Mitchell Davis : About Me

Mitchell Davis is currently a music education student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, born in 1997 in Sydney. Following a positive experience with music education in primary and secondary school combined with a personal interest in music as an art form and pastime, the decision to become a secondary school music teacher was naturally made.

Complimentary to studying music education, Mitchell also holds ongoing experience working casually in a youth centre in his home town of Liverpool, New South Wales. After studying a Certificate IV in Youth Work, It was here that he initially found his confidence and appreciation for working with young people to achieve positive outcomes, predominately running various sport and recreational youth programs both in local Liverpool school environments and at the youth centre’s facilities.

Mitchell’s specific area of musical expertise is in contemporary popular music. He is a guitarist and songwriter who enjoys genres such as heavy metal, extreme metal, hard rock, blues and pop. He has begun to write, release and perform his original music in order to gain greater experience in the world of contemporary music and give more value to his skills in becoming a music educator.

Mitchell Davis’ first official musical release with his band Together As One

Comp in Music Ed – Original composition process diary – Part 5 : Section B return and variation, relevance to baby steps

Click here for updated score and audio

I have completed the two minute draft of my original work, by following section C explored in the prior blog post with a variation and return of section B/B1. I have revisited one of my baby steps again for this process, namely the “musical building blocks” activity and resources I have created. View it here

Firstly, I took the approach that Damien Ricketson to the composing and conceptualising his work “Hectic Jacaranda” which is my model piece. In terms of structure and musical motifs, he labels every single cell of music. This allows him to be sure of which chunk of music shows up at any point. He has also gone to the extent of labelling cells into groups based on their similarities. The process he uses for this is explored in the baby step musical building blocks video tutorial linked above. Damien uses numbers to indicate a new cell or brand new group of cells entering, as a group of cells is labelled first by a number to indicate group, and a letter to indicate which variation it is. Variations in his work on the same cell typically use the same rhythm but have the pitches reorganised or some of them changed.

Below is an example of how I have labelled some of the cells. I’m thinking of reserving any full analysis of my work with all the nerdy details for a potential final blog post.

As discussed in a prior post, section B originates from only a single rhythmic motif whereas Hectic Jacaranda uses countless rhythms. The variation in my section B begins to occur rhythmically with the bars that omit the clarinet portion of the hocket rhythm, and allow the violin alone to tease the full hocket rhythm. In total, referring to the score (good time here to read along with it from link above) I have ended up with 4 groups each with a b c and d variations. Considering my section B only originates from the one rhythm as mentioned, the majority of the variations occur from the varying stages of development that the phrases go through from static pitch to introducing some melody against the other instrument remaining static, before both instruments become fully melodic.

Again referring back to my musical building blocks BABY STEP, the basis for the activity I created for that resource aimed to take some of the original cells of music from Hectic Jacaranda and structure them into a musical setting that has some sense of beginning, middle and end/return as opposed to the through composed nature of the original work by Damien (not that through composed is a bad thing at all…). This is significant since the return of my section B and variation is in one way a backwards statement of B and B1, but also keeps some of the same order rather than 100 per cent a reversal of which pieces/individual bars show up at each point. Considering the tonic and dominant structure I set in section B originally, I kept this structure and decided to copy and paste groups of 4 bars out of the 16 from B and B1 in total in a backwards statement (so half some sense of actual reversal, some half sense of same direction). This maintains the tonic and dominant structure correctly, but I eliminated the middle two bars of each group of 4 to get through the cycle quicker as the material is already heard earlier in the piece, which again still maintains the melodic, along with tonic and dominant structure.

So I guess I did get into some of the full analysis. If that last paragraph made little sense, perhaps I’ll run a play by play blog post once I have the final work totally polished following our week 13 workshop class.

Comp in Music Ed – Original composition process diary – Part 4 : Section C and more relevance to baby steps and model work (surprise, surprise)

Updated audio and score here

Section C has been completed, in essence I took the main two melodies from the piano lines in section A (dun—dun—d-d-d-dun— if you’ve been listening along that might help pick out which part it is!). I fed these two melodies to the violin and clarinet, stretching them out by their rhythmic value, aiming to create a nice mournful, epic sound spoken about in my first post on this work.

