TOK #1 – Knowledge and Explaining

In what ways might it be reasonable to suggest that people who disagree can both be right?

There are instances where it is reasonable to say that two people who disagree are both right, and others where it is not. It all depends on the different definitions of what is considered “right”.  In regards to topics related to ethics and morals, what is considered “right” depends on the individual’s opinions. For example, with the controversial issue of allowing abortions, some can say it’s morally unacceptable to take away a life while others can argue that the importance lies with granting the female’s right of being able to make decisions over her own body. In debates, each side may be right depending on how you look at it and the morals with which you were raised in.  However, it is not only in cases related to morals/ethics where two disagreeing parties can be right. For example, students in english class can read the same poem and come up with a different interpretation of the author’s intents. The majority of the class could agree with one side, but it cannot be said that the other student was wrong as there is no concrete explanation. If both sides can come up with some sort of logic behind their interpretation, then in this sense it is reasonable to suggest that each are right in their own perspectives, since there is no clear answer.

On the subject of facts and verifiable truths, people who disagree cannot both be right. Areas of knowledge such as mathematics, natural sciences, and history could generally be considered as topics where there is only one correct answer.  For example, solving solutions to a quadratic equation, explaining the processes of the digestive system, or recalling the details of a historical event is all verifiable truths. In those cases, there are model answers.  Of course, there are still some exceptions in these areas of knowledge where people who disagree can both be right, such as disagreements over which approach towards a math question is better. As mentioned before, If each side can present justifiable answers with logical reasoning and then both can also be right.

Service as Action

  1. How did you become more aware of your own strengths and areas for growth?
    Through engaging in a leadership role while teaching children English in Cambodia, I became more aware of my area for growth. Being a relatively shy person, I recognized that I need to step out of my comfort zone more and be able to take on a role that leads others. When teaching a classroom, if there are too many people taking lead at once it would be too chaotic. So we had to take turns leading a classroom full of children individually, which was quite hard for me as it was an unfamiliar experience. A strength that I became more aware of was my ability to analyze and evaluate a scene quickly. In the teaching style at that classroom, everything was very fast paced and loud. You had to keep up an excited demeanor in order to keep the kids interested. This meant that transitions had to be quick from activity to activity, and I feel that I was good at organizing things quickly to switch gears

  2. How did you undertake challenges that developed new skills?
    In Cambodia, other than only teaching the kids we also had to develop lesson plans. Here I learned the skills related to effective teaching, planning, and organization. I also learned basic construction skills: using a nail and hammer, sawing wood, etc. Outiside of CAS, I also performed in a chinese dance act for the 20th anniversary in City Hall. This was challenging when compared to previous performances as we did not get to rehearse on the real stage, so we had to be quick on our feet and think fast about positioning, especially during transitions and formations during the real performance.
  3. How did you discuss, evaluate and plan student-initiated activities?
    As mentioned above, in a small group of around 5 during CAS week, we had to create our own lesson plan without anyone’s help to teach a group of kids in Cambodia English. We had to make sure to include a variety of games that covered all the vocabulary, and ensure that the time frames for each activity were reasonable. Then, we had to carry the action plan out the following day and teach the kids on our own.
  4. How did you persevere in action?
    In Cambodia, we also had to help build a house for a family. It was hard work, as it was manual labor under the sun for a long period of time. Even though I got tired after working for a few hours, I persevered through the physical strain and continued to work hard to build a house for this family.
  5. How did you work collaboratively with others?
    One of the tasks in building the house was weaving the walls with nails and leaves. This work required the help of two people, and a lot of communication was needed in order to secure the nails in the right place (through the wall to the other side, where the partner can see it).It required great teamwork.

  6. How did you develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism, and intercultural understanding?
    Through global engagement, I became more aware of the problems that people in poverty face. Education is not a priority to them, as often parents ask them to work instead of going to school. Obstacles such as clothing fees and transportation stand in the way of good education, and thus a good job in their future. I had a better understanding of the brutal poverty cycle, and how to break it.
  7. How did you consider the ethical implications of your actions?
    Even though we are helping the children in a class, it is not actually helpful because we are simply there for one day. While we may not have made a lasting impact on the children, it gave us an idea of the severity of poverty and hopefully would inspire us to donate or do more service in the future.

