Music Composition Progress Update #1

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At this point in the creation of my composition, I have created a skeleton for my piece as a whole. What this means is that I have a chord progression set that I hope to continue throughout most of the song. What my ideal plan would be is to have modulations of the same progression throughout the piece as well as build upon so that the progression becomes very multi layered and not too repetitive. At this point I have also just started building the melody and even though I don’t have much as of yet in terms of solid phrases or motifs, I think that I am starting to be able to envision what I would like.

Even though I do not have much yet at this point, I am still able to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses and I have additionally received some peer feedback on the initial progression. I like the progression that I have built already – which is a good thing as I plan to build an entire piece around it – and I think it allows me to have a lot of free reign over what I can create. What I don’t want to happen is for the progression to just be the centrepiece of the song and be too repetitive. A peer commented on the progression and initial melody that it very effectively establishes a mood straight away.

History Documentary Reflection

Here is my group’s finished history documentary! In this film, we explore the political, economical, and social impacts of refugees from the Chinese Civil War on Hong Kong in the 1950s.

For this project, I was the film editor and I also wrote and recorded the music used throughout the background of the film. This really involved sitting over a computer screen for a considerable amount of time juggling around different audio files and footage. The film was edited in iMovie and unlike my group members, my job started quite late into the process. Though I helped both the director and videographer in my group, the real work came after everything was planned and filmed. At that point then I had an empty iMovie project and more footage than I would be able to fit in the film as a whole. Throughout the process of editing, I learnt about many new features and ways of editing a film that I previously had not known how to do or understand before. This included features such as speed editing, green screen, and audio effects. With both the research I did into editing, as well as the experience I gained from editing this film, I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for film editing as it requires a lot of skills and both creative and technical ability. I had to be able to create a logical narrative for the film with the amount of footage that we had and also had to somewhat relate it to the script that we as a group had written. There were a lot of times when the directors plan called for footage and things that we didn’t have in the end, so I had to take some creative liberties and find the best way to present the group’s vision. Some other changes that happened to the group’s first plan was that originally we had decided to have more or a storytelling narrative but as we progressed in editing and tweaking everything, the tone and mood of our film transformed into something much more reflective. We also included more historical footage than originally planned as we found it really helped audiences understand the scenes and times more.

Overall, creating with the group and editing this documentary had been a great experience and has helped me understand both Hong Kong’s history as well as documentaries and filmmaking. I hope to be able to use the skills I gained in this project in future filmmaking endeavours as I believe this will lead to more successful and professional looking films.

Line 120 Reflection

How do you think you did with your performance assessment? Did you perform as well as you thought you would, or not?

The performance assessment was on line 120 from our book: the well known Swan Lake theme. Overall I think I did quite well with the performance assessment of Swan Lake but sadly I don’t think I performed as well as I had hoped. I do believe I went in and did better than previous performances however. I felt more confident in my practicing and my ability this time performing but I still believe overall there is a lot that I could continue to work in terms of musical elements and ability.

If you performed worse than you expected, explain why. If you performed better than you expected, explain why.

I think I performed worse than expected despite being more comfortable with my performance this time around. The main reason behind this was my nerves I believe. In the morning before I performed I was feeling quite good in terms of my sound and playing ability but as soon as I started playing by myself in the test I think I froze up a bit. I’ve had this problem before so I expected it but it is still irritating and hindering to my performance. When playing flute, I am very used to playing in an ensemble such as in class or within band in school. It is not as common for me to be playing by myself within school or directly in front of teachers or examiners by myself. The nerves issue itself is quite frustrating to me, especially since I know I can play better. There are some ways I believe I can improve in this aspect of performance and that includes being more confident with my overall flute playing ability. I have faced the same stage fright issue in other topics and classes such as dance or drama and I have found the best way to improve on my confidence is to actually have confidence in myself. I would need to take time to become more comfortable with my playing and musical ability as a whole to get better at performing. Another way I could improve upon the issue to not focus on the assessment at task as much and more to lose myself in the music. I have actually found this tactic to be helpful in flute exams as when you have studied one piece of music for many months you could play it blindfolded and thus I found if you focused on enjoying your own music in the exam instead of focusing on the actual examiner and your nerves, you would feel more comfortable playing and thus be able to ‘perform’ more.