Furthermore, these melodies continue the theme of rhythmic hocket which is present throughout “Hectic Jacaranda” by Damien Ricketson, and explored in numerous ways throughout my BABY STEPS (click to view an example).

Section B is built from am original  rhythmic motif that has melody applied to the corresponding rhythms played by the violin and clarinet, whereas section C is built from the two main melodies in section A, with a new rhythmic sensibility applied and the hocket technique between the two lead instruments. This way, section C sounds as if it has one main melody instead of two competing or duelling parts as section B does, which was the intention for section B.

Oh yeah, I’ve also thrown in some more chords to break away from the monochromatic tonic and dominant harmonic landscape set up so far throughout. New chords introduced in section C are chord VI, IV and viio7. Props to Lewis Cornwell who has taught a lowly music 1 graduate to have a decent command of tonal music language and terminology.

TLDR = new chords in this section cause only two chords used so far and got boring.

The use of the hocket technique to separate the melodic instruments also relates to my model work “Hectic Jacaranda” by Damien Ricketson on another level. In this article (https://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/article/sonic-beacons-in-the-pandemic-age), Damien speaks about the significance that the work carried given it’s creation and early existence occurring at the time of early Co-vid 19 becoming worldwide. This is expressed in the fact that the constant hocket does not allow the two instruments to play simultaneously, a metaphor for the music world during Co-vid. My musical response to this in section C of my work (yet untitled) stages a hocket between violin and clarinet to keep them separate in time, then as the note values become quicker in subsequent repeats of the phrase, the violin and clarinet finally unite and harmonise for the first time in the piece, a metaphor for musicians and people in general starting to reconnect in person in a post Co-vid and zoom meeting riddled world.

A performance of Hectic Jacaranda can be viewed here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSqvFHvDMGs). Damien also speaks of the performers being separated, and their ensemble communication and their entire musical experience being “mediated via technology” (video description). Anyone else try to stage a band rehearsal over zoom over the last two years? Yeah, those experiences and then some are reflected in Damien’s work. 

Comp in Music Ed – Original composition process diary – Part 3 : Feedback from Caitlin and peers in class

View updated score and audio here while reading blog post

In week 12 of Comp in music ed we had out first feedback and draft section with Caitlin, a recent graduate of music ed herself, along with sharing thoughts between those of us suffering*er*hm*enjoying our time in comp in music ed class, on our original compositions which simulates the HSC music 2 student experience.

The music 1 con student strikes again, Caitlin and the class seemed to think I had some valuable music which is a good start, and I am certainly enjoying the music I’m making here more than I imagined I would.

First, my piano writing was identified for it’s difficulty in section A, asking the player to use their left hand to jump an octave and play a triad. FIXED THAT MESS!!

After trying some musical modifications, I went back to mostly the original section A piano, with the some of the second of each melodic phrase bumped up to the right hand to make more musical sense. LH and RH also used to separate the close bass clef parts, to make it playable with two hands.

Caitlin noticed that I had left section B fairly clean of any articulations, and suggested ideas of playing with legato versus staccato considering the rapid semiquaver phrases in violin and clarinet I have written. I have not ventured into deep dark realm of techniques which ask the performers to destroy their instruments out of respect for my… amazing… musical work, rather just serving the music and notes on the page with some nice alternations between staccato and slurring. To this end, there is some clear pattern work, either one or two bar patterns of mainly the 4 note phrases in violin and clarinet (and some piano bits) alternating between staccato and slur. These patterns were created based on the development of section B as discussed in the prior post.

Another BABY STEP which I have referred to in revisiting this section is the rapid dynamic changes activity I created which can be viewed here.

Damien Ricketson uses some accents on his score for Hectic Jacaranda, however he also uses rapid alternations between forte and piano in many of the cells of music in the work (demonstrated/evidenced in the baby step resources). Either way, this gives him the ability to create some elements of syncopation and emphasis on notes within the bar (well duh, that’s what accents are for, guess I am slow at times, eh?).

Where as the staccato and slurring has been used on the 4 note semiquaver groups in violin and clarinet parts of section B, the accents are used on the two note groups of the phrases. The static melodic parts for each instruments do not feature these, instead the accents are used when the melody is applied to the rhythms in the two lead melodic instruments, to further emphasise “catchy march rhythms, now with 100% more melody!!!”

