By guest writer Sng Ding (18A01C)
This article is the fifth part in Raffles Press’ series, Please Mind the Platform Gap: The Road Less Taken, about non-traditional A-level subjects offered in RI. For our previous feature on H1/H2 Japanese, please click here.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of RI’s academic management and should not be used as a substitute for formal academic counselling.
The first thing our teacher, Dr Gooi, told us was, “Don’t trust your teachers.” Then, in the next five minutes, he went on to say, “I can predict the future. Trust me.”
What kind of future lay in wait for us? He might have known, as he said, or he might not have. But he never told us that it was going to be this fun.
We have gone through all sorts of crazy-sounding things together, from playing with stones to performing for each other using magazines (yes, seriously!), to collectively recording more than 300 types of sounds and eventually putting up our own batch concert. The MEP Showcase, which takes place every August, features electronic music compositions and a variety of mixed media by the Year 5s, and classical performances by the Year 6s.
In the beginning, however, many of us still had our doubts about joining H2 Music, and we know that many of you reading this post probably do too. Fortunately, this primer aims to answer some of your questions, as well as clear up some misconceptions.
Joining H2 Music
Passing the admission test is a prerequisite to join H2 Music, and students who did not take the subject in secondary school can join, too. In addition, students can apply for the MOE Music Elective Scholarship (MES)—which provides an academic subsidy of $1000 per year—by submitting either a recording of their performance or a portfolio of their compositions.
What are our H2 Music classes like?
Our H2 Music class has 11 students and 3 teachers: Dr Gooi, Dr Ruth and Mr Lim. Dr Gooi usually conducts the lectures (we’re currently learning French music) and aids us in our composition tutorials, while Dr Ruth helps us in our performance tutorials, and Mr Derek Lim teaches us Asian music, specifically Chinese music and Malay dance music. Theory, composition and performance are the three main components that determine our grade. We can choose to do either a Performance Major (placing more emphasis on practical performance) or Composition Major (focusing more on composition).
How has the H2 Music experience been so far?
Looking back, half a year after we first started out, I’m glad to say that H2 Music has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, as Dr Gooi first described to us.
That said, the subject hasn’t all been fun and games. Music isn’t a subject you can just learn from a textbook, and we’ve had many moments of uncertainty in our composition, essays and performance. Once, during a group lecture, we were all feeling overwhelmed and depressed at the sheer amount of content we had to study, and told Dr Gooi we couldn’t remember so much information. We motioned with our hands to convey that our brains were only about the size of a peanut. Dr Gooi only looked at us, stunned like a vegetable. A few seconds later, he replied, “No, that’s a fish. Study hard and you will become human.” He added, “You have a bigger brain than you think.”
He was right, actually—or rather, half-right. Studies do show that learning how to play music increases brain capacity. But whether studying it as a subject has the same or opposite effect—that remains to be seen.
But I do feel that studying music as a subject has greatly improved my knowledge and understanding of music, even if I’m still a small fish in this vast ocean. I have learnt that music exists in all forms and mediums and in all aspects of our lives. Even though H2 Music may seem like an exotic subject to many who read this post, it actually bears many similarities to other disciplines like math, physics and art. For example, to learn more about the context of French impressionistic music in the 1800s, we invited Mr Chia Weihou, a H2 Art teacher, to teach us about the Impressionist art movement that took place in the same time period and how it influenced 19th-century composers.
It is not that all of us who take H2 Music will become famous performers, composers or dedicated teachers in the future, or that those who don’t take it can’t become musicians. Taking music as a subject is about being exposed to new ways of thinking, exploring regions unknown, and having peers to discuss and learn with, and we’re blessed to have teachers to guide us along the way.
If you like music, then this is my advice for you: never stop listening, playing and appreciating it. For as Sergei Rachmaninoff said, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”
For more information about the 2020 H2 Music syllabus, visit the SEAB website at https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/syllabus/alevel/2020syllabus/9753_y20_sy.pdf
For more information about the 2020 H3 Music syllabus, visit the SEAB website at https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/syllabus/alevel/2020syllabus/9819_y20_sy.pdf
For more information about the Music Elective Scholarship, visit the MOE website at https://www.moe.gov.sg/admissions/scholarships/moe-preu/music
(Cover image source: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/violin-day/)