My Second Year of Studying Music Technology

When at university, traditional subjects of small talk involve what year you’re in and what you study. As a third year student of Music Technology, these topics usually encourage the question of, “I’ve never heard of that, what does it involve?” To which I then assure the opposite party that it is not as cool as it sounds (even though I’ll admit it sounds pretty cool) and explain that while I still study the basics of music; composition, harmony, etc I get a little maths and physics thrown in along with too much programming for my liking. With only six Music Technology students in my year, it’s not exactly a well-known degree so I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a bit more of an insight for anyone who may be curious.

After my first year of university, I wrote a blog post on the classes I took and people seemed to find it genuinely interesting so this is part two of, what I assume will be, a four-part series. Second-year is still a foundation year which means you’re still learning bits of everything before starting to specialise in honours. Unlike the first year, not all of my second-year modules were compulsory so I had a little more freedom of movement around subject areas. This will explain why some of the following classes aren’t particularly musical or technological. I enjoyed taking some outside modules because after being overwhelmed with music theory for the past year, I had the opportunity to explore other interests.


Music 2D: Theory and Practice of Music Technology

As the term ‘music technology’ is a bit vague, Music 2D helped me gain a clearer perspective on the real-world applications of it beyond producing music in a studio. I wrote an essay on digital and electronic performance and how it was received by an audience which really peaked my interest in the subject. However, this essay was only half of the course as the other half involved first-hand interaction with music technology, and building some sort of programme that would create music on its own.

Programming is not my strong suit at the best of times and as I struggled to keep up with the software tutorials, I found the final assignment to be exceptionally difficult. That being said I still managed to get a C on the patch that I created all by myself that produced a new sequence of notes every time you set it off. It was very basic but as someone who had never touched programming before, I was quite proud and it’s something I carried with me into third year.

It was in this class that I realised I’m more interested in the effects that technology can have on the real-world rather than actually wanting to interact with the technology itself. It’s something that I’m looking to pursue in my fourth-year project/dissertation by looking at the social impact of music technology rather than trying to adapt to a new software so I can programme something I’m not interested in.


Maths for Music Technology II

Now being the little bit of a nerd that I am, I enjoyed the maths side of my degree in second year. The fact that I was also good at it helped me a lot and it ended up being my best mark for the entire year. It’s been a long while since I sat the exam but I’m still chuffed I got 96% thanks to guidance from my lecturer. We covered basic topics such as differentiation and trigonometry before starting to focus on the musical applications a little more with the introduction of Fourier Theory, which is used to process and study audio signals.

I took this class in first year and I was glad that second year was a gradual step up from what I had already learned. When starting university I often found that continuing on classes from school or within university included an immediate step up. This generally invoked a lot of stress within me because I was often left feeling confused due to my lack of prior knowledge and experience. However, MfM II was easy to follow and really helped me feel like I was building on existing skills, perhaps the main reasons why I was so engaged with the learning.


Creative Music Technology

Considering Music Technology is literally in the title of this class, you can safely assume that this class was compulsory for me, however I confirm it was a massive waste of time. I learned nothing new about music technology in any way related to what I was interested in or a career path, a common opinion shared by everyone on my degree.

I love listening to music but I don’t like listening to endless noise. If you’re familiar with musique concrète, you might understand what I mean. It’s taking regular sounds like birds chirping or a train whistle and compiling it all in a track that, to me, doesn’t make any musical sense and it just uncomfortable to listen to. My assignments for CMT were only to make my own tracks of a similar style. My lecturer utterly adored musique concrète (which I have no problem with) but we were on such different wavelengths as to what invokes a pleasurable listening experience that I hated this class. The only enjoyment I gained from this class was when some of the clips he played sounded distinctly like a looped fart.


Music 2B: Music and Ideas from Romanticism to the Late 20th Century

It was compulsory for me to take a music history course in my second year. I had the choice between Music 2A which focused on the Renaissance and Baroque eras or 2B which was based on the Classical, Romantic and 20th Century eras. The Romantic era is typically my favourite of them all so I picked 2B with the hope of learning more about Tchaikovsky and late Beethoven.