Comp in music ed – Original composition process diary – Part 2 : sections B B1, digging into baby steps teaching resources

I have now reached 1 minute of my 2 minute maximum time limit (as per HSC). I have section A which sets the tone as discussed earlier, and now sections B and B1 which demonstrate clear compositional and influence links to my model work “Hectic Jacaranda”, along with the baby steps high school teaching resources I created.


Have a listen and read the score here by clicking here

Hectic Jacaranda is written for two duelling melodic instruments with an electronic backing track. Earlier I proposed to use the violin and trumpet to duel melodically white the piano provides accompaniment. Sections B and B1 demonstrate this with rapid duelling semiquaver phrases and melodic motifs.

One of the clear striking musical features, and one of my BABY STEPS, of Hectic Jacaranda is the hocket rhythms which when observed closer are typically mirror images of each other (though not always melodically). My teaching resource on exploring mirror image/rhythmic retrograde and hocket rhythms can be found here : Dropbox link to mirror image.

I revisited this activity and composed a single bar rhythm for two instruments to use as basis for section B.Pictured below is the main rhythmic motif for two instruments to create a hocket with, and forms the main motif of my section B and B1. It was written by instinct to create an intense march-like sound. After a solemn section A, some conflict and tension in section B sounds like the way to go.

I also took influence from the variety of melodic contour styles in Hectic Jacaranda, especially as the intro uses static pitch phrases before moving into various pitch contour movements and fully fledged melodies. 

Bars 9-16 (B) (9-10 pictured below as example) introduce the rhythm on mostly pitch while teasing some melody. Also, the rhythm isn’t always played as the full hocket in every bar just yet, it starts with one instrument’s part then the hocket is completed in the second bar and alternates like this a few times.

Bars 17-24 (B1) (21-22 pictured below as example) is the fully fledged combination of the hocket rhythm in full effect combined with both melodic instruments adding melody relevant to the chord underneath.

Photo

Finally, a closing thought at this stage is to incorporate the “spatially separated performers” BABY STEP activity I created. This can be implemented on draft recordings through panning left and right as well as a program note in the final work for instructions on ensemble organisation and placement of performers and audience in the space. A link to the separated performers baby step activity can be found here :

Comp in Music Ed – Original composition process diary – Part 1 : Setting the tone

Here we are, a 2015 music 1 graduate (yours truly) wrestling his way through attempting to compose in the style of music 2 (the “style” of music 2??…) – the LEVEL of music 2 sounds better. Today I managed to set the tone and direction I want to take by completing section A, a mournful 8 bar soundscape that will create a nice intro to more intense creative ideas. 

Have a listen and read here :

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5ns4t7hfmv4grk6/AACfABFRdxxYpRZyd1V9VhaHa?dl=0

Now, this is a 20 second intro to what will be a maximum 2 minute piece, under typical HSC music 2 guidelines. Furthermore, the bulk of the piece also needs to reflect 2 things, first is the model piece I chose to base some learning resources around for a prior assessment, and second it needs to reflect those resources/activities themselves. My upcoming task is therefore to revisit my resources for the “baby steps” composition resources I created. Have a listen to my model work “Hectic Jacaranda” here :

There’s a lot to unpack there, thankfully I’ve already got my own analysis and learning resources to revisit for further creative inspiration. However, one clear link to it already is the fact that the piece I am writing is for three instruments which are violin, clarinet Bb and piano, just as “Hectic Jacaranda” is – classical guitar, pipa and electronic backing track. The guitar and pipa provide a lead melodic duel while the electronic backing provides a high pitched drone that fades in and out. I propose to use the piano in my piece as the accompaniment and have the clarinet duel with the violin. Let’s see how that plays out in a future update.

