Composition Journals

Reflection 1:

For my first draft I followed my babysteps to develop some initial material, of which I then took to my tutor to receive feedback upon. A picture of this is below.

Impressionist baby steps

While obviously lacking in some respects (pedalling, dynamic and tempo, it showed my basic compositional ideas. As you can see above, I utilised the whole tone scale pitch set starting on C, and implemented many open 8ve and 5ths. The bottom hand also contains the chordal accompaniment while the top contains fragments of melodic figurations, as outlined in the initial stages of my baby steps.

However, one thing I was struggling with were the chords in the left hand as they needed to span an octave or under in order to be playable simultaneously, however being in the lower register, they also needed to be adequately spaced as to not sound muddy. When showing my progress to my tutor, he suggested I appegiate the chords allowing for a larger range, while also sounding smoother and less sudden. I realised that this also contributed to the sense of rhythmic freedom that I had discussed in my baby steps and hence I implemented this feedback in my later revisions.

Some additional feedback I received included to consider the phrasing and length of the melodic lines, especially in comparison to other major impressionist works.

Reflection 2:

Having received the feedback from my tutor, I decided to refer to a previous impressionist-style composition of mine, of which I modelled my baby steps off of. In reflection, I realised this composition didn’t quite fit the impressionist genre as I had intended, largely due to its fast pace and lack of space. I thought that having not yet submitted this piece for assessment, that it would be worthwhile to return to this piece, modifying it in line with my baby steps and the feedback received. A copy of this initial composition can be found here to document its transformation.

I took melodic fragments and ideas from the first composition, developing them through my baby steps and different compositional devices such as transposition and doubling the rhythmic value, shaping it into my new composition. For instance, I took the chordal motif from the start and extended it for my new composition. This can be seen below. While I largely kept the idea of contrary motion, I reduced the amount of block chords either through appegiation, or through the creation of new melodic lines that were based off of motivic ideas found later in the piece.

impressionistcompositioneditedd_0001

Reflection 3:

I took this new version of my composition to a class seminar so that I could receive peer feedback on the content I had currently created. While some of it I expected (enharmonic equivalents, editing errors, etc.) there were comments on the repetitive nature of the harmonic relationships. While I had considered this when writing, I was yet to consider the impact it had upon the composition. I decided therefore to adjust my composition in line with these comments. As you can see below, I added additional colour to the chords, chosen aurally. I plan to repeat a similar idea throughout on sectional repeats, however these repeats would not be exact repeats but slightly modified. This way the harmonic relationships remain varied and interesting throughout.

impressionistcompositionediteddD_0001

Reflection 4:

In reflection upon the left hand of my composition and the register it sits in, I decided to modify the intervals it plays to predominantly octave intervals. The benefits of this can be seen when looking at the harmonic series, as lower intervals are greatly spaced, and become closer together as they become higher in pitch. This is to avoid a sense of muddiness within the chord, and also encouraged me to further utilise the range of the piano. I supplemented this reduction by adding chordal colour in the right hand where I placed layered appegiated chords, sustained through use of the pedals. This can be seen in the image below.

impressionist chord spread_0003

Reflection 5:

Following on from my third reflection, I modified my repeats of the chordal passage to add slight variations. This can be seen below, comparing bars 1-8 to bars 13-19. As you can see, the bass and tenor line of the chord have been transposed down in the second passage. Additionally, upon reflection I realised that these figures needed more space, particularly art the start, so that each added colour could be properly appreciated. For this reason I extended the left hand octaves at the start of both passages. I feel as though this also adds to the ambiguity of pulse, especially considering where the following entries fall.

impressionistcompositionediteddDdd_0001

Reflection 6:

Following from my previous reflection, I decided to focus on the middle section of the composition. Here I planned for the momentum to increase, however I wanted to simplify aspects of what I had previously written as to contribute to a more impressionist feel (comparisons can be made to draft uploaded in reflection 2). To do this, I simplified the left hand part, reducing the amount of attacks and the octave doubling in the chords. This can be seen below in bars 27-37. Bars 31-34 show a new iteration of the melodic motif, transposed and modified slightly in the contour and rhythm to create a mirroring passage. Without this, I felt the piece progressed to fast, again lacking the space it requires. A full version of this draft can be found here.

impressionistcompositionediteddDdd2_0002

Reflection 7:

It has been a long process, however I am now near the end. I have been working on editing my score, deciding on a suitable layout for heightened playability. There have been many notational decisions that have needed to be made throughout, such as the use or no use of octave higher notation as the music transgresses into the upper register, along with the use of multiple voices towards the start of the piece to notate the spread chords, indicating the continued sustain. While this part of the process is not creatively taxing, it is equally important as it allows for the smooth communication of one’s compositional intent. You can now see the full score completed, shown here.

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Digital Creative Project: An Update P3

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The next video is live! Except I’m having a copyright issue and so it won’t show on youtube… I guess it’s to be expected when I have an example video from a movie. This is something I will definitely need to look into for the future.

