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UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL School of Arts Department of Music 2011-12

MA in Composition for Film and Television MEDIA COMPOSITION PORTFOLIO

Units MUSIM0021 (60 credits)


Unit director: Dr Neal Farwell (TB1) Dr Michael Ellison (TB2)


Media Composition Portfolio

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MA-FTV Media Composition Portfolio (60 credits)

The Media Composition Portfolio has a status equivalent to the MA Dissertation written by musicologists and by scholars of most arts and humanities disciplines. Compare the two: an MA Dissertation is expected to address a single topic or area, show thorough knowledge of relevant literature and conceptual issues, and draw the information together in a coherent synthesis with a high standard of presentation. For the highest marks, the dissertation will show not just exceptional depth of knowledge, but also present original ideas that develop and go beyond the available information. It will be research. your Media Composition Portfolio will typically comprise five to eight separate productions with film or other visual elements, demonstrating a wide variety of visual and filmic styles, musical mediums and genres. These show your knowledge of the discipline and your compositional and technical skill and flexibility to meet varied demands in the profession. But the portfolio and accompanying commentary should also seek to show a developing individual voice, and creative imagination beyond simply reproducing the norms of any given style.

Striking this balance means, in practice, being selective in the works you present for the final portfolio. Use the year to explore particular compositional concerns, to discover your strengths and play to them, while taking steps to fix your weaknesses. Your future professional clients will be looking for distinctiveness, not just craft. The MA portfolio is not quite the same thing as a professional showreel. The larger part of your portfolio must comprise works for screen media, to show your compositional command within the context of TV/film-making and its multiple technical and human demands. But when you send a showreel, you want the client to focus on the quality of your music. Producers and directors are very visually oriented, and respond to music emotionally. Since many of your collaborative projects will be with student film makers, there is the risk that weaknesses in the film-making will obscure the strength of your music (for such clients; not for your MA examiners!). It is arguably better to send audio only. Therefore your portfolio may but is not required to also include compositions presented as audio only. They must be conceived as part of the portfolio as a whole, but are an opportunity to show your individual identity and skill in composition, realisation and production values. Your portfolio must include your film collaboration with MAFTVP students (MA in Film and Television Production) in the Department of Drama, or with MAASM students (MA in Archaeology for Screen Media, Departments of Archaeology and Anthropology / Drama) or with students on the MADP (MA in Documentary Practice, Department of Drama). This is a requirement unless, and exceptionally, it has been formally waived by the MA-FTV Programme Director (Michael Ellison). If you choose to collaborate with an MAFTVP dissertation, you will work within a film- and television-industry focused grouping. Final projects tend to be narrative fiction, within established industry genres. There are usually a maximum of 5 FTVP dissertation projects per year. If you choose to collaborate with a MAASM or MADP dissertation, you will work closely with an independent student director. Screenworks may comprise fully realised


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documentaries or a series of sequences exploring different archaeological and screen practice questions. There are a typically around twelve dissertation projects per year. All of the MA dissertation projects are shot in professional formats including 16mm film, HD video, or RED. You should make the most of opportunities during the year to get to know your potential collaborators on the above programmes. Other items in the portfolio might be projects with students from Computer Science at the University of Bristol, external projects with filmmakers at Bristol School of Animation (UWE) or Mountview Academy, advertisements, and other projects that you have found. You may also include music composed for theatre productions or video games, although such products should not form the major part of the portfolio, and the music should be presented on the portfolio DVD accompanied by, at the least, a slide show to set visual context. The portfolio should include 15-25 minutes of your own original music. (See also below, How much material?) The music is required to be original work, meaning it is your own unaided work, based on your own ideas and educated experience and done, mostly, during the final third of the MA course. For this reason it is supervised with a light touch, and supervisors and tutors should help with conceptual and organisational matters but are not permitted to undertake detailed prior examination or corrections for the candidate. However, collaborative processes are an essential part of TV-, film-, and other media-making practice, as is explicit reference to existing genres, replacement of temp-tracks, and so on. You will clarify these issues in the written commentaries that accompany your DVD. The portfolio may not include items submitted for assessment elsewhere in the course, unless a project incorporates extensive new material, in which case the re-used or reworked material must be clearly identified. As well as material created with sample libraries and synthesis, the music in your portfolio should include elements recorded with live musicians when their inherent qualities are contextually appropriate. You may also include elements of sound design and electroacoustic composition. You will want your portfolio to show this variety. Each individual production, however, should only use the means that are appropriate to that project.

