Wrap Up – Term One Pick n Mix

As I wrap up writing this unit, which has challenged me further than a lot of other unit writing units in this course I am reflecting on what term one HSC Music 2 should be. I feel it should be a good mix of engaging class time, with relevant content, that doesn’t get to blinkered into the exam prep mode. Through a range of little composition, aural, musicology and performance activities the students gather the tools, raw materials and confidence to start focusing in on term 2 and 3.

Most of my previous units have been 100% project learning based, big, fat assignments that take all unit and are completely integrated – my last unit culminated in writing and performing a new jukebox musical complete with a sales pitch to the imaginary producing/creative team. This unit couldn’t be like that. I gave myself a little bit of theme besides just ‘Last 25 years’ but even that was not as prescriptive as it usually is.

HSC requires a different type of differentiation. Students are specialising into their favourite fields in music, Music 2 students are often incredibly advanced musicians and players with lots of prior knowledge. It becomes about extending them, setting highly personalised goals and providing plenty of options of inspiration. This is why my unit to me feels a little ‘pick n mix’, it’s not as natural to me as a perfectly crafted year 9 term project, but I think it ticks the boxes and is still at least a little interesting.

Keeping up with the Electives

The thing that has always intimidated me about the HSC Music program, is the range of different activities and learning plans that the individual students can be on. In a medium sized class you could still have not one instrument the same, and how do I as a performer (-singer-) guide and mentor the musicologists or composers? I have included in my unit time for each student in my class to have a one on one feedback session/meeting with my as the teacher once a fortnight (at least). I’m sure many teachers do this, I have a similar set up with my honours thesis supervisor. But how then do I as a teacher also keep in touch with the tutor/s of that student, and with the students individual work by themselves?

My solution is simple, make everyone talk together on the same platform in the same space. A google doc, coloured coded so we know who is who that tutor/s, teacher and student can open up, add too, explain and ask questions and get a clear overall picture of where that student is at in their HSC journey.

See my template for this document here.

Orchestration Crash Course – Gamified?

I knew from the start that as the topic is ‘Music of the Last 25 Years (Australian Focus)’ I couldn’t just teach exclusively choral music for the whole term, so the idea of moving into Orchestrated choral pieces or choir with orchestra was something I needed to consider how I would incorporate that into the composition portfolio. Orchestration, being something I haven’t done a whole lot of in the past, is a big topic, one many teachers would argue you can’t teach in a few weeks, let alone a whole unit. However students will be attempting there more fantastic and expansive scores yet, especially the composer elective students, so necessary plans need to be put in place for teaching about orchestration.

 

Whilst fretting about how I would do this, and searching for good resources I thought, why not create an interactive notation/arrangement exercise that will teach a few key skills of orchestration? Straight after I had this idea I put it on the backburner as something I probably wouldn’t have time to do. How was I going to transcribe a big full orchestral piece, adapt it for my needs and include it in different forms ready to be manipulated by students on various notation softwares? And get the rest of the assignment done?

 

Luckily a friend reminded me that MuseScore (the notation software I use) has a score sharing forum on their website, MuseScore.org . I looked around on the sight and quickly found a neat little excerpt from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It was free, and had permission to be used in personal and education non commercial environments so I downloaded it, stripped the dynamics from the score, mucked around with the balance by doubling solos or putting mid range inner parts down two octaves in the bass and I had a fully interactive ‘put this back in order’ puzzle activity.

 

You can check out my activity here, feel free to play around on it, there is a PDF version, MuseScore version and MusicXML version that you should be able to open on most notation softwares.

Monday Morning Melodic Dictations?

When creating lessons I find it easiest to work from back to the front, what do I want to achieve in the lessons (or each section of lesson if I’m jumping around learning experiences). I hand write all my drafts and at the end of this process I fully expect to have a full pad of scrappy notes to sort through for the long and laborious task of fitting them into the templates. For the first lesson I planned, the opening lessons of my unit on the focus piece Revelations of Divine Love I used a technique that Jim Coyle used, which at a 9am class both frustrated me and engaged me. Leading into a piece through singing or dictating (or both!) a small section. This is relatively easy to do with a choral piece, though Boyd’s complex layered texture can make picking the clearest example out a little hard. I ended up deciding to go with a ‘benedicte’ phrase as much of the rest of the piece builds off that little idea.

