Orientation Course Composition, Sonology and ArtScience

Studying at the Royal Conservatoire means studying at an institute where tradition and skills are inextricably linked with experimentation and innovation. Many important and inspiring developments in contemporary music practice (acoustic, electroacoustic and cross-media) have found a supportive environment, if not their origins, at the Royal Conservatoire, where the Composition, Sonology and ArtScience departments form a unique cluster devoted to all forms of musical creation. Their students share workshops, courses, concerts and facilities, and make an important contribution to The Hague’s contemporary art and music culture.

Precisely because technology has an increasing presence in the production of music and art, high school students with creative ambitions no longer have unambiguous ideas about what kind of higher education they would like to pursue: they are searching for an education programme which does justice to present-day practice with its blurring of borders between instrumental and electronic music, between visual arts and performance, and between artistic and scientific applications of technology.

In order to give candidates for Composition, Sonology and ArtScience bachelor's programmes a deeper understanding of these programmes, and at the same time to encourage them to follow a curriculum in which elements from two or all three of them are combined with one another, the Royal Conservatoire is now offering a new orientation course consisting of 15 Saturday workshops. Each workshop deals with a subject that is typical for the respective department, although none of them requires any specific prior knowledge. Furthermore, participants will build up, through their participation in the workshops, a portfolio which will form an excellent basis for the bachelor's admission exam. During a final meeting participants will discuss and present to each other their portfolios.

Candidates for this orientation course should write a motivation letter and hand in a small portfolio that documents their artistic activities. It is not possible to register for separate parts of the course.

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16 Saturdays, October – April


10.00 am - 15.00 pm (including lunch break)

Course fee

Check 'Course fees'


Workshop 1
What is Contemporary Music? Main Directions and Currents within the Last 100 Years – Trevor Grahl

Contemporary music, that is to say “music belonging to our time”, proves to be a strange concept to pin down: it is at once easily understood, yet at the same time presents many dilemmas. The writer Tom Service says: “The music of our time is the music of all time”.

This survey-type class will look at some of the most important and also some overlooked developments in Western art music of the last 100 years, providing participants with musical and historical knowledge designed to equip them with tools to further examine this subject on their own, and open up new avenues of listening comprehension and enjoyment.

Workshop 2
Introduction to ArtScience – Leandros Ntolas

During this course we will try to describe and gain insight into what ArtScience is, what kind of tools and methodologies are used, and what works have been created within the ArtScience context. We will do so by looking at and discussing historical works which have followed similar approaches, and at works that have been created by graduates of the department, in an attempt to find common threads and methods existing within this broad spectrum of creative possibilities.

Workshop 3
Programming and Music – Bjarni Gunnarsson

The workshop will introduce computer programming fundamentals and how they can be used for programming sound and music. Participants will learn how to write simple computer code which generates sound and which could be a point of departure for creative applications. The format will be interactive with code being created collectively using the computers in Sonology’s Computer Studio 1.

Workshop 4
Our Primitive Senses – Lauren Jetty

Taste, touch and smell are considered as primitive senses; bodily, de-intellectualised and even ‘feminine’. They are highly personal, require a physicality of experience, and taste and smell even involve the physical penetration of an audience’s body.

This workshop will be a brief introduction into the use of these ‘primitive’ senses within ArtScience practices, with an emphasis on scent. We will make tinctures to replicate an existing smell of the participant’s choosing, there will be an introduction to some select perfumery materials and we will attempt the beginnings of a scent-orientated discourse using our other senses.

Workshop 5
Physics and Sound –
Riccardo Marogna

Like everything else in the world around us, sound is subject to the laws of physics. However, physical theory is not only a means of describing sound and sound-production processes, but may also be translated into simple signal-processing schemes, and is thus applicable directly in a computer model which simulates the sound-production process.

In this workshop we try to bring theory and practice together by means of an experiment. With the help of microphones and a sound editor, we follow closely how a waveform leaves a loudspeaker and spreads through a room at the speed of sound. We will observe how the wavefront reflects, for example, in contact with a pipe as well as within it. We will then simulate this same process in a real-time computer model, experimenting with both physically possible and impossible variations on the process while directly hearing how our experiments change the sound.