Alternative Portfolio
You may instead submit a portfolio that is more scholarly in orientation, comprising a single original media composition and a critical dissertation on an agreed media music topic. Most composers on the MA-FTV will want to submit a media portfolio as described in the previous paragraphs; but this alternative may suit those who are interested in further study at research level, focusing on scholarly contexts as much as or more than on creative practice. If you are interested in this alternative route, you must discuss it in advance with the Programme Director. The dissertation is not an easy alternative to the media portfolio: it must be a work corresponding to other MA written dissertations in its scholarly substance and presentation standards. Nor may you go half-and-half on some intermediate portfolio (i.e. you may not submit a half-length media portfolio coupled with a half-length dissertation). We will assume you are completing a media portfolio, as detailed in the rest of this Unit Booklet, unless you have the Programme Directors formal approval to undertake the dissertation alternative.


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The portfolio is submitted to the Graduate School at 7 Woodland Road, in duplicate by 12 noon, Friday 14th September 2012. You will receive further details from the Graduate School closer to the time. N.B. this is a hard deadline. Extensions can only be granted if formally requested in advance from the Programme Director to meet medical or other exceptional circumstances.

How much material?

The portfolio will normally include 15-25 minutes of your own original music (as above), but not more. This is not an absolute rule: timing must be related to pace and density of musical thought and its appropriateness to and integration with the visual material. But these will be informed by current industry practice and norms, and the stated duration is a good guide. The portfolio should include at least 15 minutes of original music to screen media. It may optionally include up to 10 minutes of audio-only composition. A portfolio that gains a high mark will typically total closer to 25 than 15 minutes of your music. Most screen works do not have music running throughout; but to assess your success in creating the music, it is necessary to view the whole film. However, the total viewing time for your portfolio should not exceed 1 hour. If your portfolio includes longer productions that will make the total more than an hour, you should provide carefully selected excerpts that include your music, together with a clear and succinct synopsis of the full work so that the narrative context etc can be understood. Shorter pieces (and ideally all items) should be provided in full. Choose your best material. If you have potential material for your portfolio that significantly exceeds 25 minutes of music, dont use it all. And a coherent portfolio with 20 minutes of good work is likely to score better than a patchy 25 minutes.

What to submit
You must submit two identical copies. The work should be identified with your candidate number. It is recognized that the work usually cannot be anonymous (because your name is in screen credits etc); therefore, you should also put your name clearly on all items. The main film you score for the MAFTVP or MAASM/MADP students (their MA summer portfolio project) will be sent to us separately by the Drama Dept upon completion of the final mastering of the DVDs. If the final version is available in time for your submission, include it on your portfolio DVD. If the final version is not yet available, include the best working copy, with an explanatory note.

Assemble all items on a single video-DVD suitable for playback in consumer equipment. The disc should be PAL format, region-free. Any audio-only tracks should also go on the DVD, not on a separate disc. The DVD menu should be a single level, not nested unless this will clearly improve ease of use. Menus may be attractively designed, but keep them simple and clear, professional not gimmicky: NO menu animations

MUSIM0021 NO music over menus

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At the end of each film: check the run-out the film should end tidily, not jump immediately and abruptly back to the menu; but check that it does go back to the menu, not straight into the next item. Physical matters: only use new branded discs, write once, DVD-R never DVD-RW use a jewel case, not loose or in an envelope DO NOT USE STICKY LABELS on DVDs. But do label them clearly. If you do not have access to a custom disc printer, write neatly on the disc with a CD-pen. NEVER write on a disc with ballpoint / roller-tip / pencil etc these can damage the disc and / or playback equipment check that the disc plays on various different systems label the jewel-case insert clearly. Better: design and print a suitable insert.

Your disc should be accompanied by a short commentary. The contribution of the commentary to the final mark is not defined by a specific proportion or percentage; and the majority of the mark is certainly determined by the materials on the DVD. But an essential role for the commentary is to identify clearly your input to each project. The commentary provides context, and may help in benefit-of-the-doubt cases. The commentary should: include an introductory chapter that sets out your overarching goals in the portfolio. What are the compositional concerns, or the questions you seek to answer and your strategies to do so, or the unifying philosophy? Who are you as a composer, as shown in this portfolio? 500 words maximum: use them well.

and for each item in the composition portfolio, including the MAFTVP / MAASM / MADP film: include the total viewing time and the duration of your music composed for that project (e.g. Adventures in Cairo (6:15) Music by Fred van Bloggs (3:10) ). You may also wish to make a list detailing where the music occurs: here you can also give cue names or descriptions. include a succinct summary of the project brief. You may include relevant quotations (properly identified) from emails by the director/producer etc. include a brief synopsis of the dramatic plot or documentary structure. This provides the reader with useful context for the following items. include a brief account of the collaborative process, including the relative timelines of the musical composition and scripting/filming/production. This is the place to identify any unusual problems faced in the working relationship and how you dealt with them or, conversely, any creative and unusual working practices or roles. outline your key approaches in solving the brief. You may wish to discuss genre references, choices of instrumentation or media, specific approaches to reading the film, etc. However, this is not the place for a then I did this then I did that account of activities that might be considered common practice. identify any music in the soundtrack that you did not yourself create


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identify all sources that you have directly quoted or adapted in your music be 1-3 pages in total length, depending on the scale of the project you should not usually include scores or excerpts of your notated music, except when relevant to illustrate discussion points.

