Gamelan Ensemble ‚Äď Part 2

If you didn’t walk by the Music Building last Wednesday, you missed out on a real treat. The Balinese Gamelan Ensemble (of which I am a member) gave its end-of-year concert outside by the tuning fork sculpture. We all got dressed up in our Balinese costumes (sorry, I have no picture!) and sent all the music we learned over the year into the sky.

I had so much fun playing in that last concert, and being a part of the ensemble throughout the year was a fulfilling experience. I am so grateful that I get to go to a university where I can experience and learn about another culture first hand from some of the best in the world. I have a new appreciation for world music and honestly I really want to go to Bali and hear a legitimate Balinese gamelan ensemble! I feel like it would be mind-blowingly amazing.

Experiencing Balinese music has given me a new perspective on my own music making. In Gamelan Ensemble, the main thing is to have a good time and share your energy with your fellow music-makers and audience members. Sometimes I feel like that can be lost a bit in Western music; we get a bit too caught up in trying to achieve perfection in every aspect of our playing that it all gets a bit too serious for my liking. I’m going to try to incorporate more of that fun-loving attitude into my own playing, and get back to why I decided on music in the first place.

That’s not to say that I’m not going to do my best in terms of technique, but I think that for my music to be the best it can be, and also for it to be the most fulfilling for me, it has to come from a place of just loving making the music.

Phantom of the Puccini

So I was going for a clever pun, but it didn’t really work out that way. What I’m trying to say is that I think I’ve come up with a topic for my history paper! Apparently the song “The Music of the Night” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera was accused of plagiarizing an opera by Puccini written in 1910, and his estate tried to sue for it but it didn’t go through. But, I thought it would be interesting to look into the similarities between the two pieces and in doing that look at similarities between musicals and opera.

This is, of course, if my prof approves the topic. I’m hoping that he does. ūüėõ

Course Evaluation: MUSC 220

MUSC 220: The third installment of core music history courses.

Course Description: In this history course you will learn about Romantic music, spanning from Beethoven to Wagner and a bit of Strauss. You’ll be required to know about various concepts as well as be able to recognize from listening excerpts covered in class. This course contains quite a lot of opera.

Textbook use:¬† Textbooks for this class are the Burkholder¬†History of Western Music and the Norton Anthology of Music vol. 2. Honestly, I got by without either one. The textbook can be useful if you miss a lecture, or if rereading what you heard in class is helpful to you, or if you want to preread. But everything you needed to know was in the lectures. (This could change if the professor changes.) As for the anthology, I didn’t even buy the second volume and got by fine without it. And although the CDs probably aren’t a bad idea, you can also listen to them in the library or find recordings on Youtube.

Homework: Not much homework in this class, although there is an in-class writing component once per week. You get the readings beforehand, but not the writing prompt. You’d come into the tutorial, have a few minutes of discussion, then have about 30 minutes to write something on the prompt. Oh, and you’re being graded on your writing skill as well as content. Other than that, there were one midterm and a paper.

Professor: To the best of my knowledge, MUSC 220 is usually taught by Vera Micznik, but I guess she was on sabbatical or something because once again we had Professor Fullerton. I like him as a prof; he’s very clear about what you need to know and explains it clearly.

Class format:Two lectures per week, and one tutorial on Wednesday or Friday with a TA. Tutorial class sizes are smaller than the lecture.

Additional comments: While not really very hard, there was a lot of material covered in this class, so if you want to do well on exams, start studying EARLY. Seriously.

Course Evaluation: MUSC 210

Here’s the first of my reviews of courses I took first term of my second year. First off:¬†MUSC 210, the third and final course in the intensive theory stream.

Course Description: This course moves fast and was quite a bit harder than either MUSC 110 or 111. The majority of our class had done a bit of theory before through the RCM syllabus, but this term covered things you’d never find on an RCM exam: detailed and thoughtful analysis of forms, symmetrical harmony, chromatic and Wagnerian harmony (crazy hard by the way), metrical complexities, and trends in the sonata form in the nineteenth century.

Textbook use:  This course requires the same two textbooks as MUSC 110 and 111, The Complete Musician and the accompanying workbook by Laitz.  Dr. Dodson sometimes used the textbook, and sometimes did not.  A lot of the time he expected you to read the textbook and understand it beforehand so that the lectures could be used for discussion rather than basic explanation.  Most of the assignments came out of the workbook, so you really do have to have it for this class.

