If you have read several previous blog posts from students from Imperial College, you might be familiar with what a Horizons course is. In a nutshell, Imperial Horizons is a wide range of modules to stimulate one’s personal, professional and intellectual growth. I really appreciate these courses offered, as they allow students to pursue and develop passions beyond their primary courses. Some examples of Horizons courses offered in Imperial include Creative Writing, Languages and Global Politics. As someone who has a deep appreciation for the arts, composing and arranging my own music has always been something that I want to learn. I was even struggling when I was choosing what to study in university, as both Mechanical Engineering and Music Technology appealed to me so much. Therefore, I’m glad to finally had to chance to pick up Music Technology as a Horizons course in my final year of studies and be more in touch with my artsy side as well.
My struggles and insecurities
Even though I had a fairly good grasp of musical theory having learned to play the piano since I was young, I was always hesitant and afraid of learning how to develop music. These insecurities stem from two primary sources. Not having the chance to play around with different audio editing software, the interface presented looked so complex to me that it was difficult to lay my hands on where to begin and how to proceed. I was worried that I would be stepping into this class with everyone already having a solid foundation in music editing, thus not being able to catch up with everyone. Besides that, my perfectionist mindset has always led to me being very critical of my own creations. I always felt that everything I put on paper could be further improved, thus never really committing to making full compositions.
I was not wrong that everyone in the class started learning audio editing at different phases of their lives. Some people already had a solid understanding of the basics of using the different software, whereas there were also people who had limited musical theory knowledge too. However, it was so encouraging to see how no one felt reluctant to ask any questions, and everyone else was really happy to chip in with ideas and personal experiences too. Due to it being a small class, a lot of interesting discussions often arise, leading to us being able to learn from one another all the time. Being able to feel comfortable in the environment helped me so much and I was able to encourage myself to put in more effort to develop my passion.
Creating my own composition
Throughout the first term of the course, we learned more than just using Reaper to create our own compositions. Besides that, we looked into other aspects of creativity as well, such as how to appreciate different styles of music, and how ideas can be inspired by sounds around us. The most interesting part of the course to me was when we had an exercise where we took a short walk around the vicinity as a class, whereby we just allowed ourselves to take in and appreciate the various sounds around different parts of campus, otherwise known as a soundwalk exercise. It opened my ears to different sounds that I have never realised before while walking past these familiar routes, and how these different sounds intertwined to create an atmospheric melody.
Even though I initially struggled to start off my composition, our lecturer arranged a class whereby we were encouraged to just put anything that was in our minds into the software without thinking too much about it. Through this, I realised how as long as the first note is pencilled down, I was able to make the rest of the composition flow much more smoothly and easily. By the end of the first term, I was so proud of my two minutes composition, and for being able to express myself through music. I can’t wait to see what else there is to learn in my next term in Horizons and explore music with this group of amazing people who share the same passion.