Pre-Generals Course of Study (Composition)

First-Year Requirements

First-Year Paper

Choose one of the music department seminars you take during your first year and write a five- to ten-page paper (double spaced) on a topic related to it. Discuss the topic ahead of time with whoever is teaching the class. The paper will ordinarily be due at the end of the semester in which the class is taken, but that deadline is somewhat flexible; the only firm requirement is that it be complete by the last day of classes of the spring semester so it can be read in time for your first-year conference. Students are encouraged to work with the faculty member on the paper, meeting to discuss it and sharing drafts if desired. When the paper is done, it should be handed in to the faculty member teaching the seminar, the composition DGS, and any other faculty that the student wishes to share the paper with.

Although the goal of the paper is not to report on prior writing on your topic, should you find yourself taking up with pre-existing scholarship or other material, be sure to cite all sources appropriately. For the sake of the paper and as a matter of general principle, you will want to familiarize yourself with the university’s policy regarding academic integrity.

These sites may be of use:

Advice from Dmitri: One simple strategy for avoiding difficulties with attribution is to make sure that when you are writing, you are only looking at what you are writing, and not at your notes or anybody else’s work. Internalize your ideas and then write them down.  It is very, very unlikely that you will spontaneously recreate someone else’s words.

Language Requirements

Language requirements (which may include ancillary skills such as computer programming or audio engineering)  are normally satisfied by an exam administered by the appropriate campus department; incoming first-year students are encouraged to take language exams in the fall of the first year, since most departments offer them only in the fall. If such an exam is not available—for example, if Princeton does not offer the language in question, or in the case of a computer language—the student should consult with the DGS to identify an examiner.

The language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of one or more language courses at Princeton, either during the regular school year or during the summer. Students need to complete two courses during the regular school year or one intensive summer course. The language requirement should be satisfied before taking the General Exam.  The Department of Music will pay the entire cost of the Summer Language Program tuition for one course. Courses are provided in French, German, and Latin. Tuition for the 2019 Summer Language Program was $525 per course.

The registration form that is available online through the Graduate School.

Students interested in studying languages not provided by the Graduate School (including computer skills such as Ableton or Max) should contact the DGS.

First-Year Conference

In May, each first-year student will meet with the entire composition faculty for approximately one hour to discuss the following: the student’s creative work, the first year paper, and a composition chosen by the faculty for close study. The latter will be identified one week ahead of time.

The description of a previous year’s conference is as follows:

The main portion of the hour will comprise your presentation on the Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet, Mvt. 1. In preparing your presentation, do not consult secondary sources (or other individuals); just jump right in and study the piece. Think of the meeting as a mini-lecture or precept, develop an approach to the piece and present it to the faculty (we are your students for that hour). We do not have any particular expectations as to approach or methodology (e.g. Schenkerian analysis); find an approach to the music that you believe in.  We’ll also spend some time discussing your creative work, your first-year papers, and your plans for next year.

Composition Lessons

Students are responsible for scheduling composition lessons at any stage of the composition process—to talk about older pieces, when you are starting a new piece, if you feel stuck, etc.  If you want to meet weekly with a faculty member, just ask!  It is a good goal to meet with every faculty member in your first semester.  Try to develop the habit of regular lessons at whatever pace feels best.

Dates and Deadlines

Sometime during the year: Contact a professor who taught a graduate seminar and settle on a paper topic.

End of spring semester (though hopefully earlier): Submit the finished 5-10 page paper to the professor.
Early May (date TBA): First-year conference.  A piece will be chosen one week in advance.

Second-Year Requirements

Second-Year Paper

Choose one of the music department seminars you take during your second year and write a ten- to twenty-page paper (double spaced) on a topic related to it. Discuss the topic ahead of time with whoever is teaching the class. The paper will ordinarily be due at the end of the semester in which the class is taken, but that deadline is somewhat flexible; the only firm requirement is that it be complete by the last day of classes of the spring semester so it can be read in time for your generals. Students are encouraged to work with the faculty member on the paper, meeting to discuss it and sharing drafts if desired. When the paper is done, it should be handed in to the faculty member teaching the seminar, the composition DGS, and any other faculty that the student wishes to share the paper with.

