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Week 3

Updated: Mar 13

Things are picking up! With 2 assignments due next week (including a group performance project) I've been getting busier and a little more frantic -- I think its time to get organised and start getting things done.

I'm finding these blog posts really useful for reflecting and keeping myself from going into autopilot as I usually do when things get stressful. I'm actually engaging more with my coursework at the moment, and thinking more deeply about how I can incorporate it into my teaching.

Gamelan | VSAO3601 | CDIME


I was really worried when I saw the Gamelan class pop up on my timetable at the start of the semester - I work Saturdays and thought I'd struggle to keep up with work and rest if I didn't have my full weekend from Sunday-Monday, but I am really enjoying these Gamelan classes and couldn't think of a better way to start my week. Coming into the room with no expectations other than watching, copying and playing is really relaxing, and I was surprised this week by how much of the Gilak Dung I remembered. There were definitely parts of the sangsih I had forgotten, but most of the lagu and pokok I remembered. This really demonstrated to me the value of learning music without notation and I've tried to implement this with my choir, teaching them songs without sheet music. What I've struggled with in this kind of pedagogy is that the memorisation in gamelan is really supported by the clergy defined structure of the piece, while the piece I chose to use doesn't necessarily have that clear of a structure, so my students, while having learned the musical material easily, are struggling to know which order to put it in. But, its a great lesson to have learned and I look forwards to using this pedagogy again, maybe with a more structured piece.

I was very excited to play the Trompong this week, one of the larger instruments in the ensemble. It's made of 10 gongs and tuned to a different scale than the higher instruments and played with a different pungal, wrapped in twine. The sound dampened and doesn't ring as much as the other instruments, and only plays the lagu, while the higher instruments move onto the kotekan. I found the dampening technique really difficult, especially since I had to use the pungal to dampen each note, rather than my hand. I did very much enjoy the experience though.

We performed the Gilak Dung as a class and then learned the second Kotekan. It took me a little longer to get the polos this time because it had a few more jumps in it, but it was very repetitive and played on the beat instead of off beat which really helped.

I was very interested to learn about the different types of Kotekan as well. In Gilak Dung (the first Kotekan), the polos and sangsih occasionally play at the same time to create a chord, while in the second Kotekan, the two parts never play at the same times, and the alternating parts create a melody together. This was really interesting for me, and I loved hearing how the two different groups could play together to create one line.

This video is the second Kotekan (I'm playing the polos) and the sangsih is audible in the background.

We finished off the lesson learning a second piece, which I have to admit I don't remember much of!


Stage Fundamentals was quite different this week, Nell had to attend to a family matter, so we focused on repertoire with Simon. I really enjoy working with Simon and I find he makes me really think about my vowels and how to alter them to get my best sound. We focused a lot on the ensemble, making the most of double consonants, cut offs and matching our vowels. I'm very confident with my sight reading and I found the Mozart musically very easy to read (I sang Sop 2 and I think we had 3 different notes) but keeping up with the text as well was really difficult, and Simon did not slow down. I actually really enjoyed the challenge and I found that I was able to pick it up reasonably well.

I've been doing a lot more singing lately, preparing for auditions and starting regular singing lessons again, and I've been feeling much more confident with my voice. I'm really enjoying singing in my lower register which has strengthened a lot over the past year, as well as my top notes which are growing more reliable as well. I found singing sop 2 quite enjoyable but had to be careful to not push to out sing the sop 1 group.

We didn't do any stage work this week, but it was nice to focus on the ensemble singing portion for a little while.


I said last week in my reflections on CDIME and Gamelan that the pedagogies seemed really similar to Orff Pedagogy we had learned in first year, and I now realise that Orff pedagogy is (of course) derived from the practices that many cultures have used to teach and pass down songs and music.

We had members of the Conservatorium's Chinese Music Ensemble visit us this week to show us their instruments and teach us songs they've learned. They used the same technique we did in Gamelan and Orff pedagogy to teach us a song called Feng Yang -- no sheet music, listening and repeating the melody in small chunks and then performing all together. I understood that Orff Pedagogy was influenced by non-western instruments and teaching styles, but I don't think I realised just how similar it is to teaching styles I've been observing from different culture bearers over the past few weeks.

I've also been really interested by the different tunings and pitch sets used by these different cultures, because it completely changes the way we look at music, moving from 12 notes to an infinite and undefinable number of pitches that can be used. Nicholas taught us that Chinese instruments were each tuned differently before a standardised tuning was introduced by musicians who had studied overseas. It reminded me of Gamelan tuning, adn that we'd been taught that no two gamelan sets were tuned exactly the same.

I'm really enjoying the CDIME course so far and I'm excited that its expanding my idea of music and giving me more ideas about repertoire and ways I can teach my students. I often discuss with my students what I'm studying in class and I was really thrilled to have some of my students suggest songs they wanted to learn and share from their own cultures. I'm really excited to begin this process with my students and diversify my teaching.

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