Homework: One assignment per week, and a quiz each Monday on the subject of the homework. The homework took on average four hours to complete, sometimes more. ¬†At the beginning of term Dr. Dodson said, “I think it would be unreasonable to expect you to complete more than one assignment per week,” and we all just laughed, because Dr. Benjamin had done this many many times.

Professor: This term we had a new professor, Dr. Dodson. At first I was a bit unsure of him, because like a typical human I’m wary of change, but I really did like having him as a professor. He teaches in a very organized and clear way, marks very fairly, likes to make sure he’s being clear, and is available is you have any issues you want to talk to him about.

Class format: Small class again meeting four times a week, a few people dropped out of the stream because of the pace.  A fair amount of explanation was done in class, as well as a lot of discussion and analyzing scores in small groups or as a class.  There was a quiz every Monday on the subject covered the week before.

Additional comments: This class was definitely a lot harder than the previous two, because it was a lot of information covered very quickly that we’d never really seen before. You have to put in a lot of work, but if you do you should do well enough. ¬†The midterm and exam were easier than expected because he wanted to test our knowledge rather than see how creatively we can think under pressure. (That said they weren’t super easy, either.) ¬†But if you can get through all the extra work, congratulations! You’ve now finished the tonal theory requirement two terms before everyone else. Now onto MUSC 300…

UBC Bands: British Favourites

I meant to post this a few days ago, but the UBC Bands are putting on a concert tonight, at 8 pm in the Chan Centre. The Symphonic Wind Ensemble (the one I’m playing in) played a preview concert yesterday at noon, which went pretty well! Finally I was able to play my part without being overly nervous ūüėõ

Anyway, if anyone ends up seeing this before it’s too late, try to come to the concert! It’s gonna be a good one.

Works by Holst, Hesketh, Grainger, Sparke.

Course Evaluation: MUSC 121

Yet another very late course review, this time for History II. Please note that for this class, my professor was a sessional instructor, filling in until they hired someone to permanently teach this class. So some this about this course may vary somewhat from what I experienced.

Course Description: This class covers the history of music starting around 1600 in the Baroque period and moving into the Classical period, ending with Haydn and Mozart.

Textbook use: This course requires three textbooks,¬†Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1 and 2¬†(and the accompanying CDs)¬†and¬†A History of Western Music¬†(Burkholder). The Anthology had excerpts that were studied in class; I found it much more important than in MUSC 120 because while I didn’t really find I needed it in class, there were actually listening questions on tests. ¬†The Burkholder textbook was again mostly to reinforce what was said in class. In fact, a lot of the time what was on the slides in class was almost exactly what was in the text.

Homework: This class didn’t have a whole lot of homework, but more than MUSC 120. There was one large research paper as well as two “library assignments” in which you had to make sample bibliographies. ¬†This term, rather than a quiz every week, we had four “midterms” which were non-cumulative and the final was the same size as the rest of the tests. They were a fair bit harder than the quizzes of term 1 (though not super hard), so more studying would be necessary.

Professor: I had Graeme Fullerton, who like I said was a sessional instructor while the school was deciding who to hire for the position. ¬†I doubt you’ll have him for this course, but if you do get him for something, I find him to be pretty good: he makes his expectations clear and keeps the lectures interesting.

Class format: Two lectures per week in the recital hall, class size of about 80ish? Something like that. ¬†There was a greater emphasis on general concepts than on specific characteristics of a given piece, ie. you don’t need to know “in measure 40 of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony the transition from main theme area to transition was strange…” etc.

Additional comments: I really liked that the tests for this course were not cumulative; it made exam time more relaxing! Also, since there ARE going to be listening portions of the midterms, make sure you actually listen to the pieces you need to know at least a week before the test. Trying to cram them into your brain the night before is not going to work and you are not going to remember them the next day. ¬†And actually listen! Remember different motives or characteristics of each piece, such as instrumentation, tempo, melodies, rhythms, etc, and don’t just have the music playing while doing homework and vacuuming your room: it’s not gonna stick that way.

Belated Course Evaluation: MUSC 111

So it occurred to me recently that I never actually did any reviews of the courses I took last term… I figure I should continue what I started. It might actually end up being useful to someone. So, MUSC 111!

