Music 2 Resource Kit – Pipa Tuning activity

Pipa tuning activity – score reading and tablature pitch transcription 

N.B. Students to perform this activity individually so that the learning intent (learning the Pipa standard tuning) is consolidated on a deeper level.

N.B. To be completed as an early activity in studying this work PRIOR to students looking at the class arrangement provided (it will become clear why with a certain string instrument used in the arrangement and relevant score instructions)

Musical References from “Hectic Jacaranda” : Labelled cells 1, 7, 11a, 15a

Resources :

  • Score screenshot excerpts and audio excerpts of cells 1, 7, 11a, 15a provided to students


  • This activity is intended to teach and consolidate working knowledge of tablature notation.
  • Students are required to determine the tuning notes for the 4 open strings of the Pipa
  • This is to be completed using the provided score screenshots and corresponding audio excerpts (audio from each cell excerpt contains only the Pipa part, the guitar part removed digitally for convenience). 
  • Each cell chosen for the activity uses one string of the Pipa for convenience in transcription and working out the tuning notes for open strings.
  • Students should use an instrument they are familiar with to transcribe and play along to the audio/score excerpts provided. This will allow students to identify the pitches used in each example in order to help determine the open string tuning note from each example.
  • Cell 1 score/audio excerpts to be used for string 1 tuning transcription
  • Cell 7 score/audio excerpts to be used for string 2 tuning transcription
  • Cell 11a score/audio excerpts to be used for string 3 tuning transcription
  • Cell 15a score/audio excerpts to be used for string 4 tuning transcription
    • Hint : fret 0 on tablature equals the open string
    • Hint : as it will become clear by the examples, each single fret movement on the same string equals one semitone movement in pitch.

Music 2 Resource Kit – Listening Guide

Listening Guide to “Hectic Jacaranda” – Damien Ricketson

Section A

Bars : 1-20

Cells :  1-3

Cell structure : 1 1 1 1 1 1   2 1 2   2 2 2 2   3 2 3 2 3 3 3 


  • Pipa and Classical Guitar are introduced, creating a monophonic texture as they never play simultaneously
  • Static pitch on C# – Pipa and guitar play C# in different octaves and each remain on one pitch
  • Consistent forte dynamic used throughout the section
  • Compound time signature of 12/8 is introduced and remains consistent – Made clear by the initial repeated bar (cell 1) using both the pipa and guitar to play alternating phrases of six notes (to equal 12)
  • The even rhythm is interrupted by new phrases which remain on the same two pitches (of each instrument) but create new rhythms to have more interaction between the two parts, with single notes being traded on certain beats
  • Similar tone colour between the two instruments as both are acoustic stringed instruments, and both use plectrums to play the strings.

Section B

Bars : 21-32

Cells :  3, 4a/b

Cell structure : 3 4a 3 4b   3 4a 3 4b   4a 4b 4a 4b


  • New cells of music are introduced to contrast the melodically static earlier phrases (cell 4 parts) – new cells use a mix of 3rds and 4ths in each instrument’s part, and create an overall angular melodic contour due to maintaining the separation of an octave or so between parts
  • Some sense of a minor, even phrygian tonality in the melodic phrases, although this is obscured by the angular contours.
  • The new phrases also include more back and forth rhythmic structure, several single notes trading between the parts with some groups of 3 notes in each part to maintain the 12/8 feel
  • Structurally these new phrases are juxtaposed with the original earlier phrases until the new melodic phrases take over completely

Section C

Bars : 33-48

Cells :  4a/b, 5a/b, 6a/b

Cell structure : 5a 4a 5b 4b   5a b a b   5a 6a 5b 6b   6a b a b


  • Forte dynamics, 12/8 time signature and monophonic texture continue
  • New phrases introduced continue to obscure a sense of tonality due to the extreme angular contours, and the back and forth single note hocket effect between instruments
  • Bar 42 onwards : new phrases (cell 6 parts) introduce piano dynamics, along with some chromatic tonality, and the register of the two instruments is brought much closer together which juxtaposes the roughly octave separation of prior passages
  • Sense of pulse and beat, namely the 12/8 compound triplet feel, becomes hard to hear amongst the new phrases which use softer dynamics, complete single note by note hocket texture and which don’t use a high note to accent the start of bar