Explain your rehearsal process.

My rehearsal process always begins with a warm-up every single time. A typical warm-up for my flute playing (if I had enough time) would include slowly going up in long tones from my lowest note to my highest possible notes on the flute and then playing slurred fifths and scales, going up in key signatures. Once I have enough warm air in my flute and I am in tune I will often play scales and such in the key signature of the piece I am focusing on so I can get into the mind-set of those notes in the key signature. Then usually I will start playing the piece. The first few times I ever rehearse a piece, I play it through all the way to the best extent of my ability so I can see the areas I need to work on. After that I work through each part of the piece bit by bit until I can piece all the parts together. The first aspect I focus on at these points are note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, and breathing and once I have reached success in those areas I begin to focus more on my overall tone, dynamics, and performance aspects such as putting emotion or movement into the piece. In subsequent rehearsals if I don’t have enough time to go through all of this I will simply practice the piece a few times, improving upon aspects each time.

Which of the following was the most successful: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing? Explain why.

I believe my most successful aspect in my performance that is listed above was rhythm accuracy. I am usually very good at keeping notes at an even pace and following along to a consistent beat and I believe in this performance, despite some mistakes, I managed to continue and stay on track and on correct beats and rhythms for a majority of the piece. When performing I usually try to keep a consistent tempo in my head and sometimes I find it helps to tap my foot or tense a calf muscle to this beat to act as a body tempo. If I find this difficult to do standing up, I usually find that the tempo inside my head is quite consistent and accurate.

Which of the following was the least successful: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing? Explain why.

I believe that I could work more on my breathing/phrasing from my performance earlier. During the performance there were moments during the long slurs when I felt out of breath and I took some breaths in bad places in the middle of a phrase simply because I needed to breath. I think some of my weakness in this area during my performance can be attributed to my nerves as stated earlier as when I get nervous I find it harder to control my breathing and support. Perhaps I can find ways to work on my breathing in connection to confidence whilst performing. I think my phrasing could be improved in general as well due to my phrasing for the second half of the piece being less clear.

How can you specifically (not musicians in general) improve your level of skill in a realistic manner?

As said earlier, I believe the biggest area of improvement for my performing is the control of my nerves during performances. I think it is quite difficult to find realistic ways to improve this but I believe it is something that can be gradually improved on. The most realistic way of improving on it that I could think of would be to actually find more opportunities to perform. An explanation behind this was that I used to be terrified of performing in drama despite loving theatre and acting. I found however, that after the years that as I performed in more shows and classes, that this year during drama class and in the musicals and plays I have been in, I have been able to go on stage with little to no nerves now. I attribute this to finding more chances to perform and thus becoming more comfortable with myself as an actor which I believe is the same thing that I need to do for playing the flute.

Discuss how another musician has inspired you to be more successful (this could be someone in school out in the community, or can be someone who doesn’t even play the same instrument as you).

I believe someone that has inspired me to be more successful has been my flute teacher outside of school. I’ve been taking lessons with her for three years now so she has seen my growth as a flautist and has always been there as not only a teacher but a constant source of feedback and inspiration. Now that she knows me quite well she has always found ways to help and encourage me with my performance in flute and with many other things outside of music in general. She has given me some of the best flute tips and lessons I’ve ever learnt but even more than that she has always been supportive, even when I faced failure and disappointments with flute performance so she has always been someone who has inspired me to be more successful.

An interview with my dad for a project in Chinese class. 我的爸爸的暑期工经验。

The Questions (in both Chinese and English)

What was your summer job? 在你小的时候有什么暑期工?

Could you describe your summer job? 在你的暑期工你做什么?

What was the best part of your summer job? 在你的暑期工你最喜欢的部分欢什么?

What was the worst part of your summer job? 在你的暑期工你最不喜欢的部分欢什么

Did you enjoy your summer job? 你喜欢你的暑期工吗?

