Posted in Reflections on Assignments 1-5

Reflection on Assignment 5 feedback

This is a reflective account on the tutor feedback for my Assignment 5 submission. Overall, despite some positive aspects, many points are similar to the Assignment 2 feedback, highlighting the difficulty for me to break away from the objective and dense academic language, which have been emphasised at my full-time studies. However, I believe many advices by my tutor will be helpful in my search to find a more personal voice in the writing.

To begin, my tutor acknowledged how I have “engaged well with the essay topic and undertaken some extensive research”, that “it is clear that you have a good intellectual understanding of the topic, and of the stylistic elements displayed in Beethoven’s writing” and how I have “explored some key academic texts and engaged with the views of a number of different writers.” In this sense, the feedback also underscored how I have been “engaging with theses and journal articles”, going as far as to say that I “have developed strong research skills (especially taking into account that this is still HE4 level).” I believe these are all qualities stemming from my full-time university studies, which I am soon to graduate from. Except perhaps the understanding of the stylistic elements displayed in Beethoven’s writing, which come from my previous studies, as well as the topical way of analyzing music that is the direct result of studying at OCA.

Nonetheless, similarly to Assignment 2 feedback, it is noted that “there is… a tendency to overcomplicate things somewhat, and to foreground research skills over your own analytical abilities. This is designed as an essentially practical task, aimed at directing you towards your own relationship with the score. While you gave a good analytical summary of the work, this could often have been put more succinctly, allowing space for greater exploratory depth.” This has been quite disappointing to see, as I really tried to make my writing at least a bit more personal – in fact there is an instance in the annotated version of the essay, where my tutor wrote: “Totally agree! I would love to see more of this in the essay and less reliance on research.”

With this said, I guess comparing to Assignment 2, there are at least a few places of more personal views coming through, so at least there is a bit of movement in the right direction. Still, as I have outlined in the reflection on Assignment 2 feedback, in the full-time studies the essay subjects often ask us to discuss certain things “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 think this might take me quite a bit of time to unlearn, though I don’t think I should completely abandon the research skills. Nonetheless, having my own voice somewhere in there is very important and I’m so glad this has been pointed out to me.

As for my analysis, the feedback indicates that I could have “also included score examples to illustrate your points… For example, you begin your analysis by outlining the three main sections of the work, but I would have liked to have seen a clearer line of reasoning for this, before moving on into the detail of each section, backed up with evidence from the score. Analysis is often a matter of opinion, so it often requires an explanation of the logic behind your interpretations.” Again, I was never actually encouraged before to consider analysis as a matter of opinion, but rather objective truth – to this end, it has been eye-opening for me.

Despite many things missing due to the time constraint (whereby I had only a few days to go through the entire Part 5 and finish Assignment 5), it was encouraging to hear that “from the elements of the learning log that are present, there is some good, detailed work on Haydn’s music, which demonstrates an understanding of the importance of contextual information in order to get a full picture of the work, rather than relying on individual elements in isolation. Your work shows an excellent curiosity for the subject, as well as a strong intellectual engagement which often goes beyond the required level of HE4.” I am so glad that the few blog posts that were on the blog at the time managed to reflect all this, especially in terms of contextual information, intellectual engagement and curiosity.

Nonetheless, learning and listening logs were “lacking in substance as a result of your need to meet the course end date; as per our discussions”, but as she remarked “I am sure you will find time to add the required content before assessment.” To confirm this, I have since written extensive learning log posts that have been added to the blog, including Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4, Steve Reich’s Different Trains, musical analysis, history of the string quartet, as well as a comprehensive listening log post with a significant range of string quartets I have listened to from Classicism all the way to the contemporary times. Finally, my tutor also warned me that “OCA regulations do not allow work to be assessed more than once, so you cannot include work from other courses or previous study as part of your learning log. Please be very careful with this!” This is really something I truly wasn’t aware of – so I will definitely keep it in mind and not repeat the same mistake.

Finally, I would like to mention my tutor’s main advice:

“Going forward, I would like to see you gaining more confidence in your own opinions, and to form these first before engaging in research, so that you can develop your critical evaluation skills more firmly… I would suggest beginning with the score only, making an analysis and observing any notable stylistic features. After that, begin researching other people’s views, and use them to strengthen or question your own ideas. Any additional research which falls outside of the direct assignment brief (for example, explorations of musicological theory) may be better placed in the learning log than in the essay; you have a limited word count, so make sure you use it to best effect.”

I found this to be the most valuable part of the feedback, as I was truly struggling when to insert other people’s opinions and when to insert my own. Again, at my university we have been taught the opposite, so this piece of information really opened my mind how to address the tasks in this particular degree in order discover my “own, independent, musicological voice.” This is something I am truly excited about and can’t wait to tackle from here on.

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