MUS – Inspired Composition Reflection

My inspiration for this music composition was a set of images taken in Tokyo city, of various places during different times.

In my composition, I chose to have a form of A – B – C – A, and each image corresponds as the inspiration for each section. Reminiscing on my trip to Japan last summer, I wanted to compose a piece based on Tokyo and the wide range of atmospheres/feelings that can be evoked by the surroundings that change during different points of the day.

Before beginning, I had to choose which time signature, key, and instruments to use. I decided to start the piece at 4/4 time, simply because it was one of the easier time signatures to count/compose for, and I was familiar with it. However, I changed the signature to 3/4 for Section B, which will be discussed later on. With the key signature, I chose a major in E flat as I wasn’t planning on creating any abundantly dark, sad sounds. Instead, I knew that I wanted to choose a key which could evoke warmer emotional qualities. At first, I decided on using 4 instruments: piccolo, violin, oboe, and piano. The piano was chosen as it was a very familiar instrument that I’ve used every time I composed before, and it would serve as the base of the music, providing chords. I thought that the piccolo could only be used in a few bars to provide a contrasting tone, while the violin and oboe would serve as the main melody/ countermelody parts. However, it soon became clear that I bit off more than I could chew, and I had to remove an instrument for the sake of time. I decided to scrap the oboe part so that I could focus on fewer instruments to work on quality rather than quantity. I chose the violin for it’s rich, bright and smooth timbre, with the piccolo so that it’s higher register and clear, delicate and sometimes piercing sound could cut through to create interesting contrast and variation in sound.  The first image depicts a street, dimly lit by the warm glow from store signs, street lights, and lanterns. It shows a part of Tokyo that was taken at dusk, in the transition where the sky is not fully bright nor dark. In my interpretation, I felt that this picture showed a soothing, calm, but almost slightly melancholy mood as it represents the ending of the day. To convey this feeling to the listener, I decided on choosing a relatively slow

Section A relates to the first image, which depicts a street dimly lit by the warm glow from store signs, street lights, and lanterns. It shows a part of Tokyo that was taken at dusk, in the transition where the sky is not fully bright nor dark. In my interpretation, I felt that this picture showed a soothing, calm, but almost slightly melancholy mood as it represents the ending of a day. To convey these feelings to the listener, I decided on setting a relatively slow tempo and did not include complex melodies. The melody was given to the piccolo because it’s sweet and graceful qualities, while the violin provided counter melodies. For the chords, I decided to follow the circle of fifths progression but modified it slightly as I continued the process of writing the melody, and had to change the chords in order to adapt to it. In the A section itself, there are two parts to it, distinguished by the use of a ritardando and a perfect cadence near the end of the first part.  After coming up with the melody, I felt that the start was somewhat abrupt and it felt like the listener was being thrown into this somber melody, and came up with a two bar introductory phase with the violin. I particularly liked the use of descending tuplets at the last few bars, which really helped to enforce the idea of the day coming to a gradual close, emphasized as well by the diminuendo. I made sure to end this on an interrupted cadence, creating anticipation and signifying that there is more to come after.

In Section B, the scene changes to that of the vibrant nightlife found in Tokyo. With the bright neon lights from skyscrapers, malls, and busy traffic this shows a city that does not sleep. It’s memorizing, hypnotic, and creates an almost ecstatic sort of feeling that makes you feel as if you could accomplish anything. Choosing a fast tempo was an easy decision, and I decided to use the violin for the melody to create a dramatic, rich sound that could show an inspiring energy reminiscent of the scene in Tokyo. into sound. In distinction to the previous section, I chose to create a thicker texture. The use of a broken chord pattern on the piano helped to achieve that, layered with a counter melody by the piccolo and supporting notes from the right hand of the piano.With the chords, I chose to use a descending 5-6 progression. This section would serve as the climax in the overall composition, as it would be the section with the quickest tempo and loudest dynamics.

