Transcript of The concepts of music

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Concepts of music podcast (37:53).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.

As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance, along with all First Nations People, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Alex – Welcome to the Creative Cast Podcast series. My name is Alex Manton and I'm a Creative Arts Curriculum Officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. The area of discussion today is the importance of the concepts of music. We will be talking to music teacher and author of Musical Elments and Concepts textbook Helene Galettis, who will discuss what the concepts of music means to us as music educators and how we can facilitate quality teaching and learning in the delivery of the concepts of music in the classroom. Helene is the managing director of the publishing company Zeal Arts Enterprises, which develops resources to the support of the arts and has most recently published a comprehensive guide to improvisation. Helene presents at various HSC workshops for teachers and students around New South Wales, mainly in regional areas. She has teaching experience in all of the New South Wales school systems as well as in tertiary education. Helene's dedication to music education resulted in her achievement as a finalist for the 2008 A. S. G. Inspirational Teacher Awards as part of the National Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Jackie – We interrupt this podcast for a very special announcement. The Creative Arts Curriculum Team announce our Creative Casting Call. This initiative provides two exciting ways that you and your students can get involved in our podcasts and earn some much needed funds for your creative arts faculty budget. First, compose our podcast music. Compose some music we could use for the intro and outro for our podcast next term. The best composition will be used in our podcast next term and win your school a $2,000 grant for creative arts. The second is design next term's promotional tile. Our podcast theme for next term is where to from here. The best tile will be used for our Where to From Here Podcasts next term and also win your school a $2,000 grant for creative arts. Find the full brief in the Creative Arts Statewide Staffroom. Entries for next term close on the last day of term three with the winning composition and tile to be featured and credited in term four’s podcasts. This initiative is only available to New South Wales Department of Education Schools 2021.

Alex – Hi Helene. How are you?

Helene – Oh good. Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Alex – So firstly can you share with us just a little bit about yourself as an educator?

Helene – Well, I'm pretty passionate about music education. I do come from a long line of teachers so it was kind of inevitable that I would have become a teacher. Anyway, I did a lot of work in music growing up and I am passionate about music education. As you did mention, I have taught in all systems and as well as tertiary and I wrote a textbook. It was published by Jacaranda in 2009. I started writing it in my fifth year of teaching and I wasn't even eligible for HSC marking at that point because I hadn't taught year 12 for long enough but I thought that there was a need for a resource for that. And yes, since then I've been asked to do lots of workshops for students and teachers locally and nationally.

Alex – Great. Helene, can you tell us a little bit more about the types of students that choose music at your school at an elective level for 9 to 12? Do you have many HSC students currently?

Helene – We have music two and music one running at the school. I'm only fairly new to the school but music two I believe has been running for quite a while there but the numbers are quite low, so one or two and they run together. So, the music two and the music one in the class as some music teachers are in that same position. But the types of students are involved a lot in the music ensembles throughout their schooling anyway. And then they do tend to choose elective and senior music as well. In my career of teaching, I have taught mainly music one I believe of the popularity of the course.

Alex – What was the motivation behind writing your book, The Concepts of Music?