Do you think having a summer job helped you for when you had a real job? Why? 你觉得你的暑期工作帮你当你有一个真正的工作呢?为什么?

Do you think it’s important for kids nowadays to have summer jobs? Why? 你觉得孩子现在有暑期工作是很重要的吗?



Plan for Practice

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Information and Explanation About Plan

For my plan I hope to able to evenly split my practice time and have enough time to practice sufficiently but also plan around the other activities I will have to do during half term break and the week that the recording is due. I decided that since I wouldn’t have a huge amount of time every day to practice I would split up the lines so I would alternate and practice a line every other day. On the first day and the last days I would delegate more time to practicing and recording so I would practice both pieces to get a better understanding and grasp on the pieces before recording. It may seem detrimental to record on the day before the project is due but by leaving it for quite a while it gives me more time to practice and perfect the piece. I knew it would be a challenge to play the pieces as the expected tempo for each piece is quite fast and I will need to focus on speed, note accuracy, and articulation.


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Record of Practice

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Summary of Practice

When I first started playing the piece I thought it was quite difficult as it was in a key signature I was not completely used to playing in and also there were some difficult sections of rhythm that had to be played quite quickly in the expected tempo of 120 beats per minute. The main methods I used for practicing this piece were clapping the rhythm of the piece and humming through the melody as to ensure I was familiar with the piece as originally it had some quite confusing rhythms in a few bars. Over the time I practiced I also gradually sped up my playing of the piece so I would eventually get up to the expected tempo. This involved playing it at a tempo until I was comfortable playing it at the speed before moving up to the next increment of speed. I found I had to wait until my articulation was correct before moving up otherwise when I would play it faster I would lose some of the correct articulation. Overall by focusing on the rhythm and note articulation I eventually got comfortable with the note accuracy and the piece in general.

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Record of Practice

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Summary of Practice

The most difficult aspect of playing this line would be the tempo since the expected tempo of 80 beats per minute was quite fast considering a majority of the notes in the piece were sixteenth notes. I decided then to practice by progressing through the week and playing faster each time I was comfortable at the previous tempo done. The piece itself was not too technically difficult but I found if I wasn’t comfortable with the tempo yet I would either rush playing the piece or I would end up slurring the entire runs in each bar instead of utilising the correct articulation. A method of practice I used at the beginning of practice would be to familiarise myself with the scales played by playing scales in the key signature. The major methods of practice I used for this line were clapping out the rhythm to familiarise myself with it and then gradually increasing the speed as I have already explained. In the end I believe this helped a lot to bring up the tempo of the piece.



In conclusion each piece was challenging in its own aspects but both pieces were more difficult due to the expected speed for recording them. Neither piece was extremely technically difficult but because the tempo for each piece meant needing to play quite quickly, I would have to become very familiar with the melody and articulation of notes in the piece so when the tempo was brought up I wouldn’t lose these crucial elements. Though I used slightly different approaches to practicing for either piece the most helpful method of practice I found was to gradually bring up the tempo of playing the piece over a period of time meaning I would play it at a tempo until I was comfortable playing it at that speed and then bring up the tempo and repeat the process. I believe this method was extremely useful for increasing the tempo whilst still retaining the musical elements needed to play successfully.


Final Heart Valve Model

I have now reached the end of the ‘creating the solution’ process of the design cycle for my artificial heart valve model. Translation for non-design folk: this means I have now finished creating a final product of an artificial heart model that I will soon show to grade 6 students to educate them on the structure and purpose of a heart valve. My final model was based off of a prototype I built and improved upon during the creation of this final product. Here is a small photo of what my final prototype looked like.

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And here is what my final model design looks like.

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The designs may look completely different but the scientific principles behind each model are the same. Below is a short video of myself talking about my final product and how it works.

