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The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts


Degree Programs:  BFA, MFA
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Long noted for its important contributions to contemporary musical innovation, the institute's Composition Program allows each student to develop his or her own artistic voice through the exploration and study of a broad range of theories, techniques and creative tools. The Program offers a broad array of distinctive courses, exposure to the work of prominent guest composers, and continuous assessment and critique of each student's work as it develops. All students are required to compile a portfolio of professional quality by the end of their residencies.

BFA Program

In recognition of the enormous stylistic expansion of contemporary music throughout the last one hundred years, Composition students are not expected to follow any particular stylistic pathway. The curriculum therefore begins from a Foundation of studies in composition, theory, technology and professional development aimed at supporting each student in the cultivation of his or her own distinctive artistic profile.

In consultations with their faculty Mentors, many students will then proceed to build highly individualized degree pathways tailored to their particular creative goals. Others will choose to pursue one or more of the following optional Concentrations available within the BFA Composition program.

Optional Concentration in Avant-Garde Rock & Noise

Certain durable strains of pop-related music have sustained a resistant attitude toward the commercial mainstream, instead adopting programs of exploration, critique or transcendence. For a new generation of experimental pop- and noise-makers, this concentration aims to develop necessary technical and professional skills, to cultivate awareness of the socio-historical context for such music, and to create an environment that will promote radical collaboration and stylistic innovation.

Legendary avant-rock band Faust performing with CalArts students.

Optional Concentration in Electronic Music

For composers attracted to the computer as an instrument for creative expression, this concentration fosters a strong technical foundation in studio and live electronic music-making, and proceeds to instruction in advanced techniques for today's computer musician. (On the other hand, there are also opportunities to explore hands-on some rare artifacts of electronic music history...)

Optional Concentration in Experimental Music

Artistic experimentation is at the heart of CalArts' mission. This option addresses itself to the current frontiers of radical exploration in music and sound art from creative, technical, historical and philosophical perspectives. Keywords: tone, noise, silence, Cage, indeterminacy, improvisation, composition, performance, interactivity, intermedia, perception, self, risk.

Optional Concentration in Film & Video Composition

This concentration affords a technical and aesthetic foundation for students who wish to collaborate with film and video artists. It offers essential training in composition, technology, history, aesthetics, and critique for aspiring film composers.

Optional Concentration in Instrumental Composition

While offering a technical foundation for contemporary chamber and orchestral composition, this curricular pathway provides a broad survey of the diverse stylistic, methodological and aesthetic possibilities available to today's concert music composer.

MFA Program

Befitting a program of advanced study and artistic production, the MFA Composition Program affords students the utmost flexibility in designing an individualized program of study in consultation with their faculty Mentors.

Beyond a foundation of private lessons and forums that regularly convene the vibrant community of graduate composers, students can choose from an extensive array of advanced courses in composition, theory, technology, musicology, performance, and pedagogy, as well as courses in the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film & Video, and Theater. CalArts thus affords wide-ranging opportunities for interdisciplinary training and collaboration.

Student composers frequently write for various student and faculty performers, as well as many types of ensembles and chamber groups, including the New Century Players, the school's resident professional ensemble.

Graduate study in Composition at CalArts fosters a radical and visionary creativity that obeys no particular stylistic or methodological constraints. The MFA program thus aims to provide the technical skills, contextual foundation and creative opportunities for each student to develop and project her or his own distinctive artistic voice into the world of creative music.

Last edited by pfraser on May 21, 2015
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