For Section C, the inspiration came from a picture of an alley lined with shops taken in the same city at the same time as the previous photo, but in a quieter area. I chose this photo as I thought it showed a different take on Tokyo and allowed the viewers to see that there are many different sides to the city, it is not only the lively nightlife it’s known for but there is also a tranquil, calm and quiet side. This section only consisted of 6 bars, which can be representative of how it’s the peaceful little shops are a rarer sight to see in Tokyo, more hidden and unknown. In contrast from the previous section, the tempo was chosen to change back to Moderato, and again the piccolo was chosen for the main melody because of its delicate and graceful sound.

The whole process took longer than I expected, and I reached several difficulties along the way. In the beginning, inspiration was hard to come across and I wasted a lot of time coming up then scrapping old melodic ideas. While I had an understanding of the overall atmosphere and feelings that I wanted to express, it was hard to put those ideas into notes. I decided to first choose the chords, then create a rough melody with the mindset of just starting first. With the chords, I decided to follow progressions we learned in class so that the choices wouldn’t be random and instead have some sort of pattern. After a rough idea was created, I could then add additional details such as slurs, ties, articulation markings, ornaments, and more. Along the way I would constantly change the tempo and dynamic markings, so that I could create the melody in consideration of those qualities.

Sarah listened to my composition a few times throughout my process in completing it and provided feedback along the way. Often she would help point out a note that sounded out of place or clashed with another note, and this allowed me to identify which parts needed correcting. A lot of feedback was given from Mr. Dacho, who helped to remind me that not all parts have to be playing all the time. I was too set on the idea that the composition couldn’t look too empty, that every instrument had to be playing something at all time. However, he helped to remind me that in choosing to take a few bars or even a whole section off for an instrument, it creates diversity in the sounds and allows the listener’s ears to take a break. To make it more realistic or easier for the piano player to follow, with the piano chords I could adjust the inversion so that the notes would be closer to each other, and it wouldn’t be awkward to play. Lastly, he reminded me that while I included triads for the violin part, only some notes are able to be played at the same time on the violin, which I didn’t think about as I’m not a violin player.

If I could continue to work on this composition, I would make sure to create a better transition from each section. Currently, it sounds quite blocky and although I think that each section matches each image well, the connection between each one seems abrupt and awkward. Perhaps I could add a few bars of transitioning melody to make the change smoother.

DES – Interconnected Documentary Reflection


Migration – The Journey to Hong Kong from Nicole Chau on Vimeo.

To what extent has the film raised the target audiences knowledge and understanding of how the theme/event influenced the central characters?
The film focuses on three individuals and tells their stories of forced migration to Hong Kong as a result of a conflict in their home country, and in doing so raises our target audience’s (upper school students) knowledge and understanding on this topic. Our film also includes historical context and information on World War II (with a focus on China and impact on Malaysia) as well as the Sino-Japanese War (with a focus on Hainan Island) while including a balance of perspectives. After showing excerpts of interviews with these three individuals, in the conclusion of the documentary there is an explanation of the connection between them and how their experiences are linked as a result of undergoing the same event of migration.
From the survey results of our classmates, a large majority agreed that the narration was effective in explaining historical events and creating clear links between the three individuals and their experiences with migration. Many also understood that conflicts lead to other impacts on the citizens, causing many to choose migration to HK while encountering many hardships in the way. As such, I would say that our film has been successful in raising the target audience’s knowledge and understanding on the topic of forced migration to HK as a result of conflicts from mainly the interviews of three central characters and use of narration.

MUS – March Reflection

1.  Explain how you believe you are progressing on your instrument so far this year.
I believe that I’ve been progressing steadily with my technical skills on the flute as I continue to play more advanced pieces in class, lessons, and symphonic winds. With playing from the Standard of Excellence books during music class, I’ve become much more familiar with all of the scales, with significant improvement on the major and harmonic minor scales with the most flats/sharps. This will mean that I’ll be more successful in playing pieces, as I’ll be faster at adapting to the different key signatures. Through playing challenging pieces outside of class and in symphonic winds, I’ve been challenged in my skill on the flute constantly throughout the year. As such, I’ve become more experienced in dealing with different time signatures, styles, genres, and more.

