SSME Task 2 – BABY STEPS 1 & 2

After gaining experience in doing baby steps assessments for Composition in Music Education as well as on prac – I think I’ve kind of gained a kind of knack/style for them. I strongly prefer using manuscript and working at an instrument, which I think is reflected clearly in Baby Steps 1 and Baby Steps 2.

If you refer to my reflection on prac here, you’ll see I kind of accidentally did Baby Steps before I knew it was a real thing. I learnt many valuable lessons, including the fact that it’s actually REALLY difficult to write and talk at the same time! I decided to be a little smarter and do a voice recording over the top. SO much easier.

The baby steps I did for mu previous prac was very scripted – which actually, for me, was too restricting. I think dot points are better, and if you can reinforce the main points both visually and speaking, then you’ve really covered your bases.

My drafts:

Baby Steps 1 draft:

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Baby Steps 2 draft:

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So I did the instructed process myself, which really helps refine and cover all the bases needed for the baby steps. Once that draft was done, I simply film myself writing/copying out the result but in a much smoother and efficient manner than on the first go. Then, I do the voiceover and edit in bullet points/title cards as needed. As I’ve attempted in the past, speaking and writing as actually really difficult! Would definitely recommend the voiceover route, I think it sped up the process to take half the time I would say. 

BABY STEPS 1 VIDEO

BABY STEPS 2 VIDEO 

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SSME Task 2 – Baby Steps 3

For the third baby steps activity, I found easy to dive right in, given that I already had quite a lot of pitch material from Baby Steps 1 and 2. I don’t know if this is me being a dumb violinist that tends to only think melodically, but I reflect back on my own HSC composing and the struggles my classmates went through and often found myself being:

  • Much too concerned with pitch and melody
  • Not thinking enough about tone colour, articulation and dynamics
  • Thinking in a very individual, macro, orderly left to right manner

This was all compounded by the fact that we worked a majority of our ‘composition’ lessons in a computer lab, staring at blank pages of Sibelius. I really like to encourage all composing to be done with immediate feedback from authentic sound sources – whether that comes from a DAW or real life musicians.

I found it quite intuitive and freeing to use this aleatoric sort of style of music to go ambient and experimental with my loop tracks. As stated in the video, I didn’t need to spend a lot of time thinking of the specific pitches I would use and could play around a lot more with instrumentation/tone colour, filters, effects, register, ambience etc etc! I’d say this is a pretty fun way to go about composing, plus it ticks all the boxes with the technology stuff.

BABY STEPS 3 VIDEO

All resources for this Baby Steps available here
Includes images, individual exemplar looping track mp3s and ‘Final’ product

ANALYSIS TABLES – Boring? Or Neat?

Worksheets are not the funnest way to go about things, but in terms of analysis, I personally find diagrams and tables a useful way to collate information in a somewhat visual manner. In Year 11 and 12, often we would fill in tables of our analysis – which come exam prep time, was really useful! You don’t have to go searching through your books/notes – it’s already there in the one sheet.

What I did NOT find helpful was the given template’s spacing – often my writing was much TOO crammed in the small, elongated boxes with very little room to write out the analysis or evidence itself. It would be a waste of time to put in the analysis work in but spend ages trying to decipher what the point itself is, or what musical example scribbled in would match.

I have spread the tables out to two sheets, so if printed double sided it is still only one sheet; I have given options for students to be able to write on a stave (especially useful for pitch) but also have left room to draw melodic contours and other visual representations of structure and texture. To encourage information recollection and to accommodate as many learning styles – I would really encourage this table to be printed and then hand written in. It can be used in word, but students may waste time worrying about formatting rather than the content itself.

Hopefully this is a new and improved version that will prove helpful for students!

ANALYSIS TEMPLATE

Making a Listening Guide

I knew I wanted to make something similar to wix-sites I’ve done in the past to give some background and insight into Aurora Eora – however, I’ve known that Wix in the past just takes FOREVER to fix up, especially in that usually you just chuck it to the students and they should be able to navigate it completely themselves. This usually takes a lot more bubble-wrapping and safe-guarding against mishaps of information overload/info lacking sense because they’ve gone ‘out of order’ and clicked on something they can’t make sense of (yet!).

This time I opted for Powerpoint slides as a more grounded, fixed template as well as it does open up the possibility of this resource being used in a more presentation-based setting.

The info was not hard to find although the background on Aleatoricism did take some time to get my head around and collate together in a simple easy-to-understand way. I was pleasantly surprised to learn new knowledge whilst putting this together! I didn’t want too much focus on the aleatoricism background but I felt it was important for students to understand where it comes from, to some degree. As I realised on my last prac – as the teacher, you usually control how far that rabbit hole goes! I didn’t want a whole in-depth dive, just a quick dip in.

Inserting online videos is super handy – bless whoever put that feature in. Hopefully this listening guide/background info resources is helpful and a much more convenient/fun way to go about it more than just score-reading whilst listening.

 

The quest to find a free pdf to xml converter

The need to transcribe parts of a modern composition was a little daunting – with existing centuries old works like Vivaldi and Mozart it’s not hard at all to find existing Musescore arrangements. Typically I would download the xml file from Musescore website and fix it up in Sibelius – you can even import midi files this way and voila you have an editable score.

Converting a pure PDF is a whole other beast. I know of Photoscore – the Con library computers don’t have it, and it’s pretty bloody expensive to buy. Being the cheapskate I am, I investigated if there was some sort of free trial program that would do the job!