Lastly, here are some tracks I’ve been into recently that reflect the atmosphere I’d like to achieve. While “Hectic Jacaranda” has it’s own, let’s say, minimalist and.. ‘futurist’?.. quality, there is a more organic and emotional vibe I’d love to achieve with my piece. Anyway, here they are :

(For those not acquainted with the world of death metal, visit Christos Antoniou’s website, guitarist/songwriter/composer/orchestrator for globally popular Greek death metal veterans Septic Flesh (mentioned above) among other projects : https://www.christosantoniou.net/)

Music 2 Resource Kit – Musicology – Impacts of Co-vid 19 on music making and the use of technology in music making

Musicology Activity – Co-vid music making and use of technology in music

Resources : https://www.dropbox.com/s/nnxu51ybhjiw76u/Example%20of%20Cover%20video%20Recording.mp4?dl=0

  • Student or classroom computers
  • GarageBand or other DAW
  • Video editing software
  • Instruments available to students or in class
  • Video example of audio/video project in the spirit of Co-vid 19 music making

Instructions

  1. Students will create a digital recording and a video play through in a pair
  2. Video projects are to ideally have a split screen effect with two separate videos, with each partner playing their instrument part
  3. Audio recordings should be created together along to a click track
  4. An example video/audio project is provided in resources

Differentiation

  • Students may wish to perform a cover of one of the group member’s one minute composition from the activity completed earlier (melody style/contour activity) or perhaps a cover version of part of “Hectic Jacaranda” learnt from the class arrangement earlier.
  • No minimum or maximum limit is given for the time of the recording and video, although students are encouraged to aim for at least one minute of music in the recording and video project.

Background to this activity from Damien Ricketson himself

Source : https://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/article/sonic-beacons-in-the-pandemic-age

  • “Books will be written about the creative ways in which musicians responded to the coronavirus pandemic that has thus far muted live music through much of 2020. The life blood of the performing arts was abruptly severed by the shutdown, but musicians have proven themselves inventive, resourceful and anything but silen
  • “With artists and audiences stuck in their homes during extended lockdowns, all have had to overcome their constricted physical presence by expanding their digital presence.”
  • “’Hectic Resonance’ is my own small creative response to social distancing… One of my varied responses to the theme was using spatially separated musicians… the concept can be taken further in the online domain to include musicians who aren’t even in the same room”
  • “In order to perform the work, the musicians need to entrain to a click track (or a video score) rather than the physicality of performing in close proximity. Just as our everyday social interactions went online, the musicians in these works are on their own but their sense of connectedness is mediated via technology.”

Part 2 : Research activity on music making during Co-vid 19

  1. In your pair, find 2 examples of musicians who successfully found alternative methods of making music through the height of the co-vid 19 pandemic, and the impossibility of live performances in front of an audience along with in person rehearsals with other musicians.
  2. Provide an example such as a youtube clip or otherwise of each
  3. Present a brief presentation to your class which addresses the following (no min or max time, treat as a brief presentation and discussion with class) :
  • An introduction to the musical artist, composer or group
  • Some context on their creative work and typical music making activity
  • Describe how they navigated the impacts co-vid stopping in person performances, rehearsals, live audience interaction and any other associated musical activity.
  • How has technology played a role in this new form of their creative activity?

Some starting points and examples for music making during Co-vid 19

Music 2 Resource Kit – Score Reading questions

“Hectic Jacaranda” Score Reading questions

Resources :

Score reading questions

  1. What style of notation is used and explain how it is read? 
  2. What kind of instruments does this form of notation relate to?
  3. What symbol is used in bars 2-6 (and often throughout the work) and what does it mean?
  4. What symbol is used at bars 31-2 (and often throughout the work) and what does it mean?
  5. Explain why some labelled cells of music (the circled numbers and letters above each bar) use only a number or both a number and letter? eg. 3, or 4a / 4b.
  6. Identify 2 other examples of numbered cells that use lettered variations, list the letters used in that number group and describe the difference between the lettered variations in each number group.
  7. Describe the effect that is created by the dynamics at bar 49.
  8. Describe the effect that is created by the dynamics at bar 66.
  9. List all types of accents used throughout and explain the effect of each.
  10. What is the time signature and how is this normally grouped and accented? 
  11. Identify 2 examples of cells of music that clearly emphasise regular timing and accents of the time signature between the two instruments, and 2 example of cells of music that are working against the regular timing and accents of the time signature? (consider the groupings of notes used in a single bar between the two instruments and where the notes, and stronger dynamics land in the bar).
  12. Consider cells 1, 2 and 3 as one group in the intro, and cells 26, 27 and 28 as one group in the outro – explain similarities and differences between the two groups of cells of music.