Helene – So at the time there wasn't really an Australian book written for preparation for the HSC course. The students were going to a lot of other subjects and they had a resource for that subject. They didn't really have anything for music. It was completely reliant on the teacher and the school I was at, it was very performance based. The boys weren't in a position to get private tuition, partly because they couldn't afford it, but also because it wasn't really a priority of their families. I was a singing teacher, I was the instrumental teacher, you know, I helped them with that. So, there was a lot of time I guess spent on that side of things, whereas other schools I've been at a lot of that tuition is done outside school and there's more time for theory and you know, your work in the classroom. So I wrote it for more independent learning for students so that if I'm working with one student then I can give another student, you know, something to do. The buzz word at the time I was teaching boys was scaffolding, so breaking things down and through teaching boys, you know, they did like that sort of learning as visual learners as well. But I was also tutoring a lot outside school and I used my mind maps which I developed for this book and I realized that all students really did like this way of breaking things down, particularly in preparation for an exam, just to explain that they're based on memory schemers and they’re triggers. I go through what a memory schemer is, and it's just a way of unpacking the concepts of music. I guess if I didn't go into music teaching, I would have gone into science. I'm quite science minded. So, the mind maps are really my brain on a page and it’s a way of, I guess categorizing the concepts of music. I made sure that I did different colours. So, I made sure that the central colour for the concept was a bolder colour and then they got lighter and lighter, the further out you got the less significant and it gave a way for teachers and students to go into as much detail as they want to with that depending on the students. As music teachers, we know that we get all different types of students as well as different experiences in music as well. So, they will come in with a different set of knowledge and all students will be like that. I also wanted to make sure that they were real sounds as well, not midi sounds. I wanted to make it relatable to the students down to the images in the book to make sure that they’re photos, not cartoons. I wanted to be more kind of that industry based in a way so that what music would really sound like and how you analyse music. But I think going back to being reliant on the teacher at the time, there was no Youtube, no Spotify, no way for students to really source these things themselves. So, it was reliant on the teacher for that aural parts too. There was nothing at the time written to link the aural and the written. So, I felt if we linked that with their own independent learning, that was a way to help them study for the exam. So, the teacher could, I guess, give the students an example of say hemiola and then it could be months later before they have to identify that in an exam. And so, this way they can go over that themselves. But it's not an all encompassing textbook. It's a stimulus. So, lots of teachers in the past have said, “oh, I love this sound bite but I've added to it.” You know, they need to add to the sound bites or add to the knowledge as well depending on what type of class they've got.

Alex – You mentioned a couple of things there, Helene, that were interesting. You said something about memory schemers, can you unpack that a little bit? What do you mean by that?

Helene – The example I give is, say if you see someone in the street and you think that you know them, as a teacher that's quite difficult for us because I think “have I taught them?” And I have gone from my past and you sort of go through the filing cabinet of your mind and I explain that memory schemer is like that if you get a question. So, if the question is explain the duration in piece of music, the student is to write, say the first branch on the piece of paper and then they would have studied the extension of those branches already and so they don't need to write out and plan all of that. Their memory has already branched that themselves. So, memory schemers are triggers, acronyms are the same as a study technique, I guess. You know, I mean, maybe not all students think like this, but it is a way of triggering your memory because as you know, we don't have the time specifically in this exam to write everything that they've studied, they just have to be triggered by something and then relate it to the music.

Alex – That's a great tip Helene to use, especially for students that are coming up to their HSC music exams. You mentioned as well earlier that your school was very much a practical kind of school in the way that things were being taught and that you wrote the concepts of music to sort of bridge that gap. Was it successful? How did you integrate those aural skills with the prac? Was there a change in your students over time? Do you think there was?

Helene – I think that if you start a discussion with certain components that relate to your students and mainly it is practical. It's a way of engaging them, the ultimate goal for me. And I think a lot of teachers engaging them and finding out how they learn. For these particular students be playing something and I would ask them quite targeted questions about the piece of music. I'd say, okay, well tell me about the structure here. Why is the chorus louder in this in this part? Tell me about the texture when you play this. What type of texture are you playing there? And you go as deep as you can go through that, they're discussing it there aurally learning about the concepts of music. And I think that not always it's explicitly taught and I think that sometimes we think we ought to teach the concepts of music, we have to say duration, it's this and pitch, it's this. But I think that when we have practical to discuss the concepts too. You know, some of these students that I taught, it was very difficult for them to pick up a pen and write anything. So that was my only way of communicating to them and I had creative ways of figuring out how to get that information to them and discussing with them. But I think more importantly, to make it relevant to them and to make it significant. We know, as adults that we only remember things significant to us. So, these students need to find a reason why they're playing this bass part and what's happening to this bass part and how it lends to another piece of music. In my workshops, I often say to students, if you're a performer, imagine that you are that drummer and what else is happening around you and how would you analyse all of those other components around you? And I think that mode of thinking does help students. The same in composition as well. If the student is very good at composition, then they can think about the concepts of music through that too. And I guess it's the teacher's role to do a bit of investigation, which is kind of what I love about music teaching, is to figure out what motivates that student, what engages that student and it's going to be different every day and it's going to be different probably every year as well.

