This is a reflection on the tutor feedback for my Assignment 2 submission. Although there were quite a few positive aspects in relation to my work on this part of the course, my main take away is how the over-reliance on research can limit one’s personal views. As I will outline, I believe this largely stems from the way my full-time studies in film and drama at another university is structured with a focus on the objective writing in relation to established theorists.
Firstly, the feedback opens on a very positive note: “This is a well-researched essay which includes a lot of contextual information regarding Strauss’s approach to the tone poem genre, as well as the musical environment he was writing in.” Indeed, the contextual information has been one of the key aspects we were encouraged to perceive things from in my full-time studies, which I carried over into this essay. As the feedback further mentions, there are “some commendable aspects … which are worthy of mention; the work is very well researched and delves deeply into the contextual surrounding of the music. You evidence your research by providing insights into the views of a range of different commentators on the work.”
Using different commentators on a topic as evidence is yet another important part we were graded on in my full-time studies. In fact, often our essays asked to discuss certain subject matters filtered though the thoughts of theorists/practitioners, whereby we were told to only note down our personal opinions sparingly as more of an add-on or conclusion, rather than the core element. I believe this explains why my tutor felt like I “rely too heavily on your research, and do not present enough of a balance between the information you have gained and your own reactions, ideas and conclusions drawn from score study and listening. The essay gives me a strong sense that you are able to research, but it does not convey a clear enough demonstration of your own thoughts and ideas. I found myself reading it and thinking “But what do you think?”.
I now realize that indeed I am hesitant to answer the above question directly, as my full-time studies in a way conditioned me to first ask “What have others said and what can I add?”, which is what I did in this essay. Because of this, the advice to “try to use research to support and strengthen your own ideas, rather than using the ideas of others as a starting point” actually feels very counter-intuitive. On top of this, my essay “exceeds the 1500 word limit by around 400 words… the assessors will only ready up to the word limit with a leeway of 10%”. This is yet another thing I carried over from my full-time studies, as over there we were allowed 20% leeway, so I realized I should have not assumed the word limit, but actually checked the course requirements.
In any case, in general, I believe the requirements of the two degrees I’m taking are very different, so that I should try separate them and focus on their individual specifications. Likewise, I should mention that I believe the “dense… long sentences” with “academic language” my tutor noticed doesn’t simply “stem” from my “research” on Strauss’ Don Juan as can be assumed, but from the amount of academic literature we have been given to read week from week for the past three years – this is particularly true for the film course, which only includes theoretical modules. As such, I believe I was really writing in the style that has become ingrained in me and constantly reinforced in the academic environment surrounding me – I would often use this language in the weekly seminars as well – in fact, we were encouraged to do so when speaking. However, being more succinct is definitely something to work on and I would actually like to make my writing more accessible to people not involved in the academic field too. I guess overall, to make my writing more digestible to ordinary readers is something I haven’t considered much – which makes this a very important point in the feedback. It really gives me something to think about more for the future articles and essays.
With regards to my tutors comments that she feels “that the general focus of the essay is a little off-topic from the question, for example, and in relation to the focus of the course, considering the stylistic characteristics that Strauss uses, especially in terms of the development of thematic material and the use of instruments.” I do have to say that indeed I have went a bit off-topic, since I focused more on how this piece can be approached by listeners. In my defense, we have been discussing “the death of the author” a lot recently in my film and drama studies, so this might have led me a bit astray for this essay. At any rate, the final comment to “go a step further” by “interpret[ing] … ideas in relation to your own thoughts, and synthesize your research with your own ideas to draw new opinions and ideas” is my biggest takeaway and something that might take me a bit to get used to, as it feels very contradictory to what I’ve been taught elsewhere.
Moving on to the learning log, it was great to hear it “contains some good research in relation to the prompts in the course materials, and there is evidence of critical thinking in your personal opinions. You are able to respond to the tasks with intelligent enquiry and analytical listening. Your work shows a good level of academic thinking, and you often consider a broader approach to the music, for example including philosophical and psychological elements into your approach. This is good practice and shows you have a good contextual awareness, beyond music, which can feed into your understanding of the subject.” I was very pleased with all this, particularly the part about analytical listening and showing a broader approach to music with philosophical and psychological elements – I would like to further extend this further through the degree.
In terms of the listening log, however, my tutor couldn’t find any entries for this part of the course. This was such a shame, as I wrote a longer post on Nocturnes here – my favorite art music genre that emerged in the Romanticism. What seemed to have happened is that I forgot to include the category into the main menu, so the posts became basically invisible, unless specifically typed in the search bar. I will I have since added the category and will try to make sure to always double check for this issues. Nonetheless, my tutor is absolutely right about the time limit, since due to some financial matters in my life circumstances I was unable to devote time to study at OCA until just now before the unit end date. This means I will probably have to limit the number of pieces I list in the listening log, but as she noted, I’ll try to do what I can and cover a range of works from different eras.