GCD Artistic Expression – Koto and music as a part of my identity

I have demonstrated artistic expression through koto and choosing higher level IBDP Music as one of my courses. I have been practicing koto since fourth grade and has become a part of my identity. Koto is a Japanese traditional instrument, hence I am also able to explore and connect with my culture which is very important to me, growing up in an international environment. Choosing music as an IB course has also helped me expand my understanding of music through tasks such as composition, listening exams, and writing a comparison of two musical cultures.

Being persistent and dedicating my time for koto has brought me many opportunities such as performing at the IB global conference in front of 3000 educators, and coming first place in a koto competition with other ensemble members. Koto has a very unique and rich sound, and the techniques that can be practiced are countless. Examples of techniques include the tremolo, sukuizume and oshi. Throughout the years, I have learned that using these elements in your own performance, allows you to be expressive of your emotions and the mood you are trying to convey to the audience. Practicing at this extended level for koto ensemble that runs once a week after school, my IB music recital performances, and other events and performances require to dedicate myself to practice in my spare time. I have realized this over the years as the performance level keeps increasing.

Practicing with a metronome in order to stay in time with the correct speed is one of the most important skills that lead to a successful performance. This can be very challenging depending on the different parts of the piece. For example, when I am playing sixteenth notes, it is more difficult to keep up with the speed compared to when I am playing eighth notes. An extended level of this is when the meter (such as 4/4 and 3/6 time) switches in between the measures of the piece. This requires a clear understanding of the on and off beats. An example of a piece that we found challenging as an ensemble was “Isu”, due to the numerous meter changes that appeared throughout the piece. The speed of this piece is very uptempo as well which made it even more difficult to practice. However, the sense of achievement that we feel after every performance makes all the hard work worth it.

Another skill that I have learned to develop is how to present myself as a performer. As my music teacher says, “performing is like magic”. The audience will only believe in your ‘magic’ as long as you don’t show what is happening behind the scenes. Similarly in performances, if you act as if you hadn’t made a mistake, no one will notice. It is important to not let the audience in behind the curtain. I was able to demonstrate this skill during my junior recitals. The first koto piece that I prepared for was involved playing and singing a traditional Japanese piece at the same time. Halfway through my performance, I lost where I was on my music score that I struggled to play in order. However, I did not show any sense of confusion and improvised my way through the performance instead. Afterward, I was worried that people noticed my mistake however they told me they did not notice so it shows that I was able to present myself as a confident performer.

Through developing the skills of my ability to understand and practice music, as well as being confident when performing, I am able to demonstrate artistic expression. I intend to continue practicing koto after high school as well so I will continue to practice and take opportunities to perform at different places. It would be a dream to perform koto in foreign countries to spread awareness of Japanese culture.