Composition & Experimental Sound Practices (BFA & MFA)

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 (BFA)

Via the portfolio section of the CalArts Application, you are invited to submit a portfolio containing a minimum of three compositions. 

Your portfolio should:

  • Have a total maximum combined length of 20 minutes (excerpts are fine). 

  • Have at least one vocal and/or instrumental work that has a conventionally notated score. Please note that live performances of instrumental or vocal music are much preferred over midi realizations. 

  • Demonstrate familiarity with contemporary compositional idioms. 

Please number your examples beginning with what you consider to be your strongest ones—reviewers will examine them in the order that you indicate. Please label each example including: title, composer (if other than yourself), names of other participants (if applicable), and describe your process for creating the original works included in your portfolio. This should be included as a separate PDF document. You may link to media hosted on external websites, but please ensure that reviewers will have permission to view this media. 

The program is known for its commitment to experimental and avant-garde directions in music, so it is recommended that you lead your portfolio with your most adventurous music.

While they are not necessary for the application to the BFA in the Composition/Experimental Sound Practices program, examples of songwriting, electronic dance music (or other electronica), film music or jazz composition may be included, but should be submitted following the three compositions referred to above (i.e., as extra examples of your music). 

Please provide credits for all (audio and/or video) recordings.


The Composition & Experimental Sound Practices BFA program does not hold required auditions or virtual interviews. Instead, if needed by our faculty, we will contact you about scheduling a virtual interview.

Portfolio Guidelines (MFA)

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 skill sets 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.

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!

  • 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?


The Composition & Experimental Sound Practices MFA program does not hold required auditions or virtual interviews. Instead, if needed by our faculty, we will contact you about scheduling a virtual interview.