Section D

Bars : 49-64

Cells :  7, 8a/8b, 9a/9b

Cell structure : 7 7 7 7 7   8a 7 8b   8a b a b   9a b a b


  • The main phrase repeated at the start of this section (cell 7) gives a strong sense of pulse and the 12/8 compound feel, as forte dynamics are used to accent the start of bars
  • This opening repeated phrase uses groups of 3 quavers in each instrument which neatly fits into the 12/8 feel
  • This section is highly chromatic. The opening repeated phrase uses a limited pitch set between the two parts, all notes within a semitone. Following phrases continue with the angular contours heard earlier in the piece, although maintain a limited range and pitch set
  • Forte dynamics and Piano dynamics are used to create accents in many phrases. The guitar accents tend to stand out over the pipa and obscure the strong beats of the bar, making it hard to hear the pulse correctly.

Section E

Bars : 65-80

Cells :  9a/b, 10a/b, 11a/b, 12abcd

Cell structure : 

9a 10a 9b 10b    10a b   11a 10a 11b 10b   11a b    12 a b c d


  • The phrases here mimic earlier passages of using some movements of 3rds and 4ths in the melodies, which is again hard to decipher amongst the angular contours between the two parts. 
  • The parts continue to have very little relation melodically, other than in terms of rhythms which create a hocket and do not play simultaneously.
  • Several bar long phrases in here create a highly chromatic feel as both instruments play notes in their own melodies which are all semitone movements (cell 11 parts)
  • Dynamics continue with rapid changes between forte and piano to create accents and give the listener a weak sense of pulse.
  • The interlocking rhythms between the two parts do not give a clear sense of compound 12/8 time or any kind of triplet/swing/shuffle feel typical of 12/8

Section F

Bars : 81-101

Cells :  13a/b, 14abcd, 15abcd

Cell structure : 

13a b a 14a   13b 14b c d   14a b c 15a   14d 15b c d   a b c d d


  • The first new phrase (cell 13 parts) introduced here returns to the completely note by note trading/hocket effect heard earlier which further obscures the 12/8 time signature. 
  • This new melody has both instruments starting in a similar register and moving outwards to different registers, continuing with a chromatic tonality, individual notes themselves seemingly unimportant compared to the overall contour.
  • Another new phrase heard numerous times here (cell 14 parts), returns to the rhythmic feel of groups of 3 quavers clearly on the strong beat and making the 12/8 time easy to hear and to sense the pulse. These phrases also use a wide range between the two instruments, alternating low pipa melodies with high guitar melodies
  • Dynamics become in creasingly varied, changing several times a bar to create accents with the rapid changes.
  • By this late stage in the piece, it is clear that the homophonic, hocket texture of two instruments never playing simultaneously is consistent throughout.

Section G

Bars : 102-115

Cells :  16abcd, 17a/b, 18a/b, 19a/b

Cell structure : 

16 a b c d    17a b a b   18a b   18a 19a 18b 19b   


  • This section retains some elements of the prior section, which are the juxtaposition of single note by note hocket phrases which make it hard to sense the pulse, with phrases that have the two instruments trading groups of 3 notes which makes clear the 12/8 time.
  • Dynamics here are mostly piano with some forte used again for accents among the piano dynamic.
  • The melodies used here remain largely chromatic, although each instrument seems to have it’s own sense of melody apart from the other, which ultimately creates the chromaticism and angular contour.