Although the goal of the paper is not to report on prior writing on your topic, should you find yourself taking up with pre-existing scholarship or other material, be sure to cite all sources appropriately. For the sake of the paper and as a matter of general principle, you will want to familiarize yourself with the university’s policy regarding academic integrity.

These sites may be of use:

Advice from Dmitri: One simple strategy for avoiding difficulties with attribution is to make sure that when you are writing, you are only looking at what you are writing, and not at your notes or anybody else’s work. Internalize your ideas and then write them down.  It is very, very unlikely that you will spontaneously recreate someone else’s words.

Language Requirement

The Language Requirement should be satisfied before undertaking the General Exam. (See above, under First-Year Requirements).

The General Exam

A significant milestone in the program is the General Exam, which, when successfully completed, advances students to candidacy for the PhD. The exam typically includes two parts: the concert produced collaboratively by the second-year students and the oral exam held in May. This oral exam itself comprises several different sections, typically a large piece or body of pre-twentieth-century music, a second body of more recent music, and the design of a graduate composition course. The topics change from year to year. In addition to the assigned areas of inquiry, Generals topics include the student’s compositional work, the second-year paper, and ideas for the dissertation.

Although the General Exam requires much independent work, you are, as always, encouraged to consult with the faculty as needed during the course of your work.

The General Exam guidelines are distributed during the summer following the first year of study. Below is the information for this year’s General Exam.

Generals Concert: April date TBA

Pick a composer about whose work you are curious. This should not be your favorite composer or the composer whom you feel has the most in common with you, but rather a composer whose music challenges or provokes you in some way.  In the work of this composer, identify a technique, sensibility, or propensity which you are interested in trying on for size, at least once. The goal is not imitation so much as dialogue: one composer responding to, or adopting, or adapting another’s ideas.

Select a representative work by the chosen composer to be performed on the Generals Concert, along with your compositional response. You may need to excerpt a movement from a larger work, arrange the work for more practical performing forces or otherwise adapt the work to meet the practical requirements of the Generals Concert and/or to highlight the feature(s) of the work that you are attempting to engage.

Ideally there will be a palpable, audible, difference between your Generals piece and your work up to this point. It might not be a better piece, but consider, in this case, ‘success’ to be gauged in terms of the depth of engagement with the work of another composer and the degree of personal risk taking.

As a group, you are responsible for producing the concert in all its aspects.  This means managing the budget, arranging the program (75 minutes is a good maximum duration of musical content), scheduling and rehearsing the performers, etc.  Besides the DGS and PSK director, you will want to be in touch with the business manager about the budget, the concert office about publicity, and the engineer about tech.  They can provide you with deadlines.

General Exam Meetings: May dates TBA

The exam consists in two 90-minute presentations on two separate days in May.  Think of the composition faculty as your students; plan to teach us something.  Each presentation is divided into two roughly equal parts which you can order somewhat freely. However, past experience has taught that the analysis presentations tend to run a little long; a good plan is therefore, on the first day, one hourlong analysis followed by 30 minutes on the syllabus and, on the second, one hourlong analysis followed by 30 minutes on your paper, your music, and your generals piece.  We would like to end with the general discussion of you and your music.
 

Part 1: Ravel’s orchestral music

Get to know Ravel’s orchestra music.  Become an expert on one piece and prepare to lead the faculty in a discussion. You are encouraged to consider any related pieces (e.g. piano versions of the same music).  

Part 2: Film music

Consider the relationship between music and film.  Choose one or more aspects of this relationship to focus on, as exemplified in one or more films, and lead the faculty in a discussion. Make sure that the films are readily available ahead of time. If you can’t get scores, you may consider transcribing relevant excerpts as you see fit, though transcriptions are not required.  You can also concentrate on nonmusical elements such as sound design if you like.  You may also choose to show brief excerpts in the exam; if so, make sure not to overwhelm the verbal part of your presentation.

