Composition & Experimental Sound Practices (MFA Only)

Before applying, please make sure to familiarize yourself with the Composition & Experimental Sound Practices specialization, faculty, facilities, curriculum and view student work.

Please note that you must complete all Admissions Requirements as well as the portfolio requirements to be considered for admission.

Portfolio Guidelines 

The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts works towards developing the entire artist and focuses on individual pathways. The faculty is interested in seeing and hearing material that offers a sense of who you are as an artist. We want to know what you are thinking about, what kind of work you are currently working on, and what you would like to create while at CalArts. Students are welcome to apply with advanced musical backgrounds as well as with unique creative backgrounds from other artistic disciplines. For example, if your work has gravitated toward sound in recent years but you have a background in another discipline (art, architecture, film/video, etc.) we still encourage you to submit your work. Students are able to develop high-level skillsets appropriate to support their professional goals, from creating advanced works for ensembles to designing sound art installations. This specialization looks for students from the broadest ranges of the sound and composition spectra.

Example areas of interests may include: contemporary composition and performance practices for all instruments and media, installation work, electronic and computer music, digital multi-media, sound art, field recording, experimental pop, 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.

  • Please include what you consider to be your 3 strongest submissions first (entries 1, 2, 3)
  • For submissions 1,2 and 3, please include a PDF that details the following:
    • How did you make this? Did you record and produce this yourself or in a professional studio? If you recorded and produced this yourself, please tell us about your process. 
  • For each track/part/instrument, please answer the following questions:
    • Is this a recording of an instrument that you (or someone else) played / a sample or pre-recorded loop / or a midi-generated performance? If it is a sample or pre-recorded loop, did you create it yourself? If so, how?


Portfolio Materials

You must submit a digital portfolio in the portfolio section of the CalArts application. Submit a portfolio that best represents your work and interests. Suitable portfolio materials include audio recordings, videos, scores, writings, photographs, documentation of performances, installations or collaborative projects, and any related materials that further illuminate your work. Instrumental and vocal scores should be accompanied recordings. While recordings of live performances are preferred, electronic renditions are acceptable. For works not represented by scores, include detailed descriptions of the production processes and creative contexts for the documentation you submit. Three to five recent original works must be submitted that show your awareness of 20th-21st century practices in composition and/or sound. Do not send class assignments. We want to see your original work. Show us who you are!

Artist Statement

You must include a detailed Artist Statement with both the application and online portfolio that outlines your goals and your background. We also want you to emphasize the work you are doing currently and the work you imagine doing at CalArts.

In your Artist Statement, be sure to include the following:

  1. Describe briefly your main interests right now.
  2. Describe other creative interests you are involved in.
  3. Describe the materials submitted in your digital portfolio and how they demonstrate your creative interests and if not immediately obvious, how they were created.