Anyway, for now you can still view the video since it is uploaded to my google drive instead. You can see it here.

I also thought it would be a good idea to share the process I took in planning and producing this video. Click here to download/view a pdf of the script I wrote for this video and for the ones following. I plan to finish these and upload them sometime soon in the future.

Anyway, the process for creating this video tutorial was rather similar, using Canva and Sibelius to make any visuals or sections of text, and developing my own model in line with the activity of each video. This hopefully shows students the stepwise nature of the work and reduces their stress in relation to the task.

I didn’t cover it in my previous post but I have decided to shift my Digital Creative Project from an iBook to a video series. This is for a few reasons, firstly tech-compatibility. While the current iBook Author app allows you to create wonderful iBooks free of charge, they are only compatible on Apple’s own products. This is fine in a school where apple products are used, but it means that windows-based schools won’t be able to use my resources. While it definitely would have been nice to create interactive widgets to accompany the videos and associated activities, I decided I would instead focus my energy towards only creating the videos, hopefully increasing their quality.

Anyway, that is all for now, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below.

A Final Reflection

Wow, what a semester this has been. It certainly hasn’t been easy, having our practicum in the middle of it, however it was most definitely enriching. Last Friday evening, I had the pleasure of being involved in my class’ presentation of learning seminar. We each presented what we had accomplished with our negotiated creative projects, which was incredible to see. There was a great amount of variety in the projects presented, from maker-movement instruments which were creative and midi compatible, to a documentary on beatboxing and why it must be included in the classroom. The work of my peers was definitely inspiring, and I really enjoyed seeing the work they had to present.

This course, Technology in Music Education, has been a great eye-opening experience showcasing the future of music education and the wide range of musical experiences and resources that can exist in our classrooms in the present day. While it was only able to skim the surface of a lot of these areas, it has provided me with much food for thought around the many faucets of music education, which I know I will explore in more detail as I progress down my professional path. I particularly enjoyed the game-styled approach to assessment, where students have the opportunity to continually improve their marks if they wish, as I feel that this approach contributes to an environment of self-directed continual learning, where the focus is on the process rather than the product. I know that I will definitely be looking to include this in my future units of work wherever I can have it fit.

I also appreciated the practical skills we gained and the resources we have created over the semester that will be highly useful for us in the future. I now feel far more comfortable navigating a camera and using video editing software which I know are Indispensable skills in this day and age and that I will use greatly during my career.

Digital Creative Project: An Update P2

So the first of the videos are up! I thought now would be a better time than ever to share the process I went through to create these resources.

I first brainstormed the overall progression of the videos, deciding how I was to baby step this compositional process. From here I decided I would make videos for the following topics: Choosing your video, Analysing your video, Defining Structure, Foley techniques, Choosing a pitch set, Building a melody and adding extra layers. I thought that through each of these videos I would be able to differentiate for different skill and stage levels, with the videos getting slightly more advanced as they progressed. I then focused in on the first few videos, devising some scripts and plans for the filming of them. In case you’re interested, you can see some of my preliminary planning below.

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I then went to start filming the videos, in which I considered my setup. I was mindful I wanted a clear background as to not detract from the focus of the video. I set up my camera and had a few test runs before capturing the film I ended up using. After filming, I began to edit in iMovie, of which you can see a screenshot of below. I wanted to create a title overlay for my video, however I didn’t like any of the preset ones, so I decided to see how I could create a more custom finish. After a short bit of youtube research, I realised that I could create an image to overlay my video for a more custom look. I then went to Canva, which I had rarely used before and created some graphics for any text related visuals within my videos. Fortunately Canva is rather simple to use, so it was easy to pick it up. Overall, I was impressed with the outcome I could reach considering I was only using free software.

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Here’s the playlist where you can stay up to date with the videos I’ve posted: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3g0YReDZG39pz56mfEy69YMb0UfYiHvY

From Orff to Mixed Bag – the transition

I’ve recently completed a mixed bag arrangement of Gymnopedies No.1 by Erik Satie, take a look at it here if you are interested: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1LyUwVJrhrwN0ITL658MqznyLRtZW1H0h

In the process of arranging this piece, I was wanting to have it be compatible for use in an Orff run classroom if necessary, simplified into smaller tasks that can be built upon to become the full mixed bag arrangement.

Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1 from his Trois Gymnopedies is a simple yet touching and colourful piece well suited to breaking down into chunks and incorporating into an Orff based classroom arrangement. Starting in the key of G major, we can introduce the first motivic fragments, layering and repeating them to create the first section of the piece. These have been transcribed below, modified slightly where necessary to suit Orff pedagogy (Warner, 1991). Lyrics have been added so that these motivic ideas can be internalised through speech and singing before translation onto the instruments.

Melodic motif:

For a bit of extra french authenticity, Paris should be pronounced Par-ee (sounds better in the phrase too).

