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Music End of Year Final Reflection

by Harrison Wou on May 18, 2016

With discontentedness and disappointment, the past several classes were spent on our final exams of the year which, in my opinion, I could have done way better.

For the start of our exam, was the five minor scales that we had to play. Overall for the scales, I had two mistakes regarding note accuracy. First on the C melodic minor (played the E instead of Eb) and the second being on the chromatic scale (three octaves) starting from the lowest E on the Bb clarinet (up to the altissimo E). The highest E was out of tune make it sound like an Eb instead. Therefore slowing my tempo down  and tone quality as I had to play it again with more breath giving the tone its fluctuation. In other words, the intonation was off. In addition, the tempo was also off at times (by being either too fast or too slow) as I was unfamiliar with playing it at a medium tempo. Articulation precision plus its connectedness were adequate as I had the played scales legato tongued and breathed tongued  on notes above the high G. In objective to improve, in my opinion, I could practise with a metronome and stop fiddling with improvisation on the scale. This is because of the fact that when I practise a scale, what happens is that I somehow get inspiration that carries me into chord change that eventually delves away from the original scale that was aimed to be practise. In other words, I would always put different rhythms and licks to the scale and hence get very very distracted. All being said, in the future I would try my best to stop this temptation and focus on solely scales as it gave me detrimental consequences evident from that day.

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As for my playing test, it was completely disastrous. I lacked on aspects such as dynamics, tempo appropriateness and rhythm accuracy. The disaster snow balled right from the start. Basically, I commenced with me playing slightly out of time and therefore held a grudge on myself through the entire piece (even until now). Because I wanted to restart (which I was not allowed) and to end the piece as soon as possible, I rushed through the piece in an unacceptable manner. Eventually, I was so disappointed in myself that I rushed and ending one whole bar early. With my love of jazz, I did not even do the extra cadenza in the end as all I simply want was to leave the exam premises. Furthermore, because I was rushing I also ignored the dynamics written on score. On the other hand, my note accuracy, intonation, and connection was acceptable, as I played the notes and Ligons played were accurate. In addition notes were also played in tune and problem with intonation were not to be founded. In conclusion, for the playing test, I believe my performance was terrible and that it was good lesson for me to practise more especially with the audio and to start the piece in a calm manner when being assessed.

Regarding to the theory test, I believe it was as poorly done this was due to the fact that the execution of what I know in my brain was limitedly exercised. Personally I did not like the time limit that was given to me as I had a lot of double checking to do after each question. For example, whether the scale was written accordingly to the accidental and whether there is a certain note in a key signature. Specifically suppose, a the question was to find an augmented 4th above C#, I had to count the sharps in C# maj and see if there is if the subdominant is a F or F# Because of processes like this, I had to make sure for a variety times that I was accurate and did not make careless errors such as by writing one less sharp.  In conclusion I reckon I should have practised more to boost up my speed but on the other hand, I would humbly suggest that it is an inaccurate representation of my knowledge and understanding that I have towards the topics in the test stored inside me.

Over the course of this academic year,  in music class, I believe I have developed to play with more discipline in class (to not play/ to not make any noise when the teacher is taking) and to drill more on the basics such as going through the circle of fourths in a plain way which is just to play major scales going up and down with a metronome. Theory was also another aspect that was reenforced upon me as my theory exams were completed one and a half year ago.



As for my IB learner profile, I developed more as a IB learner in three ways. In my opinion, I grew by being a more reflective, well- balanced, and a knowledgable musician (open my mind). Firstly, I believe  am now more well- balanced as we focused on different aspects of music ranging from instrumental playing, theory, music history and ear-training. In Mr. O’toole’s class this year, I acquired a more diverse understanding of music as a whole not just instrument playing. Moreover, from the reflections and feedback given by our Mr. O’toole, my peers, and Artist in Residents (Mr. Scott Titaiko) for the jazz unit, I believe my reflectiveness has  immensely improved because throughout the course of the year I have bee taking feedback in consideration aiming make things better, especially for the composition unit. Finally, my knowledge in music has also flourished through the course of grade 9 as my knowledge of the basics are now more strong and in depth. These things include aspects such as the rules for composing a song. As previously, my composition method was to just use the inspiration that would pop in my head. However, with Mr. O’toole’s approach of looking at composition with rules such as fixed chords, the use of passing tones, and 7-3 resolution, got me to look at composition in a different dimension and thinking  about atonal music and how composers of that style composes.