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My unit is now officially fleshed out and I have chosen to omit the last section of the topic, orchestral only compositions, as I feel it is too big a topic to justify squeezing that in in the last section. Also reading over the exemplar templates I was reminded that in term 1, ‘mid year’ examinations take place, so I have written these into my unit as opportunities for assessment and goals to work towards.

 

The Unit Taking Shape – Composition Scaffold

After a series of messy on paper brainstorms, lots of listening and a bit of googling/searching the library for scores and recordings I have come up with some of the extra music I will be including in my unit and a rough outline for the unit, particularly the composition scaffolding.

The pieces of music I hope to be including in my unit in addition to Anne Boyd’s Revelations of Divine Love at this stage are…

Pieces that will be focused on, and that I can get a full score and recording for…

  • Carl Vine – Symphony No. 6 for Chorus, Organ and Orchestra
  • Ross Edwards – Symphony No. 5 – Promised Land.
  • When David Heard – Eric Whitacre
  • One or two Australian Masses – depending on Christ Church St Laurence’s collection. Most likely Jewkes and Dudman.

Pieces that will be used to supplement the unit, but may not necessarily be able to procure a score…

  • Paul Stanhope- Fantasia on a theme by Vaughan Williams
  • Julian Callaghan – Stars

The unit at this point will use Anne Boyd’s Revelations of Divine Love as a starting point, briefly explore sacred choral music tradition, move into a harmonic analysis or modern choral writing, explore extended vocal technique and with it contemporary notation devices, and then link into pieces including both choral and orchestra and then maybe move onto just orchestral composition composed for or inspired by sacred texts/purpose.

As we as a class move through our analysis and other activities surrounding this repertoire the techniques will be identified, explored and put to use in composition activities that will provide draft material for the students core composition portfolio (and elective if applicable).

Music of the Last 25 Years – Making it cohesive

Now that I have decided to do Anne Boyd’s Revelations of Divine Love I needed to think of a unit ‘theme’ to fit around it, and what other music I am going to include to make an engaging and informative unit. I don’t want to be limited by just Australian Music of the Last 25 Years (Australian Focus) as I feel it’s important to look at the music that influenced the focus pieces, so I do plan on looking at music pre the 25 years bracket as a supplement to the topic.

I have also chosen to use a “subheading” topic – Religion and its use in Music Composition to create a more cohesive unit and a logical path through the unit.

Several options for music and direction came out of my first brainstorm session….

  • Linking in Fantasia on a Theme by Vaughan Williams – Stanhope w/ Vaughan Williams. Connecting vocal music to orchestra/instrumental music.
  • Gregorian Chant/Anglican Psalm traditions
  • Mass Music
  • Other Australian masses – Ask Professor Neil McEwan if I can have access to the Christ Church St Laurence Cathedral Music Library.
  • Buddhist music – liking with Anne Boyd’s other main musical influence

 

I also took a trip the Conservatorium Library, where I got Anne Boyd’s Revelations of Divine Love score and a recording, among a few other resources. These resources are…

Ngana – Australian Choral Music Kit by Stephen Leek – which explores contemporary (published 1998) music techniques through  analysis of works by Stanhope, Walker, Atherton, Leek, Orlovich, Reeves and Callaghan. This kit also comes with a CD recorded by The Australian Voices.

A Millennium of Choral Music – which is a kit for high school students and teachers examining compositional techniques of choral music from the 16th century Morley madrigal “Sing We and Chant it” to Leek’s 1994 SATB Ngana. This resource is brilliant, and would be a great stand-alone unit on choral writing for a younger stage, or even preliminary HSC year but as my topic is Australian Music of the Last 25 Years (Australian Focus) I will adapt sections for my own unit.

I also already owned an NCEA/Senior High School Resource Kit which includes resources for analysing Miriama Young’s music (I have already mentioned this in a previous blog post). This book, Just Like Us – Aspects of New Zealand Music by Hoskins, McKinnon, Meehan and Thomas (2011) also comes with a CD recording and a range of analysis strategies and starter questions for New Zealand music.

 

Hoskins, R., McKinnon, D., Meehan, N., & Thomas, A,. (2011). Just like us – aspects of New Zealand music. Wellington, NZ: Steele Roberts Publishers.

Leek, S. (1997). A millennium of choral composition. Indooroopilly, QLD: The Australian Voices.

Leek, S. (1998). Ngana – Australian choral music kit by Stephen Leek. Indooroopilly, QLD: The Australian Voices.

Choosing Repertoire for Students

“Propose 5 imaginary class students who play instruments other than your own. Suggest mandatory topic repertoire for each and explain what performance skills you would focus on to assess mastery of that repertoire.”