Alex – You mentioned that you had some students that had trouble putting pen to paper. So, you'd often talk to them about what they were performing or perhaps writing aurally about the concepts. What's the next step? Well, what's your next step and then getting those students to put that pen to paper and elaborate on their answers?

Helene – Yeah, it is. And it's confidence in them writing what they already know and they are already going to know something. So even if they just write down that there's the instrument there, then you encourage them or you discuss with them about what else is happening with that instrument. It's like when you have a viva, I guess. Some can go for a very long 10 minutes and you're trying to ask the students and try and find out what they know about that. So sometimes they just need a bit more encouragement. But I think ultimately, they know something already and it's to branch what they know. And if I go back to the mind maps and you give them encouragement by showing them a mind map or building it up, they will already know something. It's the confidence to know. Okay, I always start with beat, strong and weak beat, they will know if it's a strong or a weak beat and that gives them a little bit of confidence. Some of them come with, even if they don't have a lot of musical background, I guess some of them come with the misconception that they have to know a lot of theory to do music one. But yeah, it's just encouraging what they know already.

Alex – Why is it important that students learn about the concepts of music in the music classroom, even from a stage four level? Why do you think it's important?

Helene – I think that we're very lucky in our subject to have the four components and I guess the ultimate goal of the teacher is to engage students, but we have a lot of ways to do that in music. We've got aural, composition, performance and musicology. They'll all have a way of expressing themselves and those components. And then as I mentioned before, you work with the strength of your school settings. So, you work with, and you know my school setting, that school that I was at is mainly performance and I speak about the concepts of music through that as well and however you break it down. So, I think we do talk about, we don't necessarily explicitly talk about the concepts of music from kindergarten to year 12, but we are doing it. We're saying clap to the rhythm to kindergarten students, let's stamp to the rhythm, let's walk around and they're getting a sense of beat or they're getting a sense of rhythm, they're getting a sense of a connection to the music. So, it's there it's just may not be explicitly taught. I think to explicitly teach it is because they have to do an exam. They have to do, you know, they have to write about it, they have to analyse and I think that's where sometimes it takes the fun out of it and the fear then gets instilled in some students to think, “oh no, I was just playing a second ago, but now I've got to actually write about it” but I think that they often make that divide because they think it's quite different, but they have to realise it is quite connected and it happens in all stages. So, in stage four you do have that on a very basic level and I do use mind maps for even year seven and year eight and I break it down just so they understand the whole idea of say duration or pitch. But it is, yeah, it is expressed in that way. I do my very first lesson of the year, it's called the styles of music lesson. And what I do is I play them all various styles and if it's year seven I will say to them, can you tell me whether you like or dislike the style and what style it is and why or why not? So, you'll get very superficial answers but when we get to year 8 because we're talking a little bit more about styles, I will say to them “OK why is that that style? Oh it's country, why is it country?” And then try and encourage them even further. I even do this with year 11 and 12 and I want to get specific answers from them. “Oh it's jazz, why is it jazz?” And then I take the conversation wherever it goes and however deep I need to. So, we could spend a whole lesson on the jazz example the country example. But it's getting them thinking about styles, about how that links in with the qualities that make up that style, the ingredients that make up that cake, the qualities that make up that style. So, it's just a way of encouraging them to discuss and just to talk about it.

Alex – That's fantastic. Helene, in a composition context, how do you apply the concepts to composition?

Helene – I get them to think about the concepts of music before a composition. So, what would be my aim for duration or pitch? I start off with structure actually. So how would you like to structure the piece of music? But I think that it's really important for students once they have completed a composition, I guess when is a composition ever completed, analyse their piece of music through the concepts of music. Have I done as much as I can in terms of pitch? Have I done as much as I can exploration in terms of duration and texture as well? And I think often I have found with students is that they are so happy for it to be done, that they just hand it in, they're not completed. Not necessarily not completed, they might think it's completed, but to analyse it overall. And to see as much as they can with all the concepts of music. To me, makes a complete composition in their style.