Other than taking exams on instruments and theory outside of  school, by participating in Mr. O’toole’s class and by joining Symphonic Winds (school band) this year really topped my knowledge of music to a greater extent. Though not the best results, this year was a rewarding experience for me indeed as it splashed me with a wake up call and to remind about the aspects I’d need to focus on during the summer. To me, this is especially as true as I my dream is to first study DP HL music and then hopefully progress to Berklee majoring in jazz performance. I know this may not be an easy route, but for it, I have promised myself to try my best.


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Ternary Composition Final

by Harrison Wou on March 23, 2016


Score: harrisonworksfinalnp (1)


First audio: Piano version

Second audio: Layered Version

There was adequate melodic and rhythmic balance between phrases because I used varied phrases. However, I implemented some repetition and a mixture of conjuct plus disjunct motion, aiming for the piece to flow and connect better. Connection of section A and section B was smooth and this was completed by repeating different rhythmic phrases, and using the identical melodic contour. Performance directions such as slurs, staccatos, dynamics and tempo markings were also added.  However, the transitions between the sections can be be smoother as the piano part had a drastic change.

I made changes to mainly section B after comments were given to me . A number of people said that the draft section B didn’t sound coherent compared with the A section, hence suggesting that I try the relative minor key instead of the dominant key. But I did not really agree with that as it was only a draft and that I have not yet put my inspirations on paper yet.

I believe I could make the melody  simply more ear-catching because I feel as though sometimes the phrases were too similar as the key change is just to its dominant and not its relative minor.  Perhaps I could have varied the second section A more so it wouldn’t sound so similar. I also need to modify my transitions between the two sections, specifically the first transition between A and B I wasn’t too proud of this transition as it didn’t flow very well. I could try to transition with more chord tones next time. I also realise that some of the chords didn’t harmonise the melody appropriately. That being said, I should have put more caution regarding the chords I was selecting to go with the melodic line.

At the start of the unit, due to the lack of inspiration, I had trouble in terms of composing a good melody as I didn’t really know how the chords could fit together to create a melody that was musically engaging. However, after developing my melody more and more (through the 8 bar melody), I’ve become a lot more comfortable with composition and also found the process easier as I had more phrases to develop my melody off of.

In terms of composition, practised a variety of concepts that were new to me this unit, these include passing/neighbour tones, and became more familiar with the chords and cadences. This will be convenient a and useful for future use when composing ( similar concepts were utilised in the jazz composition). By becoming more familiar with chords and cadences, I will also grasp a deeper knowledge regarding theory as it also helps with analyzation of score and music in general.  Composing for the piano taught me that different instruments  can be played accompanied by each other in the same piece of music, and the way the individual parts can come as one to form something eye-opening.

I believe documenting the  track of my progress with the use of my PJ was useful because it allowed me to keep track of things that I was successful at and also possible improvements. For example, while developing my ternary composition, I was able to refer back to the comments I received for the 8 bar melody and use those as ways of improving my composition.

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Final Jazz Solo

by Harrison Wou on March 14, 2016

Score: imnotspeakingmusic

P.S This timbre is an attempt to imitate a fusion jazz and classical sound. .

Recorded audio play-back with live clarinet.

To be honest, I did not start this solo until the very last minute, this was due to a complete lack of inspiration in class. I was actually just watching random sport videos; listening to Miles Davis and Eddy Daniels playing, and for that…sorry mum! Basically it was when I was walking home from a clarinet lesson at night, panicking about my science test the next day (not to mention my lack of practise that night on it all). As I had the chord changes memorised, I immediately sat down in front of my keyboard the first thing I got home, punching the motif and melodic line down on the keys with some simple accompaniment. Approximately 45 mins later, the motif was finalised, and that was when I decided to start rolling with finale for the first 16 bars.

im not speaking music inspired by Stella by Starlight is written for the clarinet with a jazz ballad – styled piano accompaniment mainly utilising broken chords. It also has a syncopated drum beat as the song’s backtrack. This solo followed all instructed guide-tones, while remembering the importance of dynamics and articulation. Finally, chords were also labeled clearly, as it was a prerequisite.

When I was working on this piece at class, I solicited  a number of people for feedback. These people include students, Mr. O’toole, and our school’s Artist in Residence- Mr. Taitoko, I made a few changes here and there.

