All compositions and the arrangement (if submitted) must include a printed score, a recording, and a reflective statement. If submitting an arrangement, the original source must be submitted whether it is a score or a recording. Following are recommendations for each:

  1. Printed score

While this can be hand-written or printed via music-writing software, the score should be complete – all notes, dynamics, texts, and expression markings should be present and legible.

  • Many times, students will attempt to submit works for piano and voice that do not include the text in the vocal part. This should be avoided. Do not take the easy way out and write Ooh – ooh – mmm – mmm instead of a text for an entire piece. Although the use of vocables can be effective, it is best used sparingly.
  • Students will often submit scores with no metronome marking or other indication of tempo. This should be added, even if it must be hand-written in the printed score. Show the examiner that you know what you want from your composition. Do not wait until the day of submission to decide the tempo based on what it will take to make the piece last for three minutes. This is an obvious and glaring obfuscation.
  • Bach submitted his scores with little indication of dynamics. Unfortunately, you are not Bach and most importantly, performers need to be able to interpret your score how you want it to sound. Scores with no expression markings look as if little effort went into preparing them and provide the performer of your music no indication on how you want it played. String scores should include bowings; piano scores should include pedaling; all scores should include dynamics, accents, and articulations as necessary.
  • Scores should be legible. If your handwriting is not, use music-writing software to help. Note that even then, the software must be manipulated to look as it should – do not submit scores with a row of empty measures at the end. If some parts have rests in empty bars and others do not, alter the score so there is uniformity. Space your measures across the staff evenly. Part of using music-writing software is the tedious and un-musical activity of making it do what you want it to do.

What you can submit

  • Students may submit music for any combination of instruments and voices. A piano sonata in the style of Clementi is perfectly acceptable, as is an orchestral dance in the style of Rachmaninov. Rock anthems and country ballads are acceptable. It is important to write in the style you intend.
  • Remember: Not every instrument has to play all the time. One solid wall of unchanging timbre is not creative. Allow your music to move horizontally as well as vertically.
  • Avoid being cute: John Cage wrote 4’33”. While it may be argued that it was a brave act of creation (by manipulating the audience to make the music), you will not accomplish a similar feat by submitting an empty score. (The same goes for Schumann’s “Sphinxes” – in context, it’s a delight; out of context, it has no meaning.)
  • Only one arrangement may be submitted. There is no restriction on what can be arranged. Note that a straight transcription is not an arrangement (e.g., resetting a string quartet for clarinet quartet would most likely be a transcription and not an arrangement).  Try changing styles, choose differing accompaniment patterns, change textures, write countermelodies, variations; the options are endless.
  • Compositions and arrangements longer than six minutes will be assessed on the first six minutes of music.
  1. Recording
  • The recording may be live or MIDI. MIDI recordings may be necessary depending on the genre of music composed. A student writing for full orchestra may not have an ensemble at hand capable of devoting the time to learning and performing the piece, for example, and the MIDI recording may be the only option. In this case, the student should be sure the score is as clear as possible. Students who are interested in MIDI exclusively are encouraged to submit in the Music technology composing category.
  • A live recording is to be preferred, even if it is imperfect. Part of the point of composing is the development of the understanding of how instruments and voices work.
  1. Reflective statement
  • From the Music Guide:

The statement must reflect the creative process over time. Each reflection must include documentation by the student of the following.

Intention—what was the intention behind the piece?

Process—what steps did the student take to achieve the final version of the piece? How were the musical elements developed?

What musical successes and difficulties were encountered?

What equipment was used (if any)? (In the case of music technology compositions students must refer to the name and source of all sampled and/or imported material.)

Outcome—what did the student learn musically during the creating of this piece?

  • The above section is about 100 words.
  • Each selection must have its own reflective statement.
  • Like the score, the reflective statement should be legible.
  • Reflective statements longer than 300 words will be assessed on the first 300.