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A111 Journal – December 2020

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 2 Jan 2021, 09:53

1 Dec 20

I divide an empty TMA document into three sections, ready for writing. With my notes now navigable, I transfer some of the key terms from the module materials into my TMA document to remember what they are. 

I begin with the Mozart section. I listen to the fragment and note down some transitions and times.

It’s time to return to my day job.

4 Dec 20

I must have listened to the sound fragment around 15 times. I quite enjoyed describing the piece of music. I realised I need to simplify my writing to reflect its structure. There was a moment where I felt I understood what the module team were trying to ask us to discover.

Next up: Dickens. I minimise Outlook, minimise my web browser and reach for the text I’ve got to analyse for the TMA question.

It’s not long before I analyse the narrative voice, and then I quickly run out of steam. I need to return to the module materials to get a few more ideas about what analysing literature means.

6 Dec 20

I print out my draft TMA 2 and do some copy editing with a pen and paper. Next step: make those changes in the Word version. As I go, I tick off all those copy edits with a different coloured pen as I go. Final step: submit TMA 2, with just under a week to go before the deadline.

12 Dec 20

Today is the day when the iCMA opens. I work through the materials on academic conduct (which I feel pretty confident about), and then dive in to have a go at it. Although I had more planned for today, I was happy with what I had achieved: completing another bit of the module. 

15 Dec 20

I had one main objective for today: to get through a section about Greek and Roman sculpture. 

Looking at the TMA 3, I’m thinking of answering the question about Blues or Creative Writing. This said, I thought it would be important to read through all the other chapters in the second book to learn some new things, and to be open to the possibility that I might become interested in the other disciplines.

I made notes about the concept of ‘traditions’, which is described in the introduction; that it is about ‘handing things over’, and relates to “customs, artistic styles, ideas, practices or beliefs”. There was also the point that traditions can “enrich our experience of the contemporary world” (p.4). 

Onto the module materials; I was introduced to a bunch of terms: Greek, Roman, Greco-Roman, Ancient and Classical. Other terms include “votive offerings” and a section entitled “kouroi and korai”. There were differences in forms, and differences in poses.

I quite enjoyed watching the videos that describe how three contemporary artists have been included by ancient sculpture.

The final bit of today: a study skills section about referencing.

Next bit; the bit that I’m really looking forward to: the blues.

19 Dec 20

I’ve spent a few hours over the last week going through the online version of the module materials that relate to the blues. 

I can immediately recognise a traditional blues song when it is played, but I was never really consciously aware of its structure. In this section we learnt about the origins of the blues, the themes that are generally explored, listened to a number of tracks. We were introduced to the concept of scales, chords, and how they relate to the 12-bar blues structure. Although I had a sketchy idea of some of these concepts, it was good to read a formal definition.

During this week there were tracks by The Beatles, Gershwin, Queen, Robert Petway, Mamie Smith, W. C. Handy, Johnny Cash, and references to B.B. King, Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson. It was a really nice mixture.

Towards the end of this section, there was another bit about study skills, and how I went about planning the writing of assessments. It turns out that we have to submit a plan as a part of the next assessment.

There are two things that I want to look up. The first is: what modules are there on the music pathway; I’m curious. Secondly: what, exactly, have we got to do for the next TMA? 

I’m looking forward to the next chapter, which is all about creative writing.

28 Dec 20

I read the section on creative writing (without making notes), a few days after the above entry. I also went through the online materials. I particularly liked the audio recording of the short story. Some points from the creative writing section I need to take away: character, imagery and setting, point of view, time, and showing and telling (with an emphasis on showing, so the reader figures things out) (p.136-137). 

I feel a bit guilty about not explicitly completing the activities in the module materials (I know they’re important since they help us to prepare for the assessment), but I’m thinking I’ll go back to them if I choose the creative writing question for the TMA.

The next section is all about reading poetry.

We’re introduced to poems by Hardy, Blake, Donne, and Bishop, before I went to the online materials. Key terms I picked up on were: metaphor (obviously), simile (which was called a type of metaphor), anthropomorphism (which was also under the heading of metaphor), form, conceit, free verse, iambic tetrameter, trimeter and pentameter. 

I quite like the poetry section. I see them as descriptive puzzles that express something, which are there to be decoded and analysed. The more one studies them, the more they can speak to us.

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Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 - November 2020

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 16:02

1 Nov 20

I got stuck into the writing of the TMA, beginning with Cleopatra. I got quite far. I made a start on the second part, which is about Queen Elizabeth. I think it’s harder since the question may be ‘getting at’ something that I might be missing.

