pianist Michael Mizrahi of the NOW Ensemble, the Veda Quartet, Kathy Supové, and many others.
The BCCM’s own award-winning ensembles also regularly provide readings and public performances of student works. There are opportunities for the students to hear their works read and recorded by the conservatory’s orchestra, the bands, the percussion ensembles, the New Music Ensemble, and other on-campus groups. Many student performers commission pieces for their recitals and for the ensembles that they form. These relationships extend into professional networks in classical, film, and jazz-informed collaborations.
We hope you’ll consider applying and joining us in the vibrant new music community of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music!
Dr. Alan Shockley Area Director, Composition Studies Bob Cole Conservatory of Music
The composition program at CSULB provides students with advanced skills covering a wide range of compositional techniques and technologies in order that they become more informed, literate musicians, better prepared to develop their own unique creative compositional voice. The program provides a robust and cooperative musical environment where students have ample opportunities to have their work performed. Skills taught include: beginning and advanced film scoring, advanced theory, electronic and computer music, experimental music and digital media, sound design, advanced topics in listening and analysis, song writing, music theater, music and dance collaboration, sound engineering and recording.
This degree option prepares students to become professional composers in various contemporary styles and media including contemporary classical, film and electronic arts, theater, computer music and mixed media. It also prepares students for further study at the graduate level with goal of teaching at the college level.
Master of Music
The BCCM offers two master’s degree tracks in composition. Students in both tracks benefit from opportunities to work closely with the individual composition faculty, and from frequent opportunities for feedback from the composition faculty and from their fellow students—both advanced undergraduates and fellow graduate students. There are also many opportunities to participate in adventurous and unusual new music performances: in recent years, the department has hosted several Happenings, a full performance, day and night, of Erik Satie’s Vexations (with an expanded instrumentation including analog synthesizers, antiphonal sax choir, toy piano and tuba, multiple melodicas, electric guitar and bass, and more), performances of several different 60x60 mixes, thereby experiencing new one-minute works by literally hundreds of different living composers on campus, and many more. Through the Laptop Ensemble and the New Music Ensemble, the department has also seen several collaborations with video artists, and dozens of world premieres by composers in the department and others from afar, including the New Music Ensemble’s premiering Christian Wolff’s Robert and Pauline Oliveros’s Sound Listening, both works that the ensemble commissioned and prepared under each composer’s supervision.
Students go on from our master’s degree programs in composition to work in the film industry and in higher education, to found their own ensembles and concert series, and many other composition-related pursuits. Many of our students have also gone on to doctoral study in composition at excellent programs on the West Coast, throughout the U.S., and abroad.
Master of Music Degree in Composition
Students in this program write works for the full range of traditional acoustic instruments, from solo works to ones for large orchestra, as well as for various electronic resources, working constantly to refine their own compositional voice under the guidance of the composition faculty. The program offers many courses for advanced study, with recent offerings including seminars focused on computer notation, Max/MSP/Jitter, art song composition, Schenkerian theory, and composition informed by music outside of the classical tradition (including influences from rock, jazz, and non-Western traditions). Students in the program have written works for readings and workshops by the BCCM Symphony Orchestra, the BCCM Wind Symphony, Kronos Quartet, the Friction String Quartet, and many other resident and guest ensembles.
Master of Music Degree in Composition with Interactive Media
This degree track welcomes applications from composers who are working with live technologies (and perhaps mostly—or even exclusively--creating new works that exist without a traditional score), and we also welcome applicants who don’t necessarily define themselves as composers at all, but as sound artists and other creators working with sound in various ways in conjunction with other media. Students working in the Composition with Interactive Media track realize new works in conjunction with their work with the BCCM Laptop Ensemble and often collaborate with colleagues in other departments and programs on campus, including art, computer science, dance, design, and film & electronic arts.
This semester, the conservatory offered a new course: MUS 495 / 595 Ways and Means: Spontaneous Composition. Over the last several weeks the class has listened to and studied works of improvisation and spontaneous composition, examples of intuitive music and studied Pauline Oliveros’ concept of Deep Listening. The class has embraced improvisation, played and created graphic prompts for improvisation and graphic scores, text scores, and meditative works built on drones and repetitive patterns.
Tonight the class will present a sampling of works reflective of the course as a whole, including performing a graphic score by Stanford faculty composer Mark Applebaum, another graphic score from the 1950s created by composer Earle Brown. Most of the works on the program will be created on the spot using guidelines created by the students in the course, and some of these have graphic prompts, while others give their guidelines with text. We will conclude with a text score by Pauline Oliveros.