Posted in On Assignment 1

Overall Reflection on the First Part of the Course

At the start of this course, I couldn’t have imagined what was about to occur, especially not with only working through its first part. As a relatively well-formed musician with a good deal of knowledge about music, I couldn’t have imagined where, what I considered a simple subject of indefinite-pitched percussion instruments, would tide me into. A whole new musical world unfolded in front of me and made me question everything I thought I never would.

Merely the concept of the sounds these instruments produce, made me realize that, my notion of what is musical and what isn’t, was actually quite one-dimensional. Various, once ignored elements of sound revealed before me, brought by the many disciplines of musical acoustics. By changing the way I define sounds, it also affected the way I listen to them – I discovered that indefinite-pitched percussion instruments are indeed capable of producing musical sentances.

Seeking for new ways of using and demonstrating this, I set out to travel this newly uncovered musical world. Besides encountering many instruments and their rich history of being both the oldest and youngest in music, my journey led me to new concepts of musical time found in the Middle East and India. I discovered what is for most people lost in the oblivion – the composers like Michael Pamer and his contribution to waltz, the first named drummer in history, Lipushiau, the dengaku dance, and the idea of rhetorical invention of baroque music. Along the way I was mesmerized by the rhythms and musical forms of many of the dances I have never heard of before: Spanish fandango, Basque zortziko, Indian kathak dance and Tahitian otea.

My research also encouraged me to use the styles of classical music I was already familiar with, joined by the potential of the instruments I was, at the time, not yet aware of. This included: scherzino, Bach’s two-part invention, waltz and even the larger forms, which I am really proud of, such as sonata allegro form, and a suite in programmatic cycle, inspired by the musical paintings of Mussorgsky – one of the the Five in the New Russian School. From there, I also took a closer look at the tradition of my own roots in China, that I previously only peeked at in order to later disguise it and create a scant illusion of a Western passage using Corelli’s moto-perpetuo-like allegro passages from his violin sonatas. All this was done in my short and weird rendition of jeu d’eau, by which I also met the pianist Liszt in the years marked by his depression. Finally, in the first assignment I could use all of this newly gained knowledge and material, in a ballet that introduced me to the musical narrative.

Perhaps the most important thing is that I began to fall in love with this special group of instruments and I also started to deeply appreciate their technique and performance. It’s a shame, that many often overlook and underestimate them as “noise-makers”, therefore closing themselves away. In this regard, I believe I’ve grown truly rich, with what is often invisible to many. And it’s even more blissful, when I realize that this is just a beginning of a profound musical voyage which began with the first part of this course.

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