Alex – And as we're approaching HSC exams, do you have any creative ways that you approach revision of the concepts of music? You've mentioned a few so far but is there anything you'd like to add that might help our teachers or students that are listening.

Helene – Yeah. So, when I do workshops, I ask students how many of you listen to music every day, and of course all of them are going to put their hand up. You know, it's very different to when I was at school and then the more I've been teaching, the more and more they're listening, so really their aural ability should be pretty good. But then I ask them how many are actively listening and you probably just get like half of their hands up, you know. And I ask them what active listening is. And so, I encourage them the senior music students to start actively listening. And, you know, silent practice is a real thing, but silent aural training is a real thing as well. So, when they're on the bus or when they're on the train and they're listening to a piece of music, they're thinking, “oh, I can hear that bass part, what is that? It's a descending. Oh, this is the melodic contour. Oh, there's the texture here is polyphonic.” So, they're aurally, you know, actively listening there. And I've said to them that for some music teachers, it ruins some pieces of music. Well, this piece of music and oh, that's a great example of texture. That's a great example of tone colour. You know, I've got a friend who is a music teacher and she's got categories in her Spotify, let's this is the duration and pitch and you know, she does it in the car. And I think that it's good and I encourage the students to do that because I think that that would really help them aurally.

I also encourage them to leave their opinion at the door because if it's a piece of music that they have heard before, then often they analyse what is coming next when they probably only get an excerpt and also it blocks them too with if they like a style or they don't like a style too because they're listening to so much music, they're very particular about what styles of music I guess they listen to and they're not open enough. So, the whole idea is to appreciate as much music as they can. I talk to them about Spotify and I say your music teacher is not adding to your Spotify playlist, but to try and give you as much music as you can. You know, I'm sure there are music teachers out there that will say, “oh, they don't like this piece of music and it's kind of blocked them”, but I think that it takes the shock value out of it. If they were to be given a piece of music in their HSC that they haven't been exposed to before. You don't want the reaction of 20th century art music to be weird music. You know, I'm thinking a very low level, but you want them to be able to go, okay, this is in this category. And that goes back to that whole styles of music. Things you think more broadly about what makes a style of music? I think also an understanding around cultural music as well, not all performance too. And I found that some students have been a little bit ignorant about some pieces of cultural music, about how it's not just all performance, but ceremonies. And as we know, I usually start off as I mentioned before with a general analysis. So, so how I would start off with the class would be, I would probably show them a video clip of a piece of music and we would discuss that so they might discuss it in pairs and then we discuss this as a class. So, and then I would take the conversation to wherever it leads us. That's the beauty of our teachings. Then I would give them another general listening, but an audio only and this time an excerpt, I would ask them to write everything that they can hear. I encourage them to write anything they can hear and don't worry about their first comment because I think some students, they're a bit paralyzed before they write because they think, oh, I have to write about the concepts of music or I have to write about this. So as long as they're writing something and again, like I said before, just encouraging them and give them the confidence to write whatever they can hear. So, I get them to play the excerpt and once they've done that we go over the six concepts, the music, the features in that, what makes it those concepts. So, you're bringing the terminology in there. But I also get them to write down at the end of the comment which concept they mentioned and I get them to show of hands and I'll say, did you mention duration? Who mentioned pitch? Who mentioned dynamics? Then I get them to look and see which one they commented