Section H

Bars : 116-135

Cells :  19a/b, 20a/b, 21a/b, 22, 23, 24

Cell structure : 

19a 20a 19b 20b    20a b 21a b   21a 22 21b 22   22 22 22 23   23 23 24 23

  • The first passage alternates between cell 19, 20 and 21 parts which all maintain high variance in dynamics, again used as rhythmic accents in weak beats of the bar
  • High melodic notes are used to further accent weak beats of the bar, and to stick out from the moderate pitch register used mainly by both instruments.
  • Cell 22, first introduced at bar 125, brings back the groups of 3 quavers on strong beats rhythm heard many times earlier. Each instrument uses far more angular melodies and far wider intervals in their parts here than before. Again, these bars are alternated with the bars that do not give as strong of a sense of pulse.
  • Cell 23, first introduced at bar 131, returns to the note by note hocket rhythm style, and uses melodies in the two parts which when combined create a tonal melodic ostinato, compared to the high chromaticism and disconnecting parts heard earlier throughout.
  • Cell 24, first introduced at bar 134, mimics some of the opening phrases from the piece. Both instruments stay on a single pitch (the pipa is on a C# as per the intro and guitar uses an F#) with a rhythm that is similar, not exact, to the hocket phrase of cell 3.

Section I

Bars : 136-155

Cells :  24, 25, 26, 27, 28

Cell structure : 

24 24 25 25    27 25 26 25    26 25 26 24    26 27 26 27    28 27 28 28


  • All cells of music used here mimic the style of cells 1, 2 and 3 from the intro to the piece. 
  • They all have both instruments on a single pitch (various used, not only C# as per intro), and all cells except 24 are using rhythms directly taken from cells 1, 2 or 3.
  • Dynamics here are mainly piano, to create a smooth texture and overall tone colour, compared to the use of forte to create unexpected accents in many earlier phrases.
  • Cell 26 uses rhythm of cell 3, cell 27 uses rhythm of cell 2, and cell 28 uses rhythm of cell 1 to create a sense that the piece finishes by returning back along the path it started from.
  • However the single pitches used in these cells are all different, to indicate a sense of narrative and development within the piece, instead of using cells 1-3 exactly as they were in reverse.
  • The last several bars use an SF as an accent on the last of each six notes as opposed to accenting the start of the bar.
  • By the end of the piece, it is clear that the overall structure is through composed. Although there are rhythmic structure motifs which get recycled with new pitches, the overall arc of the work does not show any larger sections in original or close to original form returning. Only on a micro level there are returning sections with bar long cells alternating between each other. All cells of music have their place in the piece, alternate back and forth with other cells for a longer passage or so, and are replaced by new music in a constant cycle.

Music 2 Resource Kit – Score reading 1 – Listening to cells 1-3

N.B. Intended as a starter activity PRIOR to students looking at the provided analysis, listening to the full piece many times beforehand, looking at the score or class arrangement

Musical references from “Hectic Jacaranda” : labelled cells 1, 2 and 3

Resources :

  • Audio excerpt of intro section (includes cells 1, 2 and 3) of “Hectic Jacaranda”
  • Audio excerpts of individual cells 1, 2 and 3 for students to complete the activity in a DAW such as GarageBand, sound trap or Logic Pro
  • Screenshot excerpts of cells 1, 2 and 3 for students to read and interpret, to use as reference for determining the structure of the intro section excerpt
  • Video instructions for digital DAW activity

Instructions :

  • Students are required to use the provided screenshots of labelled cells 1, 2 and 3 from the music, and the provided audio excerpt
  • Students are to listen to the excerpt, while reading the score cell excerpts, and determine the structure/order of the cells of music, including any repeats.
  • Students may not use the score or provided analysis to assist them, they must listen to the excerpt only.
  • This activity can be completed by writing the structure down in a workbook. 
  • This activity can also be completed by loading the main audio excerpt into a DAW such as GarageBand, sound trap or Logic Pro, along with the individual cell audio excerpts, with students listening along to the main audio track and copy/pasting the individual cell audio into the correct bars. Refer to video below for an example on Logic Pro, although only basic DAW functions are required, so any DAW can be used.

Music 2 Resource Kit – Place of “Hectic Jacaranda” In Damien’s creative output

Hectic Jacaranda is the original work in the series “Hectic Resonance” by Damien Ricketson. This version features duelling Pipa and Classical Guitar, which has since had many new versions arranged for pairs of various instruments. Damien’s original purpose in the project was motivated by ideas of “connection and distance” (1), using the textural and sonic effects of musicians performing on opposite sides of an audience as a primary “response” to this.

