Department of Music

Composition & Studio Production

The Department of Music at Brown offers a wide range of courses and opportunities inside and outside of the classroom for composing acoustic music, electronic music, multimedia work, music production, sound art, improvisation and sound engineering in composition and studio production.

Students can study music creation for voice, acoustic and electronic instruments, electronic media and multimedia in combination with performance, video, film, installation, instrument design and text. Through Brown’s course offerings, performing ensembles and student-led organizations, students have the opportunity to hear and perform their music in concerts, performances, recordings, and installation settings. 

While at Brown, undergraduate students will work directly with faculty researchers in classroom courses and independent studies who specialize in real-time, interactive sonic and visual media, sound art, instrument design, hip-hop and pop music production and acoustic composition for solo, chamber, vocal, orchestral and jazz ensembles.


Recent Student Work

Each year, Brown University students create myriad original works for all manner of media and instrumentation. In 2020, 20212022, and 2023, the Department of Music created websites to recognize our graduating Concentrators in Music. Please browse the linked websites at your leisure, and you will find many illustrations of what the students created as part of their senior projects. A few examples are highlighted below. The descriptive text that accompanies each example was written by the students.

Music Capstone Project: “Dissecting”

These pieces focus on dissection of sound and workflow. Grounded in the process of creating, I wanted to create a body of work that acknowledges the place it was created and the time it took to be created. I generally focused on electronic sounds, wrestling with sounds until they “worked” instead of my usual process of abandoning them and finding new sounds. I made a specific point of making unusual pairings of drum sounds and other textures, creating a contrast I usually try to avoid. I also grounded these sonic worlds in dissection, principally focusing my sound design on tools that dissect, such as arpeggiation and granular synthesis. I wanted the listener to hear the parts of sounds and juxtapose those parts with the whole.

Listen to Dissecting.

Honors in Music Thesis: "Miles of String"

This record is a balancing act: clear melodies and surprising harmonies, twisting words and ringing strums, wiggly synths and acoustic drums. Growing up with a guitar by my side, the instrument became a gateway for music to flow into and out of me. Guitar taught me how to hear, collapsing everything, from folk songs to symphonies, into something I can hold in my head and my hands. It’s also the easiest way for my imagination to talk. I can listen to a song, learn it on guitar, mix the musical moments that scratched at something in me with the sound my radiator makes, or maybe the way it feels to sit by the lake, and then let it all flow back out through the amplifier. This project is a tribute to that practice: noticing a moment, a feeling, a note, a phrase, stitching it together with what I’ve noticed before, and making something that’s both bigger and smaller than its parts. Coming to songwriting as a jazz musician, I’m deeply inspired by the experimental, instrument-centric spirit of the 60s and 70s. I try to bring that playful energy to my music through unexpected choices in both the recording and production processes in balance with more familiar choices. I want listeners to feel both held and pushed; I hope these songs tug at the edges of the sounds you’re used to hearing.

Listen to Miles of String on our 2022 Commencement website.

Honor in Music Thesis: "Tempus Adapto"

Tempus adapto is an album that divides the day into eight parts. However, these eight parts represent anything from a moment to several hours. The common thread between all tracks is that they explore change vs stasis. In the context of the album, change is defined as the disappearance or (re)appearance of light conditions or animal presence. On the other hand, the lack of change is not a complete standstill. It still implies a level of dynamic behavior, but at a such microscopic level that one change is not discernable from the other. In the album, the goal is to compare the two to bring out the disparities in our perception of time. Additionally, this album is meant to be cyclical—as there is no “end” to the day-night cycle in the near-future. This album is to be listened on headphones. What matters is that the listener begins to perceive more and more minute changes in texture, the behavior of specific strands of sound, and start to notice their surroundings more specifically as the album progresses.

Listen to Tempus Adapto on Max Chung's SoundCloud page.

Honors in Music Thesis: "Between the Lines"

Having had the chance to explore more of both music production and my own identity during my time as a university student, Between the Lines is an album showcasing very personal experiences through codified symbolism within the sonic and lyrical content. Informed by ethnomusicology practices, this is a collection of 8 self-produced songs where I talk through my journey with my marginalized identities and wider identifications, playing around with vocalities, metaphor, and non-normative sound to create layers beyond just what is heard on the first listen.

Choose a platform via this link-tree and listen to Between the Lines.

Honors in Music Thesis: “What Happened While I Dreamt”

“What Happened While I Dreamt” is a collection of songs at the intersection of pop music and sound art. An element of each song—whether it be lyrics, a chord progression, or an element of production inspiration—was composed in or inspired by an altered state of consciousness. Each song went through almost 5 stages of development, based on changing taste throughout the two semesters of working on it as well as helpful feedback from my advisor, Kristina Warren. The project was very much an autoethnographic body of work, in that my own habits and process of songwriting were more of a focal point than the end result. Throughout the process I continually urged myself not to consider commercial desirability as a factor in sonic decision-making which allowed for more experimentation and freedom.

My hope is that the listeners of this album may be able to viscerally imagine the feelings and sensations I experienced when creating these songs. I also hope that the listener may even enter a state of consciousness which deviates from their regular state by hearing these tracks.
I believe the best way to conjure up some of the sensations I am trying to sonically capture is by listening to the album with headphones. If possible, I think listening with closed eyes or in darkness will be the most effective way of soaking in the tracks.

Listen to “What Happened While I Dreamt” on our 2021 Commencement website.

Honors in Music Thesis: "Plastic Orchestra"

Plastic Orchestra is an exploration of joy, timbre, collaboration, and active listening. Over the past year, twenty musicians and I have played with the possibilities and limitations of an ensemble made entirely of plastic instruments. Made up of toys, educational tools, found objects, and oddities, the Plastic Orchestra asks; What can an instrument do? What can it not? How does one highlight and celebrate the full spectrum of can to cannot? I am fascinated by the tonality of the wonky, of the emergent tones of plastic harmony. I am interested in what it means to learn how to listen to these objects; to gradually hear the sound itself rather than the novelty or the familiarity of the sound. I have let these strange and beautiful instruments be the guide for how I compose, how the musicians play, and how an audience could listen.

I have written a six-movement piece for the Plastic Orchestra, which was initially supposed to be performed in April 2020. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the premiere has been postponed indefinetly. The sound of the Plastic Orchestra is primary to this project, so I took as many instruments as I could home with me and recorded the second movement to share with everyone. Additionally, in order to preserve what we have learned, and with the hope that someone else might be inspired to write for them, I (along with help from the musicians) have created audio orchestration guides for each instrument in the Plastic Orchestra.

Listen to Plastic Orchestra on Sophia Frohna's bandcamp page.

Honors in Music Thesis: "Exospheres"

Exospheres is a composition for large orchestra, intended for performance by the Brown University Orchestra, in which I have performed on trumpet throughout my time at Brown. I seek to invoke the image of the exosphere, the sparse, uppermost layer of the atmosphere, which floats calmly above hundreds of kilometers of relative chaos. Even though the exosphere itself is largely static, the rest of its environment gives it a slow, but perceivable, dynamism. Exospheres, as the title might suggest, is a piece about extremes in range, timbre, texture, meter, dynamics, and other musical elements relevant to the orchestra’s massive sound palette. It also seeks symmetry and cohesion in places where it may not be easily attainable.

Listen to and watch the world premiere of Exospheres performed by the Brown University Orchestra.