The class was a hit and miss for me because I was only actually interested in half the course. When we began to talk about the 20th Century we focused a lot on musique concrète and I began to dread each lecture. The class gave me the opportunity to write an essay on a period that I enjoyed but when it came to the final exam and none of the questions that I had prepared for arose, I was a bit stuck. Despite my disassociation with a lot of 20th Century techniques for music making it was interesting to learn a little bit more about the origins of the music technologies that I am more familiar with.


Festivals

I’ve got to give it to the University of Edinburgh, they created a module around festivals and then made it completely essay based despite having to organise your own event. I’m not saying that the festival that we put on as a class was any good, certainly not the next T in the Park, but it just seemed entirely redundant as it didn’t contribute to our final grades at all. Our festival, ‘Off the Cuff,’ ran for two nights in a university bar and featured performances from a Sitar group, African drumming group and improvised jazz piano, amongst many more diverse acts.

Despite the challenge that such a varying genres would present when trying to create a cohesive festival, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to develop my marketing skills more. As this was the time that I was really getting back into writing on my blog again, I would have loved to have been involved in the social media promotion of our festival. Though due to cliquieness within my class, this never happened. I was instead part of the design team making decorations and a poster which for me, is hardly related to any potential career path that I would want to follow and barely even music related.


Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course

Social Anthropology was my first experience taking a class that wasn’t music based. I had a bit of a panic when choosing what to take as an outside course so like the sheep that I am, I chose the same as my friends. Social Anthropology lectures were very different to what I had experienced in my first year of university. In music, my classes ranged from 10 to 50 people whilst my Social Anthropology lectures consisted of about 300 students. I’d never been surrounded by such a clattering of laptop keys like this before and it was a bit intimidating.

The course itself looked at aspects of life such as birth, marriage and death but in different cultures across the world. It was an interesting course and I certainly learned about topics I knew nothing of before but it terms of what could be relevant to me in the future, it was utterly useless. Being half essay-based and half exam-based, the module had a similar to mock up to previous classes I’d taken but as the subject was entirely different, it still provided me with a different university experience.


Introduction to Entrepreneurship

Being worth half the amount of credits than all my other modules, Introduction to Entrepreneurship was intended to be some extra work on the side so I could learn a little about business. Despite only being worth 10 credits instead of the usual 20, there was twice as much work to do as I had three pass/fail assessments, a group project consisting of a video and 10,000-word report and an exam.

Despite the numerous assessments, there was a flexibility to Introduction to Entrepreneurship that I hadn’t experienced before. Each week I had two or three lectures but as they were all uploaded online I could fit them around my schedule and it was much easier to catch up if I had to prioritise work for other classes. Each week discussed different sides to entrepreneurship such as the different types and motivations and the factors that contribute to the success (or lack of) in individual entrepreneurial journeys.

I was put off by the group project at first because I didn’t like the idea of my grade being affected by other people’s contributions. Looking back there was no need for concern because my team and I worked well together and we received a good mark for our report and video, despite leaving a lot of it to the last minute. This class was one of my best marks for the year which I’m happy about but part of my wishes it had been something better associated with my degree.


During my second year of university I realised that my strengths within Music Technology were definitely focused around the mathematical applications of it rather than audio programming and studio producing. I then took this as a focus for my third year classes so that when it came to my fourth year project I would have a cohesive background in order to pull together a dissertation that was worthy of a first. After feeling unsure on my degree choice after first year, it was good to have found something about it that I enjoyed, and I was glad that I hadn’t dropped out like I seriously considered doing in September/October 2018.

Due to the sightly less regimented curriculum of second year I was able to explore some more of my interests which I loved as it was something that was definitely missing when I was a fresher. I felt like I had found my feet at university after my foundation years and I was excited to see what honours could hold for me. I’m aware that this blog post is a little delayed so I do know how things have played out since but you’ll have to check out part three of this mini series to find out.

Becca x


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