Percussive motif(s):

mixed-bag-motifs-percussion.png

When spoken, attention should be directed towards the consonants of the different words, particularly the “st” and the shortness of the “drip”. This imitates how they will be later translated onto instruments, as the the “mist” attack is to be played on a shaken percussion instrument such as a maraca and the “drip” attacks on a percussion instrument with minimal sustain such as claves. This can be further embodied through the use of body percussion, where “mist” is performed with a hand-rubbing action, and “drip” with clicks (Steen, 1992).

Bass motif:

mixed-bag-motifs-unnamed-bass-staff.png

This pitch of this motif has been modified slightly to allow for transitions between different tonalities, however it still maintains a similar function.

The second section transposes to the key of F major, requiring the F# bar to be replaced with the F natural bar, and a Bb bar instead of a B natural. Transitions between sections should be considered, especially considering the shifts in tonality. This can be navigated by having different instruments set up in the different keys, and having each instrument switch between the different motifs in different sections depending upon the key their instrument is in. For instance, whoever plays the melody in section A, would be able to switch to the bassline in section B. However, an alternative approach would include incorporating a small transition between sections, perhaps a few bars in length, where those needing to change the pitches of their instrument are able to do so before continuing in a similar role to before. The mixed bag arrangement has allowed for both of these situations.

The mixed bag arrangement of Gymnopedies provides a contextualised final form of this arrangement, suiting both orff and chromatic instruments. The different roles (melodic, chordal harmonic, percussion, bassline) can be played on instruments of different ranges and transpositions, providing differentiation in difficulty level so that each student is catered for. The simplicity of this piece results in a rewarding end result, where skill and complexity is not a barrier to creating beautiful music.

The simplicity and sense of space created in Gymnopedies No.1 makes it an accessible piece to learn and perform, however it does limit the complexity, particularly in regards to the rhythm of the different layers. For this reason, the percussive motif has also remained very simple, as a more complex figure would ruin the atmosphere created. Use this as a learning experience for students, encouraging them to listen while playing  and perhaps explore through improvisation the notion of “less is more” in composition. While complexity and detail can result in interesting musical output, simplicity can too. A well executed idea, no matter how simple, can be just as impressive (if not more) than one that is complex.

Sources:

Steen, A. (1992). Exploring Orff : a teacher’s guide. Mainz: Schott.

Warner, B. (1991). Orff-Schulwerk : applications for the classroom. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. :          Prentice Hall.

Digital Creative Project: An Update

It’s still early days for my Digital Creative Project, however I thought it was time for an update.  I’ve decided that what is most important to me is that I create resources that I will find useful in my career, and that I know others will too. For this reason I have decided to remain humble in my approach, focusing primarily on the practical implications. I have decided to focus my iBook on composing for film, based around a composition assessment at my practicum school for a stage 4 class. Instead of differentiating for different stage levels, I will baby step the process so that the initial steps reach the basic requirements of the task, while the latter steps/tutorial videos provide extension opportunities for students to explore at their own will. I will focus the teaching resources for this task around a stage 4 setting, however the extension tutorials mean that the videos can also be used in a stage 5 or 6 setting.

At this stage I am aiming to create:

  • Instructional videos baby-stepping the compositional process
  • A model/exemplar composition, worked on in each of the tutorial videos
  • Keyboard widgets for immediate workshopping of the compositional process within the iBook
  • Lesson plans to accompany the videos for integration into the classroom

Through the process of creating these resources I will become more familiar in using video and picture editing software (specifically iMovie and Canva), coding in html5 and using the iBook author app.

I have adjusted my plan in that the teacher’s companion will be set up as a google drive folder containing the additional resources for implementation into the classroom. I consider this a better approach as it allows me to focus my time on developing quality resources, rather than spending my time on frivolous writing about content already covered in the student iBook and teaching resources.

Digital Creative Project: My Decision

I have finally decided upon a technological project of mine, music education related of course, inspired partially by my time on junior secondary prac. I have decided to explore the world of Apple’s iBook Author program and create an iBook to accompany a compositional assessment. The iBook will cover various aspects of the compositional process, differentiated according to the different stage level outcomes. I hope to also create a teacher’s companion to this iBook, including exemplar assessment descriptions, lesson plans and criteria sheets, compared against the syllabus to show how the assignment and its implementation will allow students to demonstrate their achievement of the different outcomes. In the more distant future, I would like to expand this teacher’s companion so that the iBook could be clearly linked with a range of syllabuses and therefore more accessible to classrooms across the globe. Unlike this blog, the iBook will hopefully contain more interactive elements than words, since there’s only so much music we can truely demonstrate through literature.

Anyway, this project is still in it’s early days however I endeavour to keep you updated with my progress, including any research findings, drafts or fun discoveries I encounter along the way. I look forward to sharing more with you, if you have any suggestions in response to anything I’ve written, I’d love to hear from you in the comments sections of my posts.