May 25, 2018


Modern Music Composition Workshop

Instructor: Gershon Wolfe, Ph.D.

Goal: After this course you will be able to compose complete pieces of music.  We will concentrate on composing a very popular genre of music called, ambient music.  By using the power of musical set theory, interval class vectors, and atonal/tonal tonal techniques, you will be able to compose complete pieces of new and original music in a cool and avant-garde style of ambient music.

Dates and locations for workshop:  Each workshop is four days.

Date Location Duration (Days)
May 21 – 24, 2019 The Landsby, 1576 Mission Drive, Solvang, California, USA 4
August 13 – 16, 2019 The Landsby, 1576 Mission Drive, Solvang, California, USA 4
October 15 – 18, 2019 The Landsby, 1576 Mission Drive, Solvang, California, USA 4

Investment: $1,200.00 USD

Investment includes: Four full days of instruction, limited to 20 participants.  Six hours/day, 8 am – 11 am and 1 pm – 4 pm.

Registration:  A non-refundable retainer of $400.00 USD secures your seat.  The total balance of $800.00 USD is due two weeks prior to the first day for the workshop.  No video allowed in the classroom.  Please make all payments via   

Contact: Please feel free to contact me, either by email,, or phone, 541-740-9496, if you would like to discuss this workshop.

What this workshop is about: To sum this course up, it is about teaching counterpoint, melody, musical set theory, and techniques in twelve-tone composition.  No prior knowledge of music theory is required.  This four-day course will be extremely fun and full of great information regarding music theory and composition.  As an example of my teaching style, please watch my YouTube video lectures titled, Modern Music Composition: 

This workshop is designed to take an individual from knowing virtually nothing about music theory or composition to being able to compose advanced pieces of music.  If you have ever wanted to compose music, whether you play an instrument or not, then you should consider this course.  Being able to compose your own music will open up a completely new dimension to your creativity as a musician, and will define who you are with respect to your music endeavors.  An understanding of both tonal and atonal music theory is necessary for becoming a good music composer.  There are absolutely no pre requesites for this workshop, just bring your desire to learn, that’s all you need.  Last but not least, you will learn some concepts of artificial intelligence and how it can be applied to music composition.

Syllabus: You will learn the basics of music from the early beginnings and through the 20th Century.  The following are some of the concepts you will be instructed on:

  • Pitch and interval classes
  • Circle of fifths
    • Major and minor scale
    • Melodic minor scale
    • Diminished scale
    • Whole-tone scale
    • Modes
      • Modal progressions
        • Ionian (major scale)
        • Dorian
        • Phrygian
        • Lydian
        • Mixolydian
        • Aeolian (natural minor scale)
        • Locrian
  • Ambient music
    • History
    • Composers
    • Structure
  • How to evoke emotion
  • Melody
    • Antecedent phrase
    • Consequent phrase
  • Period-form
    • Binary
    • Rondo
    • Fugue
    • Sonata
  • Variation in movement
    • Diatonic
    • Conjunct
    • Step-wise
    • Modulation
  • Counterpoint in two parts
    • First species: note against note
    • Second species: Two noes against one
    • Third species: Four notes against one
    • Fourth species: Syncopation
    • Fifth species: Florid counterpoint
  • Pitch-class sets
  • Rhythm
    • Polyrhythms
  • Structure of tonal and atonal music
    • Set theory
    • Interval class vectors
    • Transposition, inversion
    • Application of group theory and symmetry
      • Tonal: Asymmetric
      • Atonal: Symmetric
    • The twelve-tone technique
      • Inversionally complementary cycles
      • Symmetrical chords and progressions
      • Dyadic sums and differences
      • Cycles sets of interval-7 and interval-1
      • Cognate sets
      • Verticalization of twelve-tone music
      • Cyclic chords and axis-note dyads
      • The odd and even model
      • Composing with sum tetrachords
      • Modulation through tonic chords
      • Symmetrical progressions through non-symmetrical chords
      • Voice leading of sum tetrachords
    • Variants of the twelve-tone technique
      • hexachord combinatoriality
      • rotational arrays
      • Derivation
      • Triadic arrays
  • Minimalistic techniques in composition
    • Drone
    • Ostinato
    • Layering
    • Augmentation and diminution
    • Note subtraction and addition
    • Static harmony
    • Phasing
    • Rhythmic displacement
  • A few welcomed surprises will be in store towards the end of this workshop, one being how rule-based artificial intelligence techniques can be used to extend your composition, the use of Turing machines and cellular automata, and the concept of observing and measuring entropy and how our minds break down seemingly complex patterns into simple rule-based reasoning referred to as propositional calculus.  I am confident you will enjoy these lectures.  Please see for more information.

It is not enough to just learn the theory of the above concepts, we will be composing complete pieces of music which will give you a full understanding of how to apply all these concepts.  Functionally, you will learn how to engrave your new compositions and be able to create sheet music that you can print, share, or publish.

Example of how to compose a short piece of music: As an example of what is in store for you, I have used the concept of set classes, interval class vectors, and rotational arrays to compose a small pierce of music.  Specifically, I will use set class 6-2 which is defined as:

6-2 = (012346)

where the integers correspond to an abstraction of the chromatic scale.  One representation could be the following:

where the left column represents the pitch class and the right column the note value for the corresponding pith class.  However, this is not the only representation possible.  In fact, a more appropriate way to look at this is by visualizing the chromatic scale as a circular clock:

where zero could start at any note.  For example 0 = D.  Then, the following would hold true:

The next important aspect of the set classes is the interval class vector, and in our example of set class 6-2, the interval class vector is [443211], meaning that the intervals present in set class 6-2 correspond to:

The next step is to calculate the rotational arrays.  We will start with an initial sequence of notes derived from set class 6-2, that is, we will use the hexachord, Bb-A-Db-B-C-Eb. Each line of the array rotates the hexachord and transposes the rotation to start on Bb.  Each of these rows describes the same succession of intervals, but begins one note earlier that the row directly above it.  As a result the lines, in a sense, create a six voice canon.  The following represents the result of rotating the sequence Bb-A-Db-B-C-Eb:

The roman numerals indicate each successive rotation and transposition.  For our composition we will choose a sequence of these rows to create a cycle, for example we will choose I-II-III-IV-V as our cycle.  Notice, that within this cycle, the transpositional levels compose out the inversion (D-Eb-B-Db-C-A) of the original hexachord.  The following represents a short composition using this sequence in the treble:


where the bass clef has been composed based on the rotational arrays, but using sequences that create more of a tonal feel to the piece.  The rows of the arrays often have a common tone.  There is no particular key associated with this piece, as it is still atonal in character, but the first note of each of the rows is always the same and can emulate a centric tone.  This is certainly true of the Bb, so frequently a point of arrival and departure of this short piece.  The result is an intense melodic focus, with a relatively small group of notes in circulation.

My guarantee: Satisfaction guaranteed.  I will provide a complete refund if you are not 100% satisfied with this workshop.  However, I am confident you will leave the workshop completely infused with knowledge of music theory and the ability to compose complex pieces of music.