Would it be possible that someone having a working knowledge in these matters (ideally, someone who has much experience being a referee in composition competitions) to give an overview, to a person having next to no technical knowledge in musical theory (but having much technical knowledge in another highly formalized field), and who is not afraid of unfamiliar technicalities (rather would appreciate very technical answers)

how, in modern composition competitions, the referees typically work?

I recognize that probably there isn't anything like 'the typical referee', but it seems to me that there should be thousands of people in the world who routinely have to judge new submissions to composition competitions.

Some more detailed questions:

  1. Is there a usual 'routine' for the refereeing?
  2. What are the criteria for quick rejections of obviously unsuitable entries?
  3. What comes after the very first stage? A plagiarism check perhaps? If so, how is this done in music?
  4. Is there a clear distinction between 'formal correctness' and 'aesthetic evaluation'?
  5. Is there a discussion of the 'plagiarism' and 'formal correctness' parts possibly being automated in the near future?

I do not restrict the question to any named 'style' of music; I understand that there are such competitions within several musical traditions, and would particularly appreciate descriptions of the refereeing practice in several rather unrelated traditions. I also recognize that this question probably reads very naive to anyone professionally involved in this. My profession is another, though it is one where refereeing is part of the professional duties.


This is not a full answer, but it will help you nevertheless. The music university of Vienna holds the "Mauricio Kagel Kompositionswettbewerb" every few years.


In this competation the judges are discussing in public and are recorded. The videos can be found over the same webpage. Watching the discussions gives a good insight how they come to their conclusions. But as far as I remember, the discussions are in German.

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