The main changes I made to my design through the creating process were to do with making it a more attractive model to present. I changed the shape of the physical valve to a rounder shape with a more lenient material to make the valve work better in terms of only allowing water through one way. I have also added a stand to my final design so it can stand on itself during presenting. Apart from those differences, the other clear differences are that the bands and glue holding the model together have been hidden under the cover material to make the valve more visually appealing. I have a lot of pride in this final model and only can hope the bonds of super glue are strong enough to keep the model together when in the rough hands of 6th graders.


Design Day Term 1

Today was the first design day of the year and it was linked with our science class, which is currently focused on biology of the digestive system and cardiovascular system. We found out the thing we’ll be designing is a heart valve, or something that just works in the same way in that it is a one-way valve which would prevent the theoretical blood from flowing in the wrong direction in the heart. What we did today, after brainstorming in our groups of what we needed to focus on, was create prototypes of a heart valve. We were following the key rule of the day which was ‘fail fast.’ This meaning we had the chance to just mess around with materials trying to create something and testing to see if it would actually work. In my group we did have quite a good type blowing up balloons, attaching tubes to each other, etc. in an attempt to see what would work but in the end we didn’t come up with a prototype which was 100% successful. Our main problem was that we would create valves that would still allow a small amount of back-flow, no matter if it was a tiny amount. This means in terms of our prototypes they were all unsuccessful. What did work well though were the development of ideas. Now I have a much better idea of what I want to create and where I could go with my plans for designing this valve. A key takeaway for me in relation to building valves is that it’s very easy to make something that will allow liquid to flow through like in a heart but it’s difficult to find successful ways to stop all the liquid from going back through the other way. Another takeaway is that I’ll want to do some more research in to heart valves and valves in general (even just mechanical ones) as I need a better idea of the purpose of one-way valves and how they actually work. If I could do design day again with the knowledge I have now I think it would just mean creating more prototypes with my group and seeing where those would take us. Finally, I used to think that heart valves were a small part of the heart but now I fully understand how important they are for the heart and how cleverly engineered in the body they are.

Significant Events of the Twentieth Century

Posted above is a timeline my group and I made in history about significant events of the 20th century.

In my opinion the two most significant events of the 20th century were both of the world wars. Though it is the obvious answer, WWI and WWII both had significant effects on the way the world works today. During WWI, countries formed alliances and for the first time most of the world was invested in one war. This of course would lead to world war 2 after Germany began being led by Hitler. World War 2 was perhaps the most significant event of the 20th century as it changed the way the world was. Because of WWII, different countries became allies in trade and development. Quality of life changed for thousands of people, and the status and quality of life for those same people would undoubtedly be different had the war not happened or the other side had won. After the war, there came the baby boomer generation as well which affected the structure of population for many places as well. Both of these wars led to the development of a lot of new and improved science and technology, as well as international organisations such as the United Nations. Though I’ve only just started learning about the 20th century I can understand the world wars significantly changed the way the world works.

This is the video for our final drama performance of the year. Theatre in Education was definitely a harder unit as there was a lot to focus on in terms of how to engage a particular audience. This was a really interesting performance and unit as this was the first performance that we really created by ourselves. It was a long (and sometimes frustrating) journey of devising, writing and editing but I’m very happy with how my group and I finally did.

End of Year Music Reflection

This has been the first year of music lessons in school where we’ve had a full 80 minute period every other day and I believe that over the year with however many dozens of lessons we’ve had, I have progressed quite a lot in my understanding of theory, playing ability, composing, and knowledge of music history in all. This has also been the year that I have ultimately discovered how important music is to me for enjoyment and personal development. Though I will miss the group playing ability of our class that most definitely made Mr O’Toole proud and the almost constant banter, I am excited to be taking music next year in grade 10 and to see what kind of things we will learn then.