Course Description: This was also brand new course when I took it, and things generally went the same as MUSC 110; some kinks to work out, but generally we knew what to expect by this time. More music theory, but more advanced this time, and it moved more quickly. This term, rather than covering basic concepts of music theory and harmony, we looked at chromaticism, sequences, more chromaticism, and small forms.

Textbook use:  This course requires the same two textbooks as MUSC 110, The Complete Musician and the accompanying workbook by Laitz.  I found that Dr. Benjamin often disagreed with the text, but when he did he would usually make his own hand out to explain the difference.  The Workbook again is crucial; a lot of the assignments come from that book, although Benjie as we liked to call him (behind his back obviously) would just as often make up his own rather difficult assignments. Such as writing minuets. So many minuets.

Homework: A lot of homework, two very large assignments per week. I found that the weekend one would on average take about four hours. This said, that’s mostly just Prof. Benjamin’s style, so if you have someone else, expect still a lot of homework (it is the intensive stream after all), but maybe not¬†quite so intense.

Professor: We had Professor Benjamin again for the second term, which was nice because we didn’t have to adjust to a different teaching style or expectations. He was such a funny guy, I kinda miss having him as my prof… One thing about him was he always said he would not take late assignments, but always did, without fail. Probably because it took him several weeks to grade them.

Class format: Same small class of about fifteen people. Nearly everyone in it was the same as last term, which was really nice to create a sense of community. Assignments made up 40% of the final grade, I can’t remember the other figures though. ¬†There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions; it was mainly a lecture-and-note-taking setup.

Additional comments: The exam was… not as brutal as I had expected, but still fried my brain. ¬†One nice thing was that typically Dr. B. scaled the marks, so we looked better than we maybe actually did… Basically this class is just the same as 110, but if you didn’t come into 110 with a strong or at least some kind of background in basic harmony and voice leading, 110 might be a bit of a challenge because the basics are gone over quite quickly in 110 because it’s assumed pretty much everyone knows it. So if you don’t, you’ll either have to study up on your own time or go in for help.

Gamelan Ensemble

At UBC, it is strongly encouraged to branch out and try something new. After all, how many opportunities are you going to get to just figure out what you like and learn about it with some of the best in the world?

This term, I decided to do just that and signed up for the Gamelan Ensemble. ¬†(Note: I am no expert so my terminology may be off in some places.) The gamelan is a Balinese instrument sort of similar to a xylophone, and here at UBC the instructor for the course is one of the most sought after Balinese musicians of his generation. Wow. ¬†The ensemble is open to all, no experience required, and they start you from scratch. (Actually, we’re looking for a few more members to fill out the ensemble, so if you’re interested, the class is from 1-3 PM every Monday and Wednesday all year.)

Today was the first class. I walked in uncertainly, as I tend to be anxious any time something new or unfamiliar is happening (you should have seen me the day my harp showed up). Dr. Tenzer told us to take off our shoes and have a seat on the floor. I immediately questioned my choice of wearing a skirt today, and sat down. Sudi, the instructor, explained to us that the most important thing we can do in this class is come, and be focused. 70% of the grade is based on attendance, and only 5% is based on skill. Very beginner friendly.

We sat down at the instruments and started to learn. How to hold the hammer, how to dampen the sound. ¬†The gamelan is made of brass, and thus has a very harsh sound; the ensemble playing together is also very loud. I’m definitely bringing my earplugs to the next class. Hearing is very important to a musician!

We began to play, and I noticed that nearly everything about the music is practically opposite of Western traditions. There is no score; we learn everything by ear and by practice. The gamelans are tuned “out of tune” from each other on purpose; that is, the same note on two gamelans are slightly off from each other, because the Balinese like the sound of the waves that the difference produces. The music is very chaotic, and very fast (well, so far we aren’t very fast). ¬†The scale used is not the diatonic scale – that being said, much of Western music has abandoned diatonicism at this point.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I like the music right now. I like the concept of the course, and I like the idea of trying something new. However, the music doesn’t seem to inspire me as it does some of the others in the class. I tend to fall in love with sweet harmonies and soft and soulful melodies; perhaps this is why I take so well to the harp. This class also seems like it will be taxing on my body; the volume level playing on my ear drums could be made better with ear plugs, but sitting upright for so long is difficult when my shoulders are already giving me trouble. Holding the mallet or the hammer for so long makes my shoulder ache, and my feet started to go numb at a couple of points today. I could probably work through these issues, but still.