Instrument Approx. AMEB grade Repertoire Assess.
Piano Grade 6 Stephen Lalor Apropos Flying (2015) Tightness in two hand unison passages. Contrast between sections. Dynamic control.
Violin Grade 7 Blue Carnation: for solo violin Katherine Rawlings Intonation. Technical skills and articulation (bowing/picking and vibrato). Interpretation.
Flute AMus Phospheric variations : for flute and piano (2014) Rhythmic and metric accuracy. Ensemble awareness. Intonation.
Guitar (Acoustic) Self taught, grade 4/5. Lumeria – Guitar Solo Mario Genovese Technical skills (clarity of fingering and articulation). Intonation. Interpretation.
Percussion (Solo Marimba) Grade 8 Flash – Matthew Hindson Rhythmic and metric accuracy. Articulation – particularly accents and rolls.

I found this task a little difficult, particularly to find music that would best suit the less advanced students I have chosen. To choose these pieces I used the Australian Music Centre’s HSC Repertoire lists and through looking at the sample scores and listening to the audio clips choose a range of pieces to fit the topic. Where the year is in brackets it is denoting a specific version of the piece. I then looked at the unique features of these pieces to decide what I would assess.

When choosing the piece for the guitar students (grade 4/5) I chose Mario Genovese’s Lumeria as it has fingering/tab notation in addition to the traditional western notation, making it a perfect choice for a student who is self-taught and perhaps not as confident with notation.

Lumeria

Sample of Lumeria Score from http://awscdn.australianmusiccentre.com.au/documents/ds_13986_282.pdf

As I cannot possibly be an expert at all instruments that my students will play I would hope that all students completing HSC Music, especially HSC Music 2 would have access to lessons or at least a mentor. This means that in reality I hope that I wouldn’t have to be doing too much suggesting of performance pieces, though it has been good practice to source, choose and make assessment notes on this repertoire.

Music of the Last 25 Years – Australian Focus

At least five works must be studied in this topic over the full year. The Australian focus means that works by international composers should not be ignored hence you are required to select at least one work that is not by an Australian composer. One work should also be in a genre other than Art Music. Further, you are required in this task to include at least one female composer. List the five works your students will study in the HSC year, and then choose one to focus on in this unit of work (although you can refer to others in the list or study related material as will be demonstrated in class).

 

Composer Date Work Title Genre Performing Media Country of Composition Work length
Anne Boyd 1993 Revelations of Divine Love Art Music Sextet of soloists – SSATBB Australia 17min
Miriama Young 2000 Speak Volumes Art Music Electro-acoustic music (saxophone, voice, radio clips and environmental sounds) New Zealand 8m
Deborah Chetham 2010 Pecan Summer Art Music Voice (Opera and Music Theatre styles, solo and chorus), Orchestra Australia 1m30s
Paul Stanhope 2003 Fantasia Art Music Orchestra + extended technique percussion such as water gong. Australia 17m
Beyonce 2016 Lemonade R&B Voice (sung and rapped), synths/keyboards, drums/drums tracks, horns/brass, strings, guitar and bass. America 45m40s

 

My focus piece is Revelations of Divine Love by Anne Boyd. The next Australian piece by a female composer is Deborah Chetham’s Pecan Summer Opera, which is available to view on SBS on Demand. I have chosen Paul Stanhope’s Fantasia on the theme by Vaughan Williams as not only is it a great piece and highlights extended playing techniques particularly in the percussion, but it’s roots in Vaughan William’s theme means it will link into the religious music unit with Anne Boyd’s piece. Finally I have chosen two pieces that aren’t Australian. Firstly a New Zealand piece. I have chosen this for a few reasons. Firstly it is a great example of Electro-Acoustic music. Secondly an incredible educational resource has been created specifically for this piece and other Electro-Acoustic pieces like it, which I will adapt and build off for my unit. Thirdly, although Miriama Young is a New Zealander, she is also currently a lecturer at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (VCA and MCA).  The last piece I chose is Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, as an example of a modern concept album. This album will allow students to build on knowledge that they have learnt studying electroacoustic music and bring current pop culture and political discourse into the classroom.

In choosing my repertoire for the Music of the last 25 years: Australian Focus topic, I wanted to have a range of music from varying genres. It was important to me to also include music that doesn’t fit into the very narrow western art music genre, as there isn’t a lot a leeway to include music that is alternate to western art music in the HSC year, but it is still music that the students can learn from and will enjoy.