Remember that this commentary is part of your submission for the MA degree. It should be written in good modern academic prose be clear, not verbose! and follow one of the accepted academic conventions for presentation and referencing.

Presentation of the commentary

It may help to think of this as a book containing a chapter for each project. Print 1.5 or double-spaced on A4 paper, single sided or double sided (to save paper). Combine all the individual chapters into a single spiral- or comb-bound volume. DO NOT present the pages in individual plastic sleeves. Number the pages consecutively (by hand, if necessary). At the front of the volume, include a title page with your name and a list of the contents, with page numbers, and including viewing and music durations for the corresponding items on the DVD. Include on this page a statement of the total viewing time and the total duration of your music cues. Please also supply a loose copy of this title/contents page. PROOF READ the full text carefully.

Marking Criteria for MACFTV final portfolios

Please refer also to the Graduate Schools Postgraduate Handbook 2011-12, available online at https://www.bris.ac.uk/arts/gradschool/current/handbook.html The descriptors below correspond to the mid-point for each mark band. There is no strict upper limit, but in practice marks above 80 are rare. The pass mark is 50. You should note that these criteria will not necessarily all be present in order to obtain a mark in a particular category, nor will they be equally weighted in arriving at a final mark. The music carries the majority of the mark weight, but the commentaries should not be neglected.

80 and above
This is work of excellent professional quality, and stands direct comparison with the best output from major broadcasters and film studios. It has the strengths of the category below, without the weaknesses. The music shows wide-ranging knowledge of current genres and fashion, but with a level of imagination and originality that consistently lifts it clear of clich. Technical realisation, performance and production values are excellent. The portfolio displays a distinctive personal voice and, at the highest level, may represent new approaches to the way media music is conceived. The portfolio is substantial, impeccably presented, and shows professional enterprise in opportunity-gathering and collaborative process. The commentaries are astute, cogently written, well-referenced, and throw the creative ideas and professional context into sharp relief.

A portfolio of professional quality that is comparable to good broadcast output. (N.B. that the mainstream of current broadcast output includes work that does not meet the quality required for this mark-band.) The portfolio demonstrates skill across a range of musical and filmmaking genres and requirements. The visual footage has been well-read at local timescales,


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and the larger-scale conception is persuasive. Studio genres are presented with strong production values. Live- or sample-based acoustic styles (orchestra etc) are recorded/realised with good sound quality and performance detailing, based on well-conceived and idiomatic use of instruments and voices. There are few errors of musical judgment or technical presentation. The music is evidence of a full individual role in the collaborative processes of film making. The commentaries set a sharply-defined context for the creative ideas and practical realisation. Presentation of media and commentary is excellent.

A portfolio that displays good knowledge of musical genres, and their application to filmand television-making of several kinds, with solid technical presentation. The musical judgment is largely successful in relation to the visual material, though with occasional lapses (e.g. at times the music may not provide the right momentum; may suggest emotions that do not fit the scene; may suggest an inappropriate period setting; etc). Production values are mostly strong, but at times there are technical issues such as mix-balance or live-recording quality. Sample-based material may be clearly intended to sound as-if-acoustic, and is mostly successful, but sometimes seems artificial. The commentaries set a clear context for the main compositional ideas and project practicalities. Presentation of media and commentary is very good.

50-59 pass
A portfolio that shows adequate understanding of the key issues involved in scoring film and television, demonstrated through successful musical scores to several films, though the portfolio may be of limited variety. There are many passages of good musical judgment in relation to the visual material, but there are also substantial areas that are less successful. Technical presentation is good for some genres but not for others, or is more generally inconsistent. The commentaries provide adequate orientation for the main musical and practical ideas. Presentation of media and commentary is good.

40-49 fail
The portfolio shows some understanding of key issues, and includes at least two or three pieces of work with music set to picture. Some passages show a good musical reading of the visual material, but many miss the mark; or the whole is erratic and poorly structured. Technical presentation shows basic command of scoring/studio/sequencing/recording practice, but realised with many errors. The commentaries identify some of the relevant issues but are sketchy. Presentation of media and commentary is poor.

39 and below
There is little to show a successful understanding or application of the issues and practice in composing for film and television. The portfolio is slight and sketchy. Musical ideas have only occasional or accidental relevance to the images. The technical presentation and production values are rudimentary. The commentaries are incomplete, misleading or absent.