2.  Explain specifically what you are currently doing to improve your level of skill.
Currently, I’ve been looking for alternate fingerings for the flute and trying to get used to using them. Alternate fingerings can be very useful when improving trickier runs, and are also necessary for executing some trills. Being able to successfully  incorporate alternate fingerings into my performances will be able to make a difference to my note accuracy when playing. As I’ve identified that one of my key weaknesses is breathing which has been a problem ever since I started playing the flute, throughout the year I’ve been continuing to make observations on my breathing techniques in an effort to improve.  In particular, I’ve been making sure that as I breaths from my diaphragm, my rib cage expands, which ensures that I’m breathing from my core. A simple exercise that would also help target this problem would be to hold long notes, and while this will help to expand my lungs more, it will also work on tone quality at the same time.

3.  How often do you practice?
I play the flute two-three times a week in class, and have weekly lessons that last for around 1 and a half hours. Outside of classes, I practice on average for around twice a week, however the amount I practice greatly fluctuates depending on the situation. For example, if the week was academically demanding, I would reduce my practice time. However, if I have an upcoming performance, in the week leading up to it I would practice almost every day.

4.  Which of these are you most successful at: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing?  Anything else?
I would say that I’m most successful at articulation and dynamics. After enough practice, I’m able to clearly show the difference between playing notes with legato or staccato, and am also consistent in using tonguing when required. While this is much more difficult with fast paced songs, I feel that I am able to continue to have good articulation.  With dynamics, I think that I have a fairly good range of volume in both low and high registers. Specifically, I’ve improved a lot on following crescendo and decrescendo markings, and practiced on maintaining a consistent tone, to not go sharp/flat when changing dynamics.
5. Which of these are you the least successful: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing?  Anything else?
As mentioned before, I would say that I’m least successful in breathing/phrasing. While my first breath can have proper techniques, I begin to get tired very quickly and end up taking shallower breaths, which means more closely spaced breaths as the song progresses. This means that when I start a song I could play say 8 bars, but by the time I get to the middle I can only play 4 bars before taking another breath. In relation to phrasing, without tempo markings I forget quite a lot to go louder when the notes go higher in range and softer when the notes are descending. I would also say that I’m not successful in rhythm accuracy, in the sense that I can’t sight read a piece and grasp complex rhythms without first hearing it being played.

6.  What can you do to improve as a musician?
As a musician in the context of a band, I think that I should improve on being able to pay attention to those who’s playing around me. Instead of only focusing on my own part and playing as if I’m doing a solo, I should be able to adapt and adjust my playing (ex. volume) according to the circumstances of the band. For example, if the flute section is already quite big, then I’ll pay particular attention to not play as loud as I would normally in order to make sure our section doesn’t drown out what other instruments are playing.

7. Discuss how other musicians have inspired you to be more successful (consider musician in your class and/or in the school and/or outside of school).
Mainly, I would say that my classmates and teachers inspire me to be a more successful musician. Seeing improvements in hard working musicians in classes inspires me to practice more as well, to strive for improvement.  With my piano, flute, and class teacher, seeing the dedication of them really wanting to teach and help us become better inspires me to become more successful and meet their expectations. Often, my flute lessons go overtime and I am grateful that they are committed and willing to spend more time on trying to help their students. This gives me more motivation to work harder and really pay attention to what they say.

DES: Setting up SMART Goals

S – My goal is to write improved personal task descriptions and time estimates for time management in Criteria C  (note C1.0). The 7 main tasks should be listed in logical order, detailed, and all inclusive, while also including realistic time estimates. I came up with this goal after looking at my grades from last term, and seeing that the only low mark that stood out was from Criteria C. However, because the comments were vague and not detailed about what I could have improved on, I can only make an inference and self-reflect on what area I could have done better in.

M – As an indicator of progress, I will compare and get constructive criticism from my peers, especially those in my group. As we will be in different roles, while the specific tasks will be different I can still compare how well I did by looking at what they have accomplished.

A – I will complete this goal by myself, and receive feedback from peers in my group.

R – In achieving my goal, I should be able to come up with a list of the key tasks that I will have to complete, and in doing so be able to improve on my time management to help successfully produce a film.

T – As we will be working on Criteria C beginning on February 21, this goal should be accomplished by that week in order to plan out my work for the rest of the creation process.