This past month has been very crowded with all sorts of tests in music and I think that the results of these tests prove my progression in music over the year. First of all we had our scales playing test where we had to record 6 different minor scales. I actually got full marks on this section which I am proud of and I think indicates overall my playing was very good for scales. This is indicative that my notes, rhythm, tempo, tone and connection were all accurate. In previous scales playing test I had good results as well but by listening to some of my older recorded scales I think that the more recent scales sound much nicer overall and I believe my confidence in playing these has gone up a lot, which may be part due to starting serious ABRSM flute exams which require quite a lot of scales to be done as well. The other practical playing test we had was the Etude playing test. The task was quite simply to play the Etude fully by ourselves. Going into the test I don’t think I was as confident or prepared as I would have liked to be but I still am proud of my end results. In the week leading up to the test I practiced extensively due to being unconfident with my ability playing the song before. At a point in class we had to try to play a phrase from the beginning of the piece by ourselves in an attempt to see how long we could hold our breath and even though I technically could do it at that point, I get huge anxiety in situations where we have to play by ourselves in front of others. I did a completely horrible job of playing that day in class and spent the rest of the lesson trying to calm myself down from that situation but I knew this meant I had to practice, lest I have a complete breakdown in front of Mr O’Toole during the playing test itself. It’s a common situation to be able to play better by yourself at home alone but despite this, on the day of the test I think I did quite well. Judging from the results of the test, the comments I received was that I had a clear beginning, the shape of the melody was addressed musically, I didn’t stop when I had errors, good breath control and shaping of the notes but that I should watch my pitch as the notes become higher. I think this is all really valid feedback that I will take into account as I assume that as time goes on, flutes may have to play higher melodies and it would be horrible if it was pitchy. In terms of each section of the test I had substantial note accuracy, which I believe in part is due to the nerves of playing. Overall I managed to contain them quite well and since the Etude was a reasonably long piece, I think my playing ability and confidence was highest at the end. I received an excellent in rhythm accuracy, articulation precision, dynamics, tone quality, intonation, tempo appropriateness, connection and also got a comment that I had a beautiful tone in playing which I am super duper happy with. I am extremely happy in all of how my flute playing has progressed through the year and I can hope that this continues through the next three years of high school in terms of my musical ability and my confidence in my playing. The biggest goal I have for my playing now is to improve my confidence in performing which may mean not just in music but my presentation skills as well.  I would also like to take my dynamics, connection and articulation further in terms of ability as I think this would help me add more expression to what I play and thus sound better.

Another big test this month was the theory test and I feel like my grade this term was due to a combination of having my final science test on the same day (as well as having a billion other tests) and having less time to study. Originally I wrote in this reflection about having a 6/8 on the test but recently it has come to light that some things marked on the test by a peer as wrong were actually right so now I have a 7 on the test. This is the same grade I got on the previous theory test so it may be a sign that I haven’t progressed much but I am still proud of it. This time I didn’t have as much time to study for the test itself and also last time we had a whole unit of theory before the test which may of been why this test felt more difficult than last time. The areas that I still would like to improve on are transposition and identifying elements of composition (cadences and passing/neighbour tones) as these are the sections I struggled on the most. Also for triads and seventh chords I believe I still need to improve on identifying the type of chords but this relates to knowing the major and minor key signatures better.

Finally the last test type things we had were a jazz presentation and the composition. Overall with both of these I have improved immensely and I’m proud of this as it shows my growth in presentation skills as well as theory knowledge. This year has been tremendously good for me in music and I think this has helped me a lot with personal growth. This is the first year when I feel a lot more comfortable with my playing and although I would still like to work on my confidence in presentation and performance, my confidence in my self has increased ten-fold over the year. A good example I can think of to prove this is that for the last two years I have done flute exams. My most recent one was the week before the etude playing test. Whereas last year I was very nervous and made many note mistakes in not just the piece but the sight-reading as well, this year from my experience it sounded much better and even my teacher who accompanied me during my pieces said I sounded a lot more comfortable with my playing and that I have grown so much this year musically. That is why this year I think I have most exhibited the learner profile of risk-taker as I have pushed myself to try and grow more in situations despite sometimes being incredibly nervous about them. This doesn’t mean I am perfectly adept at confidence and performing now but I think being a risk-taker means really having a long learning journey and pushing yourself all the way through for personal growth. I will definitely continue this push of myself next year and continue taking risks in music to achieve confidence in myself and my musical ability.

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