Workshop 6
Fundamentals of Music Theory – Martín Mayo

Music in its most basic form can be described as a logical combination of sounds and silences, and, from this shared origin, the nuances and characteristics of each style and piece develop. This course is geared towards building the necessary fundamentals in music theory for composition, with a special emphasis on rhythm.

We will explore monophonic (melodic) and homophonic (harmonic) techniques utilised by composers in the past and present, as well as the effect that different rhythmic approaches have on these variations. The course is built around interaction, and we will perform rhythms and passages as a group. We will then demonstrate what we have learned by composing a short piece as a group.

Workshop 7
Composing for Vision –
Leandros Ntolas

This workshop is an introduction to light and projection as tools for creating works composed for the sense of vision. Visual composition and working with light have been a core part of the ArtScience Interfaculty, and during this course we will explore hands-on the possibilities of these media by using simple tools such as projectors, light sources and found objects.

Workshop 8
Real-time Sound Processing – Johan van Kreij

With the advent of the laptop computer, the world of live electronic music has expanded enormously. Moreover, because computer programs such as Max and PureData are able to manipulate sound in real time, this can involve interaction with traditional musical instruments in a live setting.

Participants of this workshop can bring a musical instrument (traditional or electronic) or recorded sound material. With available computers and software, we will try out simple sound transformations and the use of controllers to work with them. Attention is also paid to graphical interfaces on the computer, and the Digital Signal Processing that underlies the transformations.

Workshop 9
Introduction to Microcontrollers – Zois Loumakis

During this short course, some of the basic principles of working and programming with microcontrollers will be discussed. We will make use of an Arduino microcontroller and show some of the potentials of these small embedded computers. We will learn many basic programming ideas that will help you to get going with small hardware projects but also will be useful on your later introduction to software development. We will show how to wire sensors, get the data out of them and augment-interact with the physical world by using small actuators or lights, or use these data to manipulate the parameters of a software.

Workshop 10
Discovering the Analogue Studio: An Approach to Electronic Music Composition – Hugo Morales Murguia

This workshop presents some possibilities of generating and modifying sounds in an analogue studio with the aim of making a composition. Some basics of devices such as oscillators, filters, synthesizers, a mixing desk and their connections will be practically demonstrated and explained from both technical and the musical points of view. The participants will be asked to shape their own sounds and to record them on the computer.

Workshops 11 and 12
Working Together with Instrumentalists to Compose a New Piece – Trevor Grahl

A two-part crash course in creating an original composition for performance by an instrumentalist. Different strategies, methodologies, and approaches to creation will be discussed, examined and brought to life in a laboratory-like setting with instrumentalists. The course will include a brief survey of notational techniques and various other tools to make the ‘score’ (whatever form that may take). The ability to read music is an advantage, but not a must. No previous experience in composition is necessary.

Workshop 13
Field Recording / Environmental Sound – Justin Bennett

Environmental sound can be a source of material for electroacoustic music, sound installations and audio-walks, but it can also be an object of study in itself. This workshop introduces concepts of acoustic ecology and field recording by using listening exercises and simple location recording techniques using portable recorders and microphones.

Workshop 14
The Performative Body – Ludmila Rodrigues

Turn on your senses. An instrument, a body, a light beam, a space speaks. Rather than seeing, or watching something, a performance calls for being in the present; attuning to a certain time and space that is shared with others. We will think, feel and analyse this sense of presence through a series of physical experiments, coordinating muscles and particles to play a multitude of compositions.

Workshop 15
Electroacoustic Ensemble Workshop – Richard Barrett

Participants should bring along an instrument – it doesn’t matter whether it’s an acoustic or electronic/digital instrument or both, because in the workshop we will explore ways of making music collaboratively by bringing these two worlds together and creating a new one from the combination. We will start with an introduction to electroacoustic improvisation, proceed with some exercises in different kinds of sonic interaction, and progress towards performing a 10-minute piece together as the culmination of the workshop.

Final Meeting
During this final meeting, the portfolios developed through the course are discussed in the presence of the heads of departments and presented by workshop participants to each other. If desired, the participants can receive advice for a follow-up study programme.