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Educational Resources

Sunny Kim:

MotherTongue, MotherLand

MotherTongue, MotherLand by Sunny Kim (lead artist, vocals, percussion), with Mindy Meng Wang (guzheng, vocals), Gelareh Pour (kamancheh, qeychak, vocals), Aviva Endean (clarinets, vocals).
Portrait of Sunny Kim on the rocks in Sydney on a sunny late afternoon with the ocean and city in the background

Sunny Kim

Image: Sung Hyun Sohn

Written by
Rosie Pentreath
Published on
13th April 2023

Begin by watching an excerpt of MotherTongue, MotherLand:

- How many different languages can you hear sung or spoken? What are they?

- What instruments can you see or hear being played?

In the next video, artistic director Genevieve Lacey and Sunny Kim introduce the thinking behind MotherTongue, MotherLand:

- Why is the word "mother" in the title twice?

- How are recordings used in this piece of music?

Let’s get creative!

Creative Activity 1 - Interview Your Mum, or Someone Who is a Mother-Figure to You

Ask your mum or another member of your family, or a close friend who is a mother-figure to you, if they would be happy to be interviewed. Use the voice notes app on your phone, or a free app like Audacity on a computer, to record your interview. Watch this video to learn how to get a good interview recording:

What questions should I ask in the interview? It’s up to you, but here are a few ideas for a start:

- Where were you born?
- What are your happiest memories growing up?
- What were the biggest changes in your life during your youth?
- What were you doing in your career before I was born?
- What changed for you when I was born? What did you like? What was hard?

Follow these steps to successfully edit the “best bits” from your interview recording on a Mac or Windows PC:

1. Import the recording from your voice notes app if you used your phone

screenshot of exporting an audio file from the notes app on IOS
Voice Recording on Notes app on IOS

2. Download Audacity. Drag your voice recording into its interface. Highlight bits of the interview that you don't need, then press the Delete key.

screenshot of the audacity interface
The Audacity Interface

3. When a portion of the recording is deleted, the next part moves up to fill in the space. This will result in a seamless recording with your cuts in place.

screenshot of an audio file in audacity
Audio File in Audacity

4. If you find your recording a little quiet, go to Effect > Volume & Compression > Normalise, then click Apply. This will increase the volume (gain) of your recording as much as possible.

screenshot of compressing audio in audacity
How to compress your audio in Audacity to make it louder

Once you’re happy with your recording, show your teacher!

Creative Activity 2 - Dramaturgy & Comprovisation

Let's have a look at Sunny’s dramaturgy - it's the actual planning document for the performance of her piece! - Download Document

In this short video, Sunny talks a little more about the dramaturgy:

Choose a tonality to suit the mood of your interview

Tonality means the notes that are used in a particular piece of music, including identification of the most important notes such as the “home" note, or “tonic”. You may have heard of keys such as C major or D minor, or modes such as A Aeolian, which are examples of tonalities. Don't worry if you haven’t, though - we're going to make it super easy in the following activity!

In the dramaturgy document above, the tonality used for many of the movements is called something pent, which is short for pentatonic. This simply means that it uses five notes. Each section also has a “feeling-colour”. The tonality contributes to the feeling, so that it fits with the interview recording. Have a listen to each of these pentatonic (five note) tonalities, and choose the one that best suits the feeling of your interview. You can even download the recording, and combine it with your interview recording to see what they sound like together.

E minor Pentatonic

illustration of the e minor pentatonic scale

Access all Session and Score Files

C major pentatonic

illustration of the c major scale

Access all Session and Score Files

Mindy's Mode

illustration of the mindy's mode scale

Access all Session and Score Files


illustration of the Hon-kumoi-joshi scale

Access all Session and Score Files

When you’ve chosen the tonality that suits your interview the best, share it with your friends and teacher.

Creative Activity 3 - Putting It All Together, in Group-Work or Individually

Both Options

Whether working on your own, or working in a group, you need to learn how to play in your chosen tonality/mode, as above. If you can read sheet music, you can use the above traditional notation to learn the pitches. If not, here are keyboard maps that will show you what notes to play on a keyboard: note that most music computer programs have an on-screen keyboard. You could also use the above links to help you work out what notes are in the mode by ear (copying the sound).

E minor pentatonic

Screenshot of E minor Pentatonic Scale on Piano
E minor pentatonic with finger indicators

C major pentatonic

Screenshot of C Major Pentatonic Scale on Piano
C major pentatonic with finger indicators

Mindy’s mode

Screenshot of Mindys Mode Scale on Piano
Mindy's mode scale with finger indicators


Screenshot of Hon-kumoi-joshi Scale on Piano
Hon-kumoi-joshi with finger indicators


If you’ve studied music for a while already, and know another tonality/mode/key that you’d like to work in, you can do that. Tell your teacher what your plan is, first.

Group-Work Option

Listen again to the short excerpt of MotherTongue, MotherLand, above. Note that each section features a different interview and a different mode.

You and your group can work like this. Take it in turns to listen to each other’s interviews, and improvise with the notes from the chosen tonality (as above) while you listen. Talk about what the mode is, and therefore whether soft or loud, short or long, smooth or separated notes are best. You don’t have to play to all of each other’s interviews.

You can choose a little bit each. Prepare a performance, recording drafts and writing about your process as you go.

Individual Option

Working individually, you can listen to your interview and improvise on any instrument, asking yourself the same questions the groups do (above).

Or, you can work in a computer program like Audacity, Soundtrap, Bandlab, or Garageband. These apps will allow you to record multiple tracks, layering sounds together. If you listen to the sample MP3s above, these are examples of that process. They use mostly synthesiser sounds, and a mix of long sustained sounds, and shorter, melodic sounds. Every note played is from the chosen tonality.

Screenshot of the Garageband Interface
The Garageband Interface

Save drafts and write about your process as you make your piece.

Presentation of Learning

Both the group and individual projects lend themselves to a live concert (computer projects can be played). Photos of interviewers and interviewees can be projected during the  performances to give voices faces and context. However, recordings can also be published privately via the school LMS, or on music sharing sites such as Soundcloud.

Australian Curriculum Mapped Outcomes

Year 7 and 8 Music

Developing practices and skills - AC9AMU8D02
Reflect on their own and others’ music to inform choices they make as composers and performers about how they will manipulate elements of music and/or compositional devices.

Creating and making - AC9AMU8C02
Compose using the elements of music and compositional devices to communicate ideas, perspectives and/or meaning, and notate, document and/or record the music.

Year 7 and 8 Media Arts

Exploring and responding - AC9AMA8E01
Investigate the ways that media arts concepts are used in media arts works and practices across cultures, times, places and/or other contexts.

Creating and making - AC9AMA8C02
Apply production processes and use media arts concepts to construct representations and produce media arts works that communicate ideas, perspectives and/or meaning for specific audiences using responsible media practice.

Click here for reference.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and create, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

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