Wednesday, September 23, 2009

musing to the percussionist

I am sitting in the office of the music department at the moment listening to one of my year 12 students practice for his performance exam. This is the issue when you don't play a portable instrument, you have to find people to help you get practice time. He is a percussionist and he has a drum kit at home. For his exam he will play drum kit, marimba, xylophone, snare drum and timpani. He hasn't done any timpani practice today as he left his music for that piece at home......

I will be in again tomorrow with the kids not doing solo (ie group) and the same boy is coming in to practice. He has assured me that he will have his timpani music. You should see this piece he is playing, it is very entertaining.

I was only intending to be here for a couple of hours - to take the kids through the two versions of one of the pieces they have to write about in their written exam. We seemed to have run out of time during the term to get everything done due to many rehearsals for the big concert. I arranged for the kids to meet me for about 3 hours today to run through this final part of the course. All but one turned up.......not a bad effort really. We wrote about the two versions on all elements and discussed how to answer various questions. The kids seemed to do get a lot out of it.

Tomorrow when the group kids are here I will be revising everything in their course - aural/written, aspects of performance, analysis, improvisation.

It's funny - I have had solo and group together all year and have found the going tough. The basic principles of the course are the same. 50% for a practical performance at the end of the year, 25% for school assessed coursework (solo - all prac, group -mostly written) and then 25% for the end of year exam. It's when you get down to what they are being assessed that everything becomes a nightmare. There are similarities but no direct correlations between the two courses.

Here is a basic idea for the written aspect:

Theory /Aural

Scales - both have to write them but completely different types and in different keys!
Intervals - again both have to know them but how they are assessed is different. Group is aural in this aspect.
Melodic Dictation - both write but Group are given all but 2bars. Solo have to sort the whole thing out themselves - no key signature given. Again different scale types used in both courses.
Rhythmic Dictation - not assessed in Solo (only in the Melodic dictation)
Chords - Solo has to know them from the scale types they learnt, Group have to know how to build on any note.
Chord progressions - group have a list to choose from but are not given any information about the opening chord. solo have the opening chord given but that is it!

Group have to write about very, very short excerpts from popular Australian music. Something that could have been released this year. They are played it a few times and write about 7 different elements.

Solo have two different versions of one piece played to them and write about 5 elements and how they compare and contrast in the two versions.

Solo then go on and write two long answers to two prepared pieces. They have about 15 minutes on each........

Group have to then write about Aspects of Performance - including acoustics; and either Part Writing or Improvisation. We did improvisation. Again about 15 minutes on each.

The whole exam is 1 1/2 hours long.......

As you can see, there are similarities but no direct correlations......Frustrating as a teacher and I think more so for the kids in the class as you teach to one lot, while the other do something else. The attention span of most of these kids is about 10 minutes then have to swap activities. I will be quite happy when they have finished as I wont have to do the intellectual tap dance of which course has what......

1 comment:

Scott said...

I think we should have melodic dictation in English!