I have tried:

  • Using Musescore (program already installed in my own computer)’s inbuilt pdf convertor (in some kind of beta stage of testing) – unsuccessful. They straight up tell you not to try again if it is unsuccessful, and I wasn’t too surprised given the complexity of the Aurora Eora score.
  • Installing Scanscore lite trial – worked to convert the pdf to their program, but have to buy a full version to convert to xml. Again unsuccessful.
  • Installing Photoscore demo trial – one cannot save, save as xml or send to Sibelius or print 😦
    (Although I can envision once you can use it, the send straight to Sibelius option would be really handy!)
    PROS – you can edit within and transpose, and hear playback within the trial – possibly a helpful practice tool for singers who want to test out if a piece works in a certain key for their voice capabilities

Looks like old-fashioned manual input will have to do the job.

 

Tech Project: Presentation of Learning

Showtime!

As part of my presentation, I thought it’d be a fab idea to bring in an actual pipa to pique people’s interests. I’d chatted to Lulu Liu and she was generous enough to lend a personal pipa to even save me from the paperwork that I’d have to fill out if I borrowed one from the Chinese Ensemble! Even though I understand erhu is one of the most accessible Chinese instruments, I figured pipa would be best, as I can actually demonstrate the instrument properly and talk about it in much more detail.

So it’s time to start presenting our stuff – and I’ve done a huge rookie error and forgotten to export the iBook! So as I’m setting up, I realise I’ve put the wrong file on my google drive, and need to go down to the computer labs to fix it all up.

I make another rookie error, as I thought I had to publish the whole thing as a whole official iBook! This took me through a very lengthy and annoying process of having to sign up for an iTunes account, connect my card, and it didn’t even end up working! Because what I needed to do was actually just export/share it. Silly me. Went through a whole lot of trouble that I didn’t need to do! So top tip from me – just export it, no need to actually publish the iBook! Also do that much earlier than I did – I had definitely left it too last minute.

Once it got going, it was fine. Next time, I think I should make sure a smaller pair of earphones are handy, the ones we had were quite high quality but far too clunky. When I got up to do my presentation, it was a shame the sound wasn’t working, because I did really want to share that video from Our Shining Days with everyone – it’s just such a good way in! But it’s ok, I guess everyone could just come watch it at my table instead. I hope I was able to gain interest from my peers and other guests in Chinese music – I honestly love it so much and think both students and teachers could gain a lot from learning Chinese music. It’s music of another culture, but still relatively accessible, and relevant to the ethnicity of a lot of students in our classrooms. Check out some of Connor Malanos’s snaps from the night:

 

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What would I do differently?

I would have definitely organised myself to allow more time for technical difficulties and preparation for the PoL itself – a lot of people seem to come in in the earlier stages of the night, rather than stay later. I personally think more people should have gotten up to present! It was excellent to see my peers’ research projects, and I wish I could have explored them more thoroughly. I also quite liked the ‘snapshot’ method that Kristen and Louise employed, in that they circumvented the fact that people couldn’t necessarily leave their stalls, so they handed out pieces of paper summarising their project plus ways to access it/contact them. I think more of us could have addressed this – for example Gary Watson was asking how he could access these resources – of course there’s James’ website composerhome.com but it would also be nice to have a gateway offered by the creators themselves.

Despite technical difficulties, I had a fabulous time and it was great to see to wonderful ideas and projects my peers had to offer! 10/10, we should do this more often!

 

Final Product:

iBook

Resources [links]

MUED3603: Final Composition Reflection 3

The End is Near

Comp draft 3 – Score and parts

Drawing close to my recording session, I fleshed out the structure, articulation and dynamics enough for someone to make sense of it and play it. The ever lovely Crystal Bai obliged my request for a pianist – and boy oh boy, was it helpful to bring her in!

Although I had fleshed the notation out to much more detail than when I presented by first draft to the class, Crystal brought up many suggestions and questions of phrasing, style and articulation to me. I had specific ideas in my mind, but had not detailed it quite enough on the page. It was good to ask a pianist how they would notate such details (I do play piano but I only ever made it to Grade 6); Crystal also offered options and demonstrated for me to pick and choose from.

I always cannot emphasise enough how important it is to work with musicians on your composition drafts!!! I had always known it since HSC, but this assignment is a timely reminder that Sibelius is only a tool and that the end result always happens with real, living and breathing musicians. Prioritising the violin part (as I’m much more adept at violin than piano) meant that I hadn’t really played the piano part, and when Crystal had a go at it, she had found several note overlaps/crossings. I would have never realised how much articulation and detail was still missing if Crystal hadn’t provided me with her time and expertise – we discussed a great deal on articulation, phrase marks and pedalling in relation to intention, mood and style. Likewise if I hadn’t played the violin part properly like I needed to for my recording, certain bowings, articulations and corrections would have not been put in.

I also did some composing on the fly – when we did a run through, I actually found that I didn’t like the ending as much as I thought I did. We rejigged it a little and ended up scrapping the second-last bar, and then chucking in another vibrato crescendo as the third last bar. Still symmetrical (as intended) but with better flow.

View the annotated  Piano part and Violin Part.

Having recorded the audio and marked up the scores with all sorts of scribbles, I sat down and made it my job to transfer those scribbles into Sibelius. I solved the problem of graphic notation for the ‘vibrato crescendo’ by cropping an image from Google and then inserting it using the ‘Graphic’ tool under ‘Notations’ tab. Easy peasy!

I also  discovered a Sibelius shortcut – pressing the W key lets you open up an individual part (very useful seeing as my version of Sibelius doesn’t actually have a Parts tab). Also with some Googling, the quickest way to extend a slur is to press space bar. You learn new things every day!

Here is the final score and audio. Enjoy!