3 Nov 20

I have another go at writing the TMA in the morning, but I don’t get very far. I’ve identified another point that I can mention in my answer about Cleopatra, but the Elizabeth section remains a bit of a mystery.

7 Nov 20

Three days before the TMA 1 submission deadline. Today I’m going to finish it and the move to the next section. I’ve got the whole of the morning to look through the Elizabeth materials again and edit together my answer. I’m hoping that a bit of time away from the question might have helped. 

I’ve submitted TMA 1! 

After a couple of days away, I had noticed some things that I hadn’t noticed before. A question that I have been asking myself was: “why is the module team telling me this?” I’m not sure whether the form of my TMA answers is what the module team are looking for. This said, I’ll get a steer from my tutor soon enough.

At the start of the next unit, I was asked about what I thought about Mozart. I listened to 4 different tracks before being introduced to the terms: pitch, range, timbre and dynamics (I knew what pitch and timbre was from other studies). I then read something about his sister, Nannerl, before learning the definitions of new terms for genres: symphony, concerto, aria and sonata. Although I vaguely understood what these were, I couldn’t define them with confidence.

I feel I’ve achieved quite a bit today. Time to turn off the laptop.

8 Nov 20

I read about the sonata, and aspects of its structure (that it usually has 3 or 4 movements).

I also read that Mozart toured around different countries and adopted musical styles of the places that he visited and the composers that he met. I also learnt about Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint Georges, who I had never heard of before. I took a few moments to listen to some tracks of his work on Spotify; this is something that I’m definitely going to go back to do.

Next up was the introduction of new(ish) terms: tutti (all), and solo (alone), and an introduction of the piano, and an activity that encouraged us to consider the difference in the tibre between the harpsichord and this new-fangled piano instrument.

My study day concluded with a couple of listening activities: figuring out the genre of a piece of music and the listening to Mozart’s 9th concerto for keyboard.

9 Nov 20

Mozart in Vienna.

In this section of the module, we had a few more listening activities. There was an activity to identify different musical genres, and an activity to listen to the interplay between soloists and the orchestra. There was also a quick look at Haydn, who I didn’t really know anything about (other than knowing his name).

The section ended with a video that explored different perceptions of Mozart’s genius, and how this is portrayed in the 1984 film Amadeus, which I have seen a couple of times (a film I recorded from television using a video recorder over 30 years ago). 

A key point appeared to be the way that he applied his talents as a musician.

11 Nov 20

Time for a tutorial. I attended part 2 of the online day school (since the face to face day school had been cancelled), which focussed on two topics: Dickens and Van Gogh. I was initially a bit confused about the tutorial schedule, since part 2 was presented before part 1, and I’ve not got through these chapters yet.

Key points that I picked up from the Dickens bit was the way you could begin to describe a text: you could refer to the genre, description, the role of the narrator, the themes, who the reader is, sentence length, and a whole host of other aspects. It’s been at least 30 years since I studied literature.

Next up was a section about Van Gogh. Some key terms (or things to think about) included: composition, brush work, tone, genre, colour, medium, modelling. An aspect of the tutorial was considering how a particular image may relate to the artists reputation.

Although I haven’t got to these sections in the module material yet, I’m finding that I’m being drawn to section about art rather than literature, which has surprised me. Things might change as I do more study.

12 Nov 20

It’s the first thing in the morning.

There’s a few more things I need to look at to complete the Mozart chapter: a read through of the summary, and two study skills section. The first study skills section is about close listening to music.

Key topics includes rhythm and metro, timbre, melody, harmony and texture. I’m introduced to a whole range of descriptive terms which could be used with each other, such as, such as contour, range, steps and jumps, pitch and transparency.

I’m not going to finish it all today, so I’m going to save the reflective task, review, and further study sections for another day.

15 Nov 20

It looks like I’ve missed the goals that I should have set during week 1. I notice there’s another activity that I need to complete, so I answered the questions about which learning outcome I feel is the most surprising, which skills or abilities I already have, and which skills I think I’ll most improve. The skill I thought would be most useful to develop is the skill of engaging critically with familiar and unfamiliar points of view; I’m not (yet) sure what “engaging critically” means in the arts and humanities. 

There’s another activity I need to complete: looking ahead to book 1, which individual are you most looking forward to studying? My answer is: Mary Wollsonecraft, for the simple reason is that I know more about the other figures than I do of her.