Despite the initial aim of having the music performed live, which was achieved in China according to the program notes, the entire project was first interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, yet quickly took on new meaning as Damien managed to shift his response to the original themes of connection and distance. According to Damien, these works which are largely built from a music “spatialised hocketing game” would have possibly been short-lived, until the pandemic allowed the work to find “new and unexpected resonances” (2). This was achieved by embracing the online and digital forms of music making away from stages, communal music spaces and touring schedules. Inspired by musicians who were “inventive, resourceful and anything but silent” (2), Damien embraced the fact that the works were “peculiarly compatible with social-distancing orders and well suited for stitching together from home recordings made by musicians in lockdown” (2). The original themes of having musicians communicate via a metronome/click track also made perfect sense, as this was an original theme of the work… “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” (2).

To further contextualise the Hectic Resonance series of works, several of Damien’s moderately recent and prior works to the series serve as examples of music which would have suffered greatly, compared to the new life which the Hectic series managed to find. “Aeolian playgrounds” is a live installation work designed for public interaction, achieved through pipes which are arranged physically and act as “leaf blowers” to be played as instruments (3). Not only for the fact that all non essential venues closed due to the pandemic, but also the sharing of these pipe instruments requiring breath/saliva and so on by the public would have been an immediate halt to this work. A prime example of this series is “Pipe dreams green”, set up at Casula Powerhouse and unveiled in 2015 (4). With approximately 10,000 plus visitors and interactions to the work, it is clear that this work would have suffered in the pandemic. A final example is Damien’s Opera “The Howling Girls” from 2018 (5), intended for live performances. A work which involves live performance of numerous musicians and performers, in front of an audience would have not survived in the pandemic times.



Music 2 Resource kit – Introduction and Biography sketch

This resource kit will be based on “Hectic Jacaranda” by Damien Ricketson (2019). It is 5’30” in length, a single movement work, written for Pipa, Classical guitar and an electronic backing track.

View the score here : Since taken down for privacy. Please support Damien’s work through his AMC profile

Listen to the recording here : since taken down for privacy. the youtube link below provides the same audio.

Watch a performance of the work in Sydney here :

Biography sketch of Damien Ricketson

Damien Ricketson was born in 1973 (3) and quickly devoted his professional life to music. This is achieved with his work at the Conservatorium as an academic and as a composer in his own right. At a young age he studied composition at the Sydney Conservatorium, before moving on to study further overseas with Louis Andriessen (2) who was a mentor for him as a composer and has since been cited as a musical influence by Damien (program notes of Hectic Jacaranda). 

His professional life in composition and music began with his own venture; “Ensemble Offspring” formed in 1995 (2), performing music written by Damien and any composers who sought to maintain modernity and exploration in their creative work. Moving on from Ensemble Offspring in 2015, Damien became the Program leader of the composition department at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and remained in this post until 2019 (1). Damien continues to lecture and teach at the Conservatorium today in the composition department.

Damien continues to be an active composer alongside his professional life as lecturer at the Conservatorium. Some of his major works in recent years include “The Howling Girls” from 2018 (an opera), and “The secret noise” from 2014, which includes dance elements. His recent “Hectic Resonance” series from 2019 into 2020 is Damien’s creative response to the coronavirus pandemic (4) as the work took on new meaning and value with it’s themes of “connection and distance” lending itself easily to musicians who adapted to a lifestyle without live performance or rehearsal with fellow musicians, instead employing digital home recordings, social media and video to make music with other musicians and share with an online audience.



Balinese Gamelan – Day 3 11th April 2022

On our final day of Gamelan we had familiarity and some confidence on our side, having learnt to play “Baris Tumbak” and “Lengker” in the prior weeks. 

It is worth brainstorming some of the main discussion points from today, as Peter had us revise some of the significant teaching strategies that he used and some of the differences between Balinese and western music teaching. 