However, if I switch to a different ensemble where I would play the harp, it would mean more stress for practicing the harp because I’d have more pieces to learn in a shorter amount of time with more pressure, and my fingers would be working double time.

More stress for my mind, or my body? Which should I choose? I think for now I’ll stick with the gamelan ensemble – it’ll probably be good for me in the long run, and I probably won’t have another opportunity for it later on in my degree.

 

How to Choose a Faculty Based on how You’ll be Perceived

A little fun bit that’s been in my head for a while. This by no means applies to everyone (and isn’t meant to offend anyone, but if it does I’m kind of sorry. No not really. I’m not), but stereotypes are stereotypes sometimes! I would like to see my other Blog Squadders write something similar.

In no particular order: 

Applied Science (Engineers): The most respected faculty. Known for having the most time consuming and the hardest workload, but still somehow being able to have fun, party hard, and have a social life. Vocabulary will end up consisting largely of terms on electrical circuitry, physics, and mechanical parts. Most time is spent where all the engineering buildings are on campus. Visits to other parts of the campus are generally unlikely. Rarely gets made fun of. Faculty with the largest feeling of community, based on outside impressions at least. Most likely to obtain crazy stories of university life from an engineer. Boasts the highest guy to girl ratio and the craziest stories (car off a bridge and cow in the clock tower to name two of the best ones). EDIT: There is competition between Science and Applied Science. Any ridicule regarding Engineers usually comes from Science (it’s like peanut butter making fun of jelly, they go very well together in the end)! The Engineering “E” is also a fun thing to paint over by all faculties.

Science:  Second hardest faculty and possibly the worst dressed faculty (which is generally ok as students are usually indoors). Vocabulary will often consist of terms taken from chemistry and biology for the average science student. Things get better when a science student is involved with the SUS or other extracurricular activities that are outside the faculty (it is often hard to tell that they are science students in this area). Good portion of students are assumed to be aiming for medical school. A constant stream of mid-terms almost up until finals, making studying/cramming a consistent habit. Boasts a lab rat as a mascot.

Sauder (Commerce/Business): Possibly one of the most isolated faculties now that its building is finished renovations. Stereotypically dressed in formal attire and have a reputation for having stuck up attitudes, aiming for money, using people, and generally looking down at most other faculties (except for engineers). Those that take Arts courses (it is required) will often take either psychology or sociology courses. If not one of the two (or both), it will be in EOSC, English, or any course that is considered a grade booster. Knowledge of world issues is limited (unless it relates to commerce courses). However, this is offset by the fact that Commerce students are the most likely students to get things done well. Generally will take more initiative as a whole (supposedly and stereotypically). Boasts the most expensive building.

Arts: The faculty that is the target of the most jokes. It is the most uniquely dressed faculty containing hipsters, hippies, fashionistas, and bicycle fashion. Vocabulary will include terms from, but are not limited to: psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, english, and art history. Will generally have all papers due around the same time of the month, making last minute paper writing an inevitability. Generally speaking, there is no spot on campus where all arts students are able to “chill” in or congregate at. Arts students will be found all over campus and in the buildings of other faculties. Also the most likely students to get impassioned over a lack of knowledge of world issues and social injustices.¬†Obscure hobbies are abound in this faculty. Movements/projects started by arts students are generally meant to help others and communities.¬†Boasts a 3:1 girl to guy ratio.

Music: Faculty of Music. Kind of incorporated into the Faculty of Arts, but at the same time not at all. The smallest faculty as far as this writer knows. Boasts…I’m not entirely sure, great music!

Kinesiology (formally known as Human Kinetics): One of the smallest faculties, but among the most outgoing ones. Students are generally buff/muscular/fit. Best people to go to to obtain information on working out. Boasts the most healthy group of students (go figure).

Land & Food Systems: Arguably the least known faculty. When a student in this faculty mentions they are in Land & Food Systems, the listener will often do a double take and then will often ask “So you deal with food eh?” Boasts obscurity and field trips.

Forestry: Trees. Trees. Trees. Students here have the best chance (in theory) of landing a local job in BC. Students are well versed in various types of plants and trees. Dress style is generally just comfortable. Generally hard to find on campus even if one tries to find a forestry student. Boasts the best looking building and the most comfortable lecture halls.