For my Genesis project, I chose to create a mashup. Here it is:
I think this year has been very successful for me and I think I have greatly improved my composition, theory and playing skills over the course of this year. I am now a more skilled percussion player compared to the beginning of the year and have learned a lot more about ternary and jazz compositions. I also now have a lot more knowledge about several challenging concepts related to theory (e.g. transposition, intervals, 7th chords) compared to the beginning of the year.
Playing Tests (Stella By Starlight & Scales Test):
I think I did a good job playing the Stella By Starlight solo as I played all the notes and rhythms with accuracy and maintained a swing feel throughout the piece. The tempo was appropriate, as I didn’t speed up or slow down during the performance. I also challenged myself by choosing the quickest tempo (120 BPM). I started working on this piece around a month before the test and broke the piece down into smaller chunks to learn how to play it, so my time management skills have improved since the beginning of the year.
For my scales test, I also got positive comments and met most of the criteria. I played all the notes in the scales correctly and didn’t speed up or slow down significantly. I also tried to challenge myself for this test by choosing more “difficult” minor scales with more accidentals.
Compared to my first two playing tests (Shenandoah & Blues Solo), I believe that my playing has improved, especially my tone quality. For my mid-year reflection, I said that I wanted to work on the evenness of my stroke, as sometimes I would hit one mallet with more force than the other. I think I have definitely continued to improve this skill as I think my performance for these two tests was more smooth and even sounding than before.
When compositing my ternary composition, I learned a lot about several concepts related to classical music, such as perfect and imperfect cadences, chords, passing and neighbor tones and more. I think I did a good job making my composition flow well by repeating certain melodic & rhythmic ideas in the two parts. I demonstrated knowledge of musical concepts by adding passing tones, neighbor tones, and cadences. I also added dynamics, especially in the piano accompaniment, and performance directions to make my piece easier to play.
However, I could continue to improve my composition skills in the future. I could look at the shape of my melody, as there were many “smaller waves” rather than a larger wave. I could also work on making my composition easier to play, as for a flutist, there is little space to breathe. I should keep this in mind when working on compositions in the future.
I think I did worse on the end of year theory test compared to the beginning of the year. Although I showed understanding of minor scales, intervals, 7th chords, key signatures and concepts related to classical compositions, I ended up losing several points over careless mistakes. The two main concepts I need to work on next year would be diminished 7th chords (I mixed this up during the test) and transposition. Most of my answers were close to the correct answer, but I’m still unsure of what I’m doing wrong and should continue to work on this in the future. I think I also should have started preparing for this test earlier, as I did most of my preparation the day before the test.
I really enjoyed music class this year and have learned a lot about playing percussion, theory, and compositions! Thank you for everything!
Here is my recording of the Stella By Starlight Solo:
Cossacks (1910-11), by Wassily Kandinsky, oil on canvas
I was inspired by the artwork above when creating my composition and chose to name my piece Rain and Rainbow. I was inspired by the rain and rainbow in the artwork above and wanted Part A to represent the rainbow and Part B to represent the rain. I did this by having both parts convey different emotions. Part A has a happy, uplifting feel to represent a rainbow, while Part B sounds more gloomy to represent rain. This was achieved by composing Part A in a major key and composing Part B in its relative minor key.
Initial feedback from others:
I think I was successful in fulfilling many components of the composition rubric. The four phases of my composition were distinct, but my piece flowed well, as I used passing and neighbor tones to connect the chord tones and added conjunct motion. I also did a relatively good job adding melodic and rhythmic balance in my phrases to make them sound like they’re part of the same song. I repeated certain melodic ideas from the first 4 measures in Part A in the last 4 measures of Part A and did the same for Part B. To connect the A and B sections, I also decided to repeat certain rhythmic sections to make the B section sound more familiar to the listener. However, to make my piece more interesting, I changed the mood of the B section and chose to use the relative minor key. I successfully labeled my chords, A and B sections, and cadences. I had a little difficulty deciding the order of my chords, so I had to spend more time experimenting with different chord arrangements. But in the end, I think I chose my chords appropriately as my piece sounds quite pleasant to the ear.
I used peer feedback from my initial 8 bar composition when completing this assignment. At first, multiple classmates said that I needed to add more performance directions to instruct the players on how to play my piece successfully, so to improve my piece, I added tempo and dynamics markings. After addressing this feedback, I think I was especially successful in my use of dynamics, particularly in the piano accompaniment. The volume of my piano accompaniment is piano so that it wouldn’t be too loud and “cover up” the main melody.
After playing this composition in class, I received more feedback from Mr. O’Toole and my peers about how I could further improve my piece (in the comments below). In the future, I could work on the shape of my melody. For example, when looking at the shape of the second phase of Part A, there are many “smaller waves” rather than one larger arch, which I should try to avoid. I could also add more articulation markings. Also, my piece is playable by a real-life musician on the xylophone, but for the flute, I can make it more playable by adding more space for the flutist to breathe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this unit! I found this assignment a little challenging but learned a lot about the steps of composing a classical melody, which I can apply in the future when creating more compositions!
Here is a recording of Finale playing my solo (I couldn’t figure out how to add a swing feel on Finale).
The first few months this year has been quite successful for me in terms of music class. I think my playing skills, especially on the xylophone, have improved quite a lot since last year, and I have gained more confidence in my playing skills. I have learned a lot about music theory and composition, as I did not know as much about triads, chords, transposition and how to successfully compose a jazz solo last year.
Solo Composition and Playing:
I’m happy with my performance on my playing tests. I got quite a lot of positive feedback on both performances and I think I demonstrated most of the skills required. For the recent playing test, some of my strengths were that I played the notes and rhythm of the piece accurately. I was able to play at the same tempo throughout the entire performance without noticeably speeding up or slowing down. This also reflected the appropriateness of the tempo, as I did not pick a tempo that was too fast or slow for me.
However, there are two things I would like to work on- dynamics and tone quality. I did try to incorporate crescendos and decrescendos in the first 12 measures of the piece, but after that, I mostly played my solo at the same volume. When writing my composition, I did not place much emphasis on dynamics- I focussed more on incorporating the 7-3 resolution and adding chords we had practiced using in class. Next time, I would like to try adding more dynamics to my composition to add more contrast and make it more interesting.
I would also like to focus on my tone quality. I have noticed that when playing on the xylophone, it can sound uneven at times, as I tend to hit one mallet with slightly more force than the other. I tried to focus on this when practicing for the playing test and I have improved my tone quality quite a bit since last year, but I would like to continue practicing hitting both mallets using the same amount of force and I will continue to keep this in mind during future performances.
Next time when I work on a composition, I need to continue to keep the 7-3 resolution and other concepts in mind, as some notes in parts of my composition were not the most appropriate. For example, in the last measure, instead of using the 3rd or 7th note of the chord progression, I chose to end the measure with the 4th note. Although I did a relatively good job with this composition, I still need to keep this in mind.
I think I did relatively well on my theory test, as I got most questions correct related to key signatures, minor scales, intervals, triads/7th chords, and inversion. However, one concept I need to work on would be transposition. I made several mistakes and lost several marks in this section of the test. I think one reason why I didn’t do as well was that I didn’t practice this concept enough on my own before the test. I was still slightly unsure about whether my method of transposition was correct, and I didn’t set enough time to prepare for the test than I could have. Next time, if I am unsure about a subject on the theory test, I will ask my classmates or Mr. O’Toole for clarification before the test, and I will also manage my time so I am adequately prepared for a test, despite other extracurricular commitments or school work.
I look forward to music class in the future and learning more about jazz while playing new pieces of music!