Music 2 Resource Kit – Composition Activity 2 – melody styles and devices

Composition activity 1 – Rhythm templates and Melody match maker

Musical References from “Hectic Jacaranda” : cells 4b, 14a, 15a, 21a, 28

Resources : https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/wzhh3cfjl4ynnj2karzlf/h?dl=0&rlkey=z16n8afbzxfi10tbvjhzqaeyn

  • Audio, score and notation excerpts of the 5 melodic contour/style examples from “Hectic Jacaranda”
  • Instruments available in class/brought in for students to use
  • Students welcome to use manuscript, digital music notation programs, or tablature if relevant

Instructions

  1. As a class, listen to the audio excerpts one at a time while reading the corresponding notation/score excerpts. Analyse these 5 examples for their melodic styles, contours and devices as relevant. Each of the 5 examples is then given it’s ‘descriptor’ by the teacher. See resources for descriptors of each.

2. Students will then work individually to compose at least 4 separate one bar melodies using a range of these melodic styles analysed from “Hectic Jacaranda”. Single note melodies are desired for the activity to retain link to “Hectic Jacaranda”. It is also desired that a single and consistent rhythmic note value (of student’s choice) is used in all compositional ideas here to retain influence from the work.

3. Students will then arrange their 4 (or more) individual one bar melodic phrases, which should reflect a range of the melodic styles analysed, into a 1 minute structure, which can include repetitions and returning phrases as desired by the student.

4. The final one minute work should be played for the class.

Options / Differentiation

  1. Students may wish to use the original time signature and tempo of “Hectic Jacaranda” (12/8 at 120bpm=dotted crotchet) or they may wish to explore their own options with these variables.
  2. Students may wish to compose melodies and parts that are intended for a single instrument, or they may wish to compose their melodies using the style of two instruments playing hocket phrases that never play simultaneously as per the style of “Hectic Jacaranda”.
  3. Further performance extension activity can include having a partner in the class learn and perform the second instrument’s part written while the composer student plays the instrument 1 parts.

Music 2 Resource Kit – Composition Activity 1 – Rhythm templates and melody match maker

Musical References from “Hectic Jacaranda” : cells 4a, 11a, 14a, 21a

Resources : https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/15nj5bkf3n6guz49bkset/h?dl=0&rlkey=ojffirjnwo4gwpbzv1jv2xke0

  • “Rhythm template” graphics
  • Instruments available in class/brought in for students to use

Instructions

  1. As a class, revise 12/8 time signature feel. Begin by briefly discussing the top and bottom number, discuss the groupings of notes

2. As a class, stomp the 4 strong beats, and clap the groups of 3 quavers to revise the sound and accent groupings of 12/8 time signature.

3. As a class, assign half students to instrument 1 and half to instrument 2. Each group will choose a different body percussion sound and each rhythm used for the activity (refer to resources) will be performed in body percussion only.

4. Teacher to provide the rhythm template graphics, either printed or on screen – work with each graphic one at a time as class. Teacher also to designate half the students as “instrument 1” players, half the students as “instrument 2” players.

5. Begin with the class all working on cell 4a rhythm template. Students will take the rhythm of either the instrument 1 or 2 part, depending on which they were designated to, and compose a melody to fit the rhythm of their part. Several minutes given for students to compose a melody to their rhythm.

6. Once all students have a melody, instrument 1 and 2 players will begin to interact by moving around the room (or this can be done as a class and listening one by one etc if movement with instruments is difficult), with instrument 1 and instrument 2 players playing their melodies together and choosing a partner based on how they like the sound of the two melodies when played together. Students encouraged to explore all options available from each student in the class from opposite group.

7. Each pair of students that is formed will include an instrument 1 player and instrument 2 player. Groups will be given time to practice playing their parts together in the 12/8 time signature of the rhythm templates, and the 12/8 feel revised practically at the start of activity. Pairs of students are also required to analyse the music they have just created.

8. Each pair of instrument 1 and 2 players will perform their melody for their class and provide some brief musical analytical thoughts on the music created by joining these two parts together.

9. Repeat process from step 4 for the other rhythm template graphics