Firstly, because my piece was based of an idea in my head which floated across my mind, to make sure I don’t loose it I just quickly punched the notes down on the piano then in Finale.  That being said, I had some parts that I accidentally neglected, like having guide-tones in required bars and the half/whole tone rule. Here was when I consulted Mr. Taitoko for advise, in bar 12, I originally wanted to the 9th and suspend that part of the piece as it was to describe me being lost in a science test. At last, I had to flat the 9th making it a move a whole step instead due to the class criterion. As mentioned, I asked Mr. Taitoko for his advise and he shifted a few notes on bar 11. This taught me a lesson that not everything goes my way and that the concept of music is a language does not apply when there are so many constraints. Therefore, instead of using my ideas to guide my music, I used music to control my ideas. I trained myself into a new way of composition. Starting from that bar, I had to change the rest of the   song as it wouldn’t match and be coherent with the new bar 12. This was when I had to interpret the bar in a fictional manner, as if I were writing narrative story, I had to intentionally think of something for it to fit in.

Nicole has also said to add better articulation which I agree upon, as I have acted up to her suggestion accordingly. She suggested that the 16th notes like in bar 9 sounds choppy, and that I should make them link. Consequently, I have made edits to the overall articulation and phrasing of the piece. I did this by connecting notes with each other utilising slurs and accents. I have also put less abrupt dynamics to make the piece sound less atonal and bepop-feel as that was the case without articulation and phrasing.

Another classmate of mine also suggested me to use a larger variety of note values, which was why I have range from 16th notes to whole notes and to mix up the rhythms a bit. However, having only minor modifications to the melodic line, I did not want to change it a lot  anymore. Hence, having a range of accompaniment techniques used to substitute for the rather boring rhythm of the melody.

Lastly, another challenge I faced was whether it was deciding whether it was playable. For areas like the last bar, I wanted to give a disjunct motion before the end following by a harmonic minor glissando from C to A then back to the clarinet register (middle register) of B for that last fading B trill. But I figured that I would not be so possible as one would find it very difficult to adjust his embouchure and fingers that quickly.

I completely rejected the idea of  using swing (even slow swing) as this is a slow ballad and not something “waltzy” or “bepop-styled”. And I think this was a good choice,  as a Ballad requires more “maturity “from players/composers compared with other forms of jazz. This is because it requires good spacing and phrasing. On the last A part, I played with an attitude where I laid back and felt relax, emphasising the peaceful atmosphere of the solo. In addition, I was also reflectively sensitive to what I was composing/ playing, ensuring that it is not to wild. I also did not bend notes and added appropriate ornaments to show its intended style. Because many Ballads are even and calm, I think I can allow the eighth notes to flow more seamlessly through various subdivisions, this was difficult as I had to add digital patterns and runs throughout the piece, linking back to the constraints.

Overall, this jazz solo composition assignment was indeed a rewarding experience, as I got shared knowledge  from people  ranging from students to teacher to professional. Though I learnt things like the 7 3 resolution, ligon, and digital patterns from books and online jazz courses, it was very cool to hear it come from another expert’s mouth. I especially enjoyed the part of the lesson  when he demonstrated how he would elaborate if he were to improvise.

Here is a video I find very worth of your time; music is a language, enjoy!: link

Word Count: 988


Stella Starlight DRAFT 1

by Harrison Wou on March 14, 2016

I know it is horrible now. Please give comments for the FIRST 16 BARS. Thank you, hope your ears don’t bleed 🙁




24 bar composition draft

by Harrison Wou on February 23, 2016

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Piano version:


8 bar compo final

by Harrison Wou on February 4, 2016

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8 bar composition draft

by Harrison Wou on January 27, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.02.05 pmThis is a draft. Enjoy 🙂


Melodic Decoration

by Harrison Wou on January 15, 2016



Chords and Cadences – Worksheet

by Harrison Wou on January 12, 2016

The file is a PDF, so click the link below to see the corrected worksheet.

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Reflection: Design Day

by Harrison Wou on November 4, 2015


Today in design we got introduced to the new design project, which is to create a series of digitally made panels regarding the historical novel, Empire of the Sun. Throughout the day, I have explored a variety set of skills. Throughout criterion A, my peers and I came up with some things we wanted to know, and the things we already know (refer to the mind-map above). Overall, my progress went pretty well,  and today really gave my design journey a boost.

During today’s session, we also got introduced the basics of Adobe Illustrator as shown below. I was very proud of my progress and was impressed with the newly introduced programme.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.39.33 pmBy looking at it so far, this projects appears be interesting.

The above exercise wasn’t perfect and I did take a fair amount of time to complete this, but with more practise, I believe I will improve over time. But I think design day was a good start. Graphic novel conventions I explored through the book American Born Chinese can assist me on my own graphic novel panels.