  • Using no notation is significant as it engaged aural learning skills.
  • Peter uses an approach influenced by his learning experiences with Gamelan; he allowed us to learn the music and correct our own mistakes which gave power back to the student. Although he would also step in from time to time if it was evident that mistakes weren’t clear to one of us!
  • Once we had established learning to play a section with each of us on one particular instrument, we would switch around instruments and he would instruct us to teach each other the parts, giving responsibility and value back to the students.
  • Repetition and learning through making music, rather than stopping and starting.
  • Peter’s approach of breaking down difficult content into learning the moderately difficult part first, then the hard part, and finishing strong with the easy part.
  • The lack of anxiety placed on learning and performing the music. Peter explained that in Balinese music teaching, teachers do not stress about student mistakes as the music is played countless times and there will be many chances to improve.

Watch us playing another complex Kotekan section here. – links to a video

The gong/s – play the Gongan part
Balinese Gamelan instruments with Pangguls respectfully placed on the instrument not touching the ground
Kempli and other instruments used to help keep time with the lead drummer in Balinese Gamelan

Balinese Gamelan – Day 2 4th April 2022

In this week’s Gamelan intensive, we first revised playing “Baris Tumbak” and some of the important ideas we learnt last week. It was interesting how naturally we were able to recall playing that piece after a week without touching the instruments. Almost instantly we could recall the Lagu melody, the Pokok accompaniment parts, the Gongan part, and the more complex Kotekan parts.

This week we were to learn a new piece called “Lengker”, which Peter explained to be from the more refined and intellectual court style of music from Bali, as opposed to the military/masculine style of “Baris Tumbak” which Peter described. This piece also uses a different scale, in “Tembung” tuning (hopefully that’s right!!), using notes 12456 as opposed to the 12356 of “Baris Tumbak”. These explanations of how the musical details go hand in hand with the contextual meanings and values of the music were an important teaching strategy, something that can apply to any music taught in classrooms, rather than showing music to a class without a sense of purpose or value given to the origins and context of the music.

This piece “Lengker” featured yours truly attempting the Lagu on the Reong while the Gangsa and Kantilan players joined me and hammered out another complex Kotekan section. Worth mentioning that the Reong instrument is different to the majority of key/bar based Gamelan instruments we used, it uses different looking Panggul’s to strike the bell-like pieces resting on the frame.

Watch this performance by clicking here. – links to a video

Reong instrument

Balinese Gamelan – day 1 28th March 2022

Peter greeted us all and began to explain some of the important elements of this music, namely that it is not notated, it is often used ceremonially, and the fact that the Balinese do not attach great value to the composer as we would do so in western music.

An initial teaching strategy introduced by Peter was that of showing us a melody to play on the main higher instruments (Kantilan and/or Gangsa I believe!!). I volunteered to play it back, and after hesitating I managed to learn and play it back. 

Peter also explained that in this music, it is taught to relax about making mistakes and simply keep going with the experience to eventually play it right. This main melody was revealed to be the “Lagu” for the piece called “Baris Tumbak”.

Click here to watch us playing “Baris Tumbak”. – links to a video

Peter brought up the teaching strategy of allowing students to learn from each other if they are confused. Second, the performance demonstrates the combination of the Lagu, the Pokok (simplified melody on lower instruments) and the Gongan pattern, as well as the Kempli played by Peter used to keep time and add percussive texture.

Adapting the music to Australian classroom use can be viewed here – links to a video – Peter teaching the “Kotekan” section on a keyboard, after we learnt to play it on our Gamelan instruments. The Kotekan is typically a second section which is led by two overlapping and repetitive melodies that when combined create a new melody.

Gangsa and Kanitlan – higher range instruments used in Balinese Gamelan
Kempli – keeps the beat along with the Gongan part and the drum part

KAME : Who you be? reflections and thoughts

This is my final post for Key Approaches in Music Education. It is based on the first six weeks of discussions we had in half of each lesson, centred around various issues of culture, inclusion, tradition and forward thinking. I will not attempt to represent exactly the work of all the fantastic authors and music education professionals we studied, although I will attempt to summarise my thoughts on the main themes.

