Composition and Experimental Sound Practices
Nationally and internationally renowned for its contributions to contemporary music, Composition and Experimental Sound Practices studies facilitates the development of students’ artistic voices through mastery of a broad range of theories, techniques and creative tools.

In recognition of the expanded stylistic and aesthetic breadth of music today, the specialization supports the acquisition of skills and engagement with ideas that will empower each music artist to build and sustain their profile as an innovative creator. It embraces students from the broadest ranges of the sound and composition spectra. Example areas of focus have included: contemporary composition and performance practices for all instruments and media, installation work, electronic and computer music, digital multi-media, sound art, field recording, experimental popular forms, improvisation systems, performance art, experimental performance, new methods for notation, interdisciplinary collaboration and more. CalArts takes a global approach to stylistic and cultural backgrounds and diverse sources of inspiration.

Both undergraduate and graduates are provided with individual mentoring and guidance, coaching and instruction by a stylistically diverse array of world-class artists who are at the cutting edge of aesthetic and technical developments in the field. BFA’s are given the tools to establish a musical practice and find their voice, while MFA candidates are given space to experiment within and beyond their individual practice. In keeping with the Institute's spirit of artistic exploration, the faculty encourages students to seek out interschool collaborative opportunities with filmmakers, directors, dancers, designers and other artists throughout the Institute.

For highlights about the ESP component of the curriculum, visit the Experimental Sound Practices website.

Student Story

Ian Walker
Ian Walker Composition BFA 15

My mother was a pianist and my first piano teacher. I sang as a child, took a break right around adolescence when my voice dropped, and I began singing again in rock bands when I was 15 or 16. After some classical training I realized how much I enjoyed singing classical music, and at CalArts, decided to focus on that aspect of my practice. What drew me to the school was that I could do multiple things at once here, and wouldn’t have to specialize.

CalArts is a great place for people that are self-motivated, have strong ideas and want a place to workshop them and bounce them off other people. You receive criticism from many points of view because there’s so much going on here, which is a really wonderful thing. You can run the gamut from pop music to experimental doom metal to purely classical. There are always things to learn from different kinds of music and I think that’s something that we’re experiencing especially strongly in the 21st century: that classical music isn’t the “end all be all” of performance practice, of compositional practice—same for pop music, jazz—or any other kind of music. We can learn from all of them, and I think CalArts does a great job of encouraging students to do so.

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