on most and which one comment on least and then which one do you need to revise more? So, I think this is really good for year 12 because the trend now has been to talk about all the concepts of music in analysis, so making sure that they cover it, emphasizing they don't and an even number of concepts, but just to make sure that they are really talking about all the concepts of music. That activity is quite useful for them. And then collect the answers and model suggested responses. I’m very careful with suggested answers. Because you've always got that one student that says, are we supposed to notate that or are we supposed to have that in the answer? So, it's not I guess not like other subjects where that is the answer an explicit answer. These are suggested responses and emphasis on suggested. So just like the NESA website, we've got suggested responses on there. That's not an all encompassing answer. It’s their suggested, it's what kind of we go from. Then I get to the mind maps, so I will break down the mind map and probably build it up along the way. If it's a class and I've got more time with them, I would start with duration and then I build up the mind about with some sound bites along the way. With the mind maps, I'm really careful not to give them the entire mind map first, I tell them that pitch is the scariest looking mind map. If they are looking at mindmaps so to build that up slowly. So if they were to look at the certain features that they're building blocks really and again, like I said before, encouragement of what they already know, and if you've got a student who feels like they shouldn't be in that class, they don't know anything, we'll just emphasis what they already do know on the other side, if you've got a student who does know a lot, you expand their knowledge to the end branches as well. But there's always other terms that that student is probably needing more revision over, I will probably get them to do a mindmap without branches and I put that on the screen and then I will get them to link the branches, that's always a bit of a fun kinesthetic activity and then I can often give them a blank mind map. So I will you know say to a student okay I'm giving you a mind map test today and they go oh no really? And so, I give them a blank mind map and then they have to connect it. Then I will look at activities where I go lower and middle and higher order thinking, so bring it all together at the end of the mind map. I will get them to look at a mind map and circle the mind map to what they hear. So, I have done this with white boards before where they write down, you know, the mind map and they have to have to circle with what they hear. The middle order thinking is answering specific questions on the components within that, so answering explicit questions and then the higher order is an HSC style question. Somewhere extended responses and you stop wherever they feel wherever they struggle, you know, and a lot of students, once they built up that mind map, then they're able to then bring it all together at the end. But it's really important to bring it all together at the end because that's ultimately what they're going to be doing. I do another whiteboard activity where I was at a school where I had whiteboard tables and I would write a concept on each of the tables and the students would have to go around and add to that mind map. You can do it on the board as well. I've done butcher's paper too. I've done it with the boys at this school because it's practical and competitive. They love anything that's competitive. So, it's a way of the students talking about, oh, I know that branch goes there or not there, so it's a really good way of them bring all that content together. I like showing them texture diagrams as well. If they're more scorebased and they've done the year 9, year 10 and they read a lot of scores, they think they can think like that. So, and I tell the students that some HSC responses can get a really high mark from a very detailed diagram. It doesn't just have to be a diagram and then you leave it from experience. Some of the diagrams are really good, but they don't put enough detail in them to actually help them. And the texture diagram is that they have really listed all the instruments that are there and they're helping themselves because they can say, okay, in the chorus, that's the most texture. And this is what's happening in the cello part of this is what's happening in the bass part. So, the texture diagram is really good for that.

Alex – Can you describe what that texture diagram actually looks like?