In week 1 we spoke with Brent Talbot regarding his experiences in his music education work and his thoughts on who we are and how our personal history may influence our view of music education. From his perspective in the USA, he references Ken Elpus who highlights that American music teachers are overall less culturally diverse than the USA population is in itself, which is proposed to present issues around certain forms of music being prioritised, such as western art and western popular music. Interestingly, Talbot also states that the idea of culturally diverse and accepting music education has been reserved for only primary education, and secondary and tertiary music ed struggles to keep up. A powerful quote to summarise all of this by Talbot is : “Advocacy for our field would not be necessary if the broader population felt the work we did as music teachers represented and reflected their identities and daily lives.”

In week 2, we spoke to Anna bull, who proposes that there are 3 types of young musicians, the “bright futures”, the “masters of the musical universe”, or the “humble and hard working”, at least in terms of those young people who exist within traditional western music spheres and are passionate enough to continue making music throughout their lives. It was discussed to what extent we all felt as though we had opportunities carved out for us to pursue music as young people, with the few of us, myself included, who were able to speak from the relatively new perspective of western popular musicians new to the academic world. Personally, I mentioned to the group that I felt I had great experiences in school music classes, and despite there being no direct path to music as a future profession in any form, this did not de rail my ability to build my skills high enough to attend the Sydney Conservatorium of music.

In week 3, we discussed a poem by Nate Holder, discussing the potential for racism in music education and music in general. To summarise, a few key lines from the poem raise important topics. First, the line “I’d teach African drumming because of course Africa is a country” highlights the need to respect the history and values behind any form of music studied in the classroom, moving away from a surface level understanding. The line “after all, it’s them and us” and the noting of the trans Atlantic slave trade occurring around the height of western art music, highlights the need for a spectrum approach to musical cultures rather than a binary one that only highlights differences rather than celebrates similarities.

In week 4, We looked at some of the work by Alexis Kallio, a music teacher from Finland, who have held the number one ranking worldwide for education systems. Her article in this case dealt with the tricky topic of engaging with “problematic” musics in the classroom environment since this is a necessary part of the profession if we are to be truly inclusive. In particular, many modern forms of popular music were identified for their strong lyrical themes and sometimes anti social ideologies that are put forward, either directly or indirectly. Kallio also notes that it is impossible, and perhaps wrong, to ignore all musics that seem problematic for the classroom since these are still available to students to enjoy in their own time, with friends and in concert. I was not surprised to find many of my classmates highlighted heavy metal as problematic, with rap and hip hop also casually mentioned if I remember correct. I also provided the example of Black Metal as problematic and something I would struggle to ever include in the classroom, considering it’s early history with a handful of Norwegian musicians who engaged in severe crimes, forever tarnishing the reputation of a genre that now has provided legions of fans with a strongly positive emotional and musical outlet, despite it’s surface appearance of anti social themes.

In week 5 we engaged with the writings of Scruton, who maintains the value of western art music over western popular music. His target of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” makes a strong example for his thoughts. Firstly, the chord progression is targeted for it’s use of parallel perfect intervals, with “key changes unprepared” as well. It becomes clear that Scruton’s vocabulary is based in western art music and he does not have an understanding for the emotional, social value of rock or popular music which does not concern itself with sticking to rules of music theory. However, James made it apparent that despite this non inclusive way of thinking, it is in fact still a valid opinion and deserves consideration alongside the other authors we have been discussing.

In week 6, we spoke with Rachel Dwyer whose work focusses on the idea of valuing western art music above other forms in music education. Namely, how this can leave out many great opportunities for other experiences in the classroom, and even neglecting the prior musical experiences of students in the classroom. It was also noted that music education is unique in that it is not simply about “transmission of knowledge”, rather it is about a facilitating musical experiences for students. Some students may also feel “alienated” if they are taught that music is about valuing a narrow set of knowledge and experiences, rather than embracing a range of these.