Posted in On Assignment 4

Assignment 4 Reflection, A: Tutor Feedback and Revision

Together with the assignments, the students are encouraged to show their reflective process. In this regard, I first wrote the overall reflection on the fourth part of the course, which you can read here. Furthermore, my assignment notes also include reflective thoughts. Finally, in this post, I will write about my tutor’s feedback, listing the changes I made, and in the second post (part B), I will give a final review of my assignment piece in relation to the assessment criteria points.

Regarding the piece as a whole, my tutor gave the general remark:

“On the whole, I feel this is a good attempt, with some original ideas and evidence of good technical control. This is a well structured piece with a good sense of character, flow and direction.”

I was more than delighted to read this, since I was quite worried when I submitted my piece for feedback. After the third assignment, where I strayed from the guidelines a bit by adding the indefinite-pitched percussion – mostly because of reading parts from the wrong assignment brief, I was a little troubled that my introduction and the piece in general might have digressed from the assignment goals. Thus, I was so relieved when I got my tutor’s notes.

Regarding the presentation, my tutor writes that it includes good level of performance instructions and that the text is helpful for performers to understand the different musical sections. She mentions that a listing at the start of the score would be very useful. I have added this, but I chose not to indicate the number of percussion players. This is mostly because I think, while there can be two players – one playing the drums, and other the metal instruments, there is no reason why there couldn’t be four players. Perhaps, there are also ways to have three players. I would actually leave this to the context of the performance, and the capabilities of the percussionists. Finally, as the feedback points out, there were several slur errors in the clarinet, which I corrected in the revision, and the dynamic markings should be in bold. For the latter, I realized I didn’t do this at all for any assignment pieces – thus I had to go back and correct all the previous projects! This is something that I will pay attention to in the future. 

In terms of compositional skills, I was pleased that my introduction and the use of bass drum work well to set up the mood of the piece and announce the counterpoint that will follow. The introduction was something that got me really worried, so I finally relaxed after reading this paragraph. More than that, it was great to have the adventurousness in my writing recognized. I tried really hard to combine everything I learned in the course – changing time signatures, departure from the diatonic harmony and etc.

My tutor also noted the marimba entry, the imitation, modulation and the tied and dotted notes, referring to a hint of Shostakovich – indeed, I listened to a lot of his pieces. I like that she mentioned each section – for the Fireworks, she indicated the nice impact of the first marimba entry, for the Heart’s Dance the parallel thirds and the sense of instruments interweaving around each other and etc.

Regarding Aria she commented:

“The Aria has a nice sense of simplicity, but I wonder if there might be a way to get a little more contrast here? The mood feels a little too similar to the previous section, at least at the very start, and a brighter tonality, or perhaps even a change of time signature might help to lift this section a little and create some more variety.”

I completely agree with the similar mood, so I tried really hard to change the aria and play with different tonalities and time signatures, but what would happen every time is that I would loose the initial simplicity I started with. The following storm section would also loose its effective and surprising entrance. This is the reason why I decided to keep the Aria as it was.

Overall, as she states, there is the danger that this kind of piece can have tendency to meander and lose direction. I am glad I avoided that:

“I feel, though, that on the whole you have done a good job of avoiding that pitfall here, and created a convincing sense of development between the sections.”

Regarding my reflective thinking, she mentioned that she liked my initial concept for the pice, but as I have concluded myself, it may be hard to fit these sorts of ideas into the assignment brief. But, as she further states:

“…it is an important part of the process to be able to be aware of the need to save the idea for development elsewhere. It is often a good idea to have side projects to work on alongside your coursework, as a way of developing your ideas in a less structured arena.”

The side projects are a very interesting idea, and I would very much love to try having them. However, I am quite limited by my full-time studies at the moment, but, if the opportunity arises, I would love to attempt doing that alongside the main projects/assignments. Regarding the narrative, the feedback says that it’s not something I necessarily need to get away from – I feel like perhaps I’ve been trying too hard to run away from it. As my tutor observes:

“My impression is that you develop these narrative ideas enough for them not be restrictive, and that sometimes they act as starting points to guide you through the composition process.”

Thus, it may be worth using narrative elements, but not completely rely on them as the sole frameworks of the piece. Lastly, she says that a good critical awareness of my own work is fine, but I shouldn’t be overcritical. Sadly, I have to agree – I was too hard on myself.

Regarding the learning log, the feedback notes my experimentation of the music without bar lines, and the harmony, as well as the irregular time signatures. It was also great to hear that my listening log now has a good range of pieces. However, it was pointed out to me that I should add more personal reflections – I often say I like a piece, but never comment further into why. Often, in the listening log, I am not really sure what to write, because I usually really like all the pieces I listen to, or at least, I try to find the elements I like. Thus, this comment was really helpful, especially the part that says I could also try writing about the things I find more difficult to understand. My tutor also provided me with some examples of the contemporary pieces with counterpoint – I already started listening to some of these!

Overall, the feedback was very encouraging and I truly learned a lot from it. There were great suggestions about what to include in my learning log, and also great suggestions of the pieces to listen to. More than that, my tutor’s notes also helped me not to be overcritical of my work. Inspired to continue with my studies, I now arrive at the final part of thee course. Before taking a look at that section of my learning log, you can look at my estimation of how well I think my assignment piece did in terms of assessment criteria.

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