The last part of the Mozart: the optional further study bit. I did completed these tasks quite quickly, but I might return to them. There was a surprise at the end: we could access something called the Naxos Music Library to listen to entire piano concertos, sonatas and symphonies. I’m not sure whether this is a gift or a distraction!

After quite a bit of distraction, I finally made it onto the Mark Wollstonecraft unit, which is really topical due to the unveiling of a statue.

It wasn’t long before I got to the main section, which described her writing of “the vindication” and then got to the section about her reputation. I’ve learnt quite a few things: a bit of history, something about her link to Shelly, and the way that reputations can change over time. The next bit is going to be the online material and the additional reading before moving onto the next unit.

18 Nov 20

It’s tutorial time. I arrived late, but just in time to note down two abbreviations which relate to literature analysis: GAP, and LIST. I’m going to have to return to the recording to catch up on the bit that I missed. For the section on Van Gogh, we looked at two contrasting portraits; a self-portrait, and another portrait by Gainsborough. I liked how the tutor discussed the differences and used some of the terms from the module materials.

20 Nov 20

A day off! Back to the final sections of Wollstonecraft. I completed the final activities, read a skills section on reading, made some notes, and listened to the In our Time recording, which connected really nicely with her biography which was summarised in the module materials. There was a lot in that recording, and talk about other figures and ideas that I had not encountered before.

In other news, I’ve got my TMA 1 back! I did better than I expected.

22 Nov 20

I finally start the next unit, which is about Dickens. 

I was soon directed to a reading activity by the set text: the reading of A Christmas Carol. I’ve heard the story many times (in various different forms). It was interesting to read the . I felt that the final section (stave, as it was called) was quite short in comparison to the others.

23 Nov 20

Before a day of work, I read sections 4 and 5 in the unit text, where I noticed the following terms were written in bold: narrative voice, first person, realism, modes, and personification. One thing that I found really interesting was a reference to literature and realism, where it describes “the physical details of everyday life through precise, factual language”.

25 Nov 20

I seem to have found a habit now; studying in the morning before work.

I finished reading the Dickens unit, and have started the Van Gogh chapter. I really liked the activity where we were asked to edit a portion of text, as if we were going to read it to an audience. We were then encouraged to compare our edits, to some edits that had been made by Dickens himself. I’m not comparing myself to Dickens or anything, but I was surprised that we had edited out very similar sections. 

The unit emphasised the importance of writing and rewriting, and concluded with a question about the themes that Dickens had been drawing upon. We were also directed to optional further study work in OpenLearn: Charles Dickens: Celebrity Author.

Onto Van Gogh; who I know very little about. 

We were shown a painting, and asked to consider colour, subject matter, brushwork, lifelike qualities (or not), design, pattern and shape, and any personal associations that we may bring to the viewing of an image. Next up is the unit chapter. 

I think that’s it for today; I need to return to my day job.

26 Nov 20

I enjoyed finishing reading the Van Gogh unit.

I learnt about his link with other artists, particularly Gauguin, and how he admired a painter called Millet. I liked the activity where we had to compare and contrast the use of how Van Gogh and Monet used colour in two paintings which had a different theme. There as also an activity where we had to read a transcription and translation of a letter that he wrote to his brother, Theo. Although I had heard somewhere that he had cut off his ear, I didn’t know about the extent of his mental illness. The module materials suggested that he painted despite mental illness, not because of it (but that is, of course, a huge simplification).

Next up: the materials on the module website, and then the writing of TMA 2. I feel as if I’m keeping to the module calendar pretty closely.

29 Nov 20

I finish reading through the Van Gogh module materials and complete the activities. I quite enjoyed the online activity where we had to use some of the terms from the module to describe and analyse a selection of paintings.

I’m now faced with a choice; I need to write about two of the four disciplines that I’ve briefly studied. My choice is: music, philosophy, literature or art.

I look through the TMA.

I rule out the Mary Wollstonecraft question, not because of the subject or her philosophy, but the wording of some of the questions put me off.

I’ve decided to do the Dickens question simply because it’s been such a long time since I’ve studied literature, and that tackling the literature option might do me good.

The final choice: Mozart or Van Gogh; music or art.

Although I found the materials really interesting, there’s something about Van Gogh that annoys me that I can’t quite put my finger on. Whilst I think I can answer the question using the terms and language in the module, I quite like the idea of analysing and writing about music.

My choice: Mozart and Dickens.

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