Helene – Yeah. So, if they were to listen to a piece of music, first of all, I would encourage them to write the sections at the top. So, say it's in a pop style. That was the introduction verse one verse two chorus, bridge etcetera, and then that's horizontal on the top, and then vertically on the side that would be writing down the instruments that they can hear. And once the instrument appears in that section, they will, I guess highlight it or write exactly what's happening in that section. So, for example, the introduction for a piano, they could say high register narrow range, ascending melodic contour. I encourage the students in a texture diagram to write quotes where it's vocal, and the likelihood of students getting something vocal in the HSC exam is pretty high. So, if they were to write down the quote, they're telling the examiner where something is happening in a piece of music. And as we know, the higher marks tell us where something is happening in a piece of music. They seem to think that they have just written all this great material, but we don't know where they've heard it. So, it's not a way of getting out of it, but it's a way of helping the examiner and your teacher, the teacher know where exactly they can hear those speeches. I get the students to think like a marker as well. I get them to mark their own piece of music, but also model responses. So, I've shown a lot of samples at workshops and that's really helped teachers to know what is an eight, what is the six? What is the three? What does it look like? You know? And we know anyway, it's just that we know on our end, if we give the students that knowledge, then they're equipped with that knowledge, they know what they are expected to write rather than just comments back. So, I think that's really helpful for them, but I make it clear to them that all the concepts overlap too, that it's something that, you know, it's not just going to be one concept you guys to speak about all of them as well. And I do another activity with, I think most teachers would do, so what's making the sound, how is the sound being produced in a combination? So, is it a solo or ensemble and then more specifically when is it happening? And as we know, that's the part that a lot of students get caught up on who is performing and what are they doing. So, I think going in with those acronyms, really does help students and tools like the mind map, they're just tools to help them. It's confidence that they have done everything they possibly can before they actually walk into the exam, but making sure that they have done a lot of that application before too, that they've applied that to practice papers and then looked at model responses before too. I do like a kinaesthetic activity at workshops where they represent a layer. It actually wakes them up in these workshops because they're doing a lot of writing and a lot of listening and I get it to the point where I feel like I'm losing them. So, I get them into seven groups. And the example I used a couple of weeks ago at a workshop was Call On Me, it's a dance track and one group represents clicks, one group represents the keyboard part and they have to stand up whenever their layer is heard and then sit down when it's not heard. So, then I explain to them that physically they are the texture. And then I get the first group to stand up and I say can you just discuss your layer and tell me a little bit about your layer and I'll say okay with the clicks are on one and three and I was like okay can you notate that for me and I'll come up to the board and they'll rotate it. And then at the end of the analysis, we've actually got a full analysis from all of the individual layers. And I tell them to think about it like a loop based program like GarageBand track. And the idea actually came out from when I played an example to a class and this one girl said this just sounds like a Garage Band track where I've got eight bars at the beginning and then something else comes in after eight bars and something else comes in after eight bars. So, well, it's exactly like a Garage Band track. So then I created a GarageBand track of this song, and I showed that at workshops to show that it builds up to see those physical layers, and then I then talk a little bit more about those texture diagrams as well, about how if you were to draw something like this, this would really help you analyse the piece of music, but it gets them up, it gets them talking about their layer individually and then realising that it's the layers that comprise of the whole piece of music, not just everything compounded on them at once.

You know, and I think that a lot of students get overwhelmed sometimes when they hear an orchestral sound, like, well, hang on a second, you've only got four families there, let's break them down. So, I think that could help some students too. I think making it significant and relevant to them, like I mentioned before, giving them pieces that would engage their group. Not necessarily giving into popular culture though, but making sure that there are creative ways that you can teach them music, meta-language. I've used music for games before. And there are some great tracks for some of these, this game music. I had to do a lot of research because I don't really know a lot about it, but there are some really good orchestral scores out there. Some failed. Some they weren't as engaged as I thought. So, we just use it as like an audio analysis. Others are really good. They already engaged with it. So, you know, that's trial and error, I guess with whatever we play to students, but then eventually giving them pieces that we feel has a lot of content in it that they can really analyse and then branching from that too, and not just unpopular the popular side of things, but you know, making sure that we're moving into art music and if they haven't had an experience in year nine and 10 with Baroque or Classical or any kind of art music that we really expose them to that as well. Alex – That's great, Helene, you've offered so much content for our music teachers today about the concepts of music and some really innovative ideas in how to how to revise them with our students. I'm sure that the teachers are going to steal some of those ideas. Is there anything more you'd like to add before we finish up today?

Helene – I think that the music teachers really do care for their students and then we really want to find ways to engage them and to give them the confidence to write in this exam and also to perform and really, really do their best. And that's what the best thing is about our question. But the more and more we can help each other, you know, I love giving away resources. I don't mind giving away all my ideas, but the more and more we do that, the better our job will be in, the better our students will be.

Alex – That's great. Helene, thank you so much for joining us today and best of luck to all the HSC students and to our teachers that are doing an amazing job in supporting and teaching them. Thank you again.

Helene – Thank you very much.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our Statewide Staffroom through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at . The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.


Return to top of page Back to top