Planning TSS

Dear squad,
Im back again from the dead, resurrecting this site from the grave that I thought I could leave it in. While blogging regularly about work is not my favourite thing the world, I think it is actually a really good idea. It helps keep me accountable to the amount of work I am doing, and to be honest with how I am going with it. Right now I am listening to Bon Iver’s Skinny Love (yes this is actually the original, but Birdy’s version is pretty good too), and drinking tea, so it is the perfect time for me to reflect on my process so far.

In case you were wondering the story so far is that I have been given another assignment that I need to blog about so, the person who ends up marking it will know what I have been thinking as I go along. The assignment is to first come up with 5 pieces to study in the Music 2 course. These pieces need to have an Australian focus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be composed by an Australian composer. One of the 5 pieces need to be a piece that isn’t Western Art Music (WAM), and all pieces need to have been composed sometime in the last 25 years. In case you wondering that any time after 1991. So to play it safe probably 1992 and later. I then need to create a unit of work on one of these 5 pieces to be taught over 6-10 weeks with two lessons a week with each lesson lasting 1hr and a half. I then need to do detailed lesson plans for 3 weeks of this unit of work. On top of all of this I need to include one other piece other then the Australian focus piece to study. Easy task right. There are lots more components to this assessment which I will detail over my next posts, as I progress through this assessment, but what I have outlined above is the minimum details needed to understand this assessment. By the end of this assessment I hope to provide you, my dedicated few readers with a resource that you can use in your own teaching.

So, in case you are wondering I have just started this assessment, and currently I have come up with a sorta-kinda plan for the 5 pieces to study in class. I will list the pieces in numerical order and explain what I am think for each one.

  • Piece 1: I was talking to my cousin about what she teaches her music 2 class during the HSC and how she chooses pieces to study. She said that she always gets her music 2 students to study their core performance piece as it has to be a piece with an Australian focus written in the last 25 years. I think that this is a really good idea as it means students have a working and intimate knowledge of the piece they are playing and will benefit their performance of it. And because they know how to play it well, they will be able to write about it easier.
  • Piece 2: I was looking through the AMC (Australian Music Centre) website for Australian composers and came across a guy called Tim Hansen. He has written a bunch of stuff in the last decade and I plan to study one of his works called Goldbrick Oilslick. This is an orchestral work and uses a unique orchestration as it features, guitar, electric bass, and synthesiser – instruments which are not generally found in the orchestra. This piece will extend students perception of ‘traditional’ orchestral sounds and how the boundaries of the traditional orchestra are being broken down by including such instruments as electric bass and synthesiser.
  • Piece 3: I think I am going to use a piece by the a cappella group, The Idea Of North. This group do many different things with their voices, taking inspiration from many different music traditions. One of their original pieces will be good to study as my non-WAM piece, as there is a lot that can be explored contextually as well as musically.
  • Piece 4: There is a Australian composer by the name of Gordan Hamilton. He is the artistic director of The Australian Voices, and has had many of his works performed by The Australian Voices and the Queensland Sydney Orchestra. His works contain many extended techniques and push the boundaries of music in ways that are bizarre and weirdly relevant. His piece Ghosts In The Orchestra explores what the composer’s role, and can actively involve the audience in the composition. It will be an interesting work to explore in many aspects, but in particular its use of tone colour and notation, as it uses both traditional and graphic notation.
  • Piece 5: The last piece I will use is Ulpirra by Ross Edwards. It is a short work written for solo instrument (clarinet, soprano sax, etc). It is a short work, but full of content that students can explore in depth. It features phrases that mimic bird noises, a feature of Australian music that can be explored in depth in other Australian works.

So there you have it, my 5 works that I propose to study. Yes they are all Australian, but with the brief expressing ‘with an Australian focus’, I think that it is easier to examine and study Australian pieces.





CME Mix-bag Teaching Methodology and Reflections

My mix-bag arrangement of various hip-hop themes was designed with stage 4 groups in mind for beginner to intermediate players but focusing more on the beginner end of the spectrum. This arrangement however, could be used for good stage 3 ensembles, and as a repertoire piece for stage 5. All parts except the horns (because seriously, how many horns do you come across in the average school!!) have both a hard and easy part, and appropriate ranges have been taken into consideration. For example, the harder clarinet goes over the break, while the easy part does not. I included two improve sections, one in that is major and one that is minor. This allows students to get an understanding of how both sound like and what notes sound good when improvising over major and/or minor.

I choose to use themes from hip-hop songs, as they are very memorable tags and thus easy to memorize. This lends this composition to be learnt from an Orff approach approach. They way I would teach this using the Orff approach would be by first taking one part of the piece, such as the start and teaching the students the ostinato derived from the score. For example:

Ostinato 1  1

Ostinato 2 2

Ostinato 3  3

Ostinato 4  1

Once the whole class was able to do these on body percussion, have them swap around, and get used to performing all of them. Then once there is a good groove happening, I would start singing the melody line from the start of the piece. I would however change the words though so they are more appropriate for a school setting.

Eg:         (imagine Gold Digger melody here)

It’s in the morning,

When I’m in need,

Oh she’s a latte

Yes indeed

It wakes me

Oh it wakes

Yea this latte

It wakes me


Then I would teach the students, this melody, so they could sing the melody, while performing the ostinatos. Then I would transfer these ostinatos and melody onto instruments and come up with melodies for the ostinatos. Then I would get students to come up with a bordun, and harmony parts and then have the class perform the piece. From here I would teach the rest of the song using the mix-bag arrangement score. As students already know half the piece it will be easy for them to pick up the rest of it.

As a composition activity the melody line, harmony line and bas line, could be recorded into a audio or MIDI file and then given to students on GarageBand. Students would then have to come up with there own arrangement of the given material, as well as keeping an improvisation section in their own arrangements.

Below is the mix-bag score that I arranged:

arrangment cme – Full Score

Reflections Week 2A Comp – 04/08/15

Today we learnt about mix bag arrangements. A mix bag arrangement is one that simplifies a band score to make it accessible to different levels and different instrumentation. Using mix bag’s is good as it allows a solid arrangement of a piece to be performed without sacrificing the need for specific instruments. To learn about mix bag arrangements we played through 2 types of mix bags. This was really helpful as our first assignment for this subject involves creating our own  mix bag arrangement.