Part 3: Graduate Seminar

You are teaching a graduate music composition seminar on a topic of your choice.  Write a detailed 12-week syllabus for the course, including assignments, reading and listening lists, and prepare an opening lecture of about 30’.  Expect that we will ask questions both about the lecture and the syllabus. 

Part 4: Your Music, Your Future, and You 

We’ll also spend some time talking about your past work (composition, classwork, written papers) and your plans for the future.  There’s no need to prepare for this part, but you should know that it is on the agenda.

Materials

Scores for the Ravel should be available on IMSLP and there are cheap Dover editions available.  Let the head music librarian know if you need help finding recordings, films, or any other materials.

Dates and Deadlines

December 6. Proposal for Generals Concert.  Let the DGS and the director of PSK know what your plans for the concert will be and be sure to talk with them about performers, feasibility, date, costs, etc.  You should also consult with your colleagues and the production staff, as described above.

January 24. We will notify you of precise May dates for the exam.

January 24. Generals Concert Terms of Engagement. Submit to all composition faculty not on leave a paragraph or two explaining your terms of engagement with the chosen work/repertoire for the concert. This is not a program note for the general audience but rather a specific outline for the faculty of your compositional project.  It doesn’t have to be too long, just let us know your goals.

March 14.  Choices of “focus pieces” for Ravel and film music and course syllabus.  Provide let us know by email which pieces pieces you will focus on and send us your one-to-five page (maximum) syllabus by email

Sometime during the year. Contact a professor who taught a graduate seminar and settle on a paper topic.

End of spring semester (though hopefully earlier). Submit the finished 10-20 page paper to the professor.

April TBA. Generals Concert.
May TBA. General Exam.

Colloquium Series

The second-year students are in charge of colloquia.  They should meet to decide how to distribute this responsibility; in some years, the students work together equally, in other years one or two students take on the lion’s share of the responsibility.  Students organizing Colloquia must adhere to University and Department protocols.

Students typically see this as a desirable opportunity to meet and hang out with interesting musicians. 

With advance notice, the Mendel Music Library may make relevant scores and recordings available. See the library staff for details.

Duties for the Composition Colloquium captain(s) (who are paid for their duties) are as follows:

  1. Compiling (with faculty and graduate student input) a list of proposed speakers.

  2. Meet with composition faculty in general and the DGS in particular to periodically screen names of proposed speakers. Although the choice of speakers is primarily yours, faculty input can be helpful in avoiding repeat visits or other complications. In addition, on occasion the faculty may arrange a colloquium in addition to your choices. In this event, the faculty will provide funding from outside your budget but will ask you to manage the other details (reception, publicity, etc.).

  3. Contact speakers and make arrangements for them, i.e., schedule date and hour of the colloquia. Circulate to faculty, staff, and graduate students a list of colloquium speakers for the fall and spring semesters. Try not to conflict with Musicology colloquia. Most colloquia are scheduled on Thursday afternoons at 4:30pm. (The Department schedules the room based on your list, so be sure to announce updates on any changes.) Provide the Department Marketing Manager information for the website listings and Atrium monitor.

  4. Arrange for graduate/speaker dinner. 

  5. Publicity: submit particulars to the Department Marketing Manager and to Princeton Weekly Bulletin for publication (http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/form.html); prepare, distribute and post flyers. A Department monthly newsletter goes out several weeks prior to the start of the month; for inclusion, please send details by this time.

  6. Refreshments: Purchase and set up refreshments. The department will reimburse you, or see the Department Business Manager for a purchase order number or credit card to be used at local stores. 

  7. Technical details: reserve and set up, as needed, slide projector, overhead projector, VCR, etc.

  8. Provide the Department Business Manager with appropriate information to facilitate payment to the colloquium speaker. 

  9. You are also responsible to keep within the budget. The Business Manager can provide samples of actual costs from previous years to assist you in budgeting.