Untitled track, written and recorded by Alice Bai
Since the last reflection in December, I believe Music has helped me improve in all areas as a musician, whether in terms of theory, composition, or playing. A few highlights from the past term have to be Project Genesis and the ternary composition, as these were a nice change of pace from the Jazz unit. Although I do believe that my playing needs work still, a more theory- and composition-oriented second term allowed me to explore other areas of music.
The ternary composition in particular was a very different kind of composition than the jazz solo composition, and helped me learn some of the basic fundamentals of classical composition such as chord progressions and melody construction. Although there were many constraints to the composition, it was still also a creative outlet and an opportunity to create something of my own. I think I did quite well on the ternary composition overall, but there is always room to improve. One potential improvement would be to augment the left-hand accompaniment to be more interesting and complement the piece more, as for this composition I mostly stuck with eighth-note arpeggiation and quarter notes. Another would be to, again, follow the instructions set down more precisely. I didn’t have phrases that were particularly repetitive or cohesive, which are quite essential to a ternary composition, and this took away from my composition as a whole. However, I believe that this composition is a step up from the jazz solo composition and I performed better this time than the last.
In terms of playing, there were two major playing tests this term: the scales test, and the Stella by Starlight solo. I performed quite well on both, but there were obvious trip-ups in my playing that need to be addressed for the future.
In terms of the scales test, I think my strengths were note accuracy and tempo appropriateness for the scales I chose. However, I still need to work on intonation and rhythmic accuracy. A key part of playing scales is playing them evenly, and at some points I got nervous and sped up. Although this was a more spur-of-the-moment mistake, I still believe that this can be mitigated by practicing more with a metronome beforehand. As for intonation, I think this can be improved by practicing more frequently to build up strength in my embouchure, as well as controlling airflow so that the end of my scale does not peter out as I run out of breath.
For my Stella by Starlight solo, my strengths would be rhythmic accuracy and tone quality, whereas my weaknesses would be articulation as well as rhythmic accuracy (don’t worry, I know that I said this was a strength and a weakness.) The reason why rhythmic accuracy was both a strength and a weakness for me is because despite my strong sense of rhythm throughout the rest of the solo, my triplets got particularly muddy and unpleasant to listen to as I sped up. I was able to get back into time following the triplets, but the triplets were always rushed and I believe that this calls for further practice with fingerwork and a metronome.
Finally, Project Genesis. I had a lot of fun with Project Genesis as I was able to explore something of my own interest within music class, and for this project I chose to write a song. It was a difficult process to begin, but it was really experimental and fun to work through in class. I was able to work a lot more with GarageBand and try out different things, such as balancing tracks and adding melodies played from the midi keyboard within the app. This was for sure a highlight of the term.
Thanks for a great year in music and I’m looking forward to G10!
Before starting this process, I used to think that video production was always a high-budget affair and a big deal, and to make a good video you needed high-end equipment and a lot of experience. I also thought that branding was a massive endeavour that could only be undertaken by the massive companies like Apple and Nike, who can afford to shell out and put out big advertisements to spread their brand. These advertisements were usually large scale and catered to everyone. I knew that the former and the latter were connected, but I didn’t know how exactly connected video production was to branding at the time.
After having gone through the process, now I realise that none of it is as big of a deal as I thought it was. I could create my own brand through the creation of my own video advertisement, of which most of I used my phone to create. I also learned about how branding isn’t just about the external presentation, but also about the internal process in coming up with a ‘belief’ mission statement and determining key impressions for the audience. Finally, I realised that it’s very important to specifically target certain audiences to get the hardest-hitting message across, seeing as it’s difficult to please and cater to everyone.
Here is the sheet music to my final ternary composition.
Listen to it here:
The process of composing this ternary composition was not as difficult as I expected, but it certainly wasn’t easy either. Starting out with the first 8-bar draft, I was pretty satisfied with what I had, but I then kept running into blocks as to what to write next for part B. I also had difficulty changing to the dominant key centre of F for my part B as it was new to me to change keys in the middle of a composition, but most of the difficulty only lay in figuring out how to relabel the chords.
For part B, I eventually settled on a simple repeating melody pattern with the addition of sixteenth notes to distinguish it from part A. To keep a degree of similarity, I kept the left-hand accompaniment and the up and down contour of the melody the same. I also had some issues building my melodies around the chords, but I think it was a good call for me to put down my chords before my melody. This ensured that I met all of the requirements (eg cadences, 2 chords per bar) at a minimum before building my melody on top. This did require some adjustments but they were not major and for the most part my melody fit around my chords.
The last part of the process was adding articulation. The only articulation I’ve used in this composition should be the staccato, which are used to help inject an air of joviality and energy into this composition and help contribute to the title of ‘Dog’. In part A, staccatos are also used to mark the end of each phrase as they stood out from the other notes. The dynamics I mostly added based on the contour of the melody, ie if it climbed into the higher notes then it will become louder, and vice versa. However, I did take into account the rhythm of the section and the general feeling of it to assess whether it needed to be louder or softer. Some slurs were added to triplets in particular to help the composition flow and to make the staccatos stand out even further.
The reason why I have named this composition ‘Dog’ is because I wished to convey a light, playful air to the listener, similar to that of a playful dog. Evoking the image of a dog with the title would only help to enhance the listener’s experience. In part A, the melody is a bit slower to help build up the momentum, but it picks up the pace in part B and really conveys the playfulness and the erratic nature of dogs with the sixteenth notes and the varying dynamics. By the repeat of part A at bar 17, the playful restlessness was already established and so I threw in some more rhythmic points of interest with sixteenth notes to keep up the atmosphere and to surprise the listener. If it helps to have this image, the dog I composed in mind with was a shiba inu. However, this was my reference painting: Stick With Me by Pat Saunders-White
Overall, the process was an enjoyably refreshing one as I had never composed in such a manner before, despite the fact that I did run into my difficulties with things such as the key centre changes and other logistical issues. These were all easily resolved and I can say with full conviction that I am not entirely adverse to this piece that I have composed.
Here is the sheet music to my classical composition.
Here is my Melodic Decoration Worksheet.
Here is my Chords and Cadences Worksheet.
Here is the sheet music to my Stella By Starlight solo.
Here is the sheet music for my first draft of the solo.
Here is the audio: