focussed listening

Listen.
Reflect, breathe, journal, discuss, record
What is the furthest sound you can hear?
What sounds are close by?
What is the quietest sound you can hear?
Which sounds are noisy?  Which are “musical”?
What is your favourite sound?  Which location sounds best?  Share it with others.
Is there form in what you are hearing?
What do you hear?  What do you like?  What might you change?
What was the earliest sound you remember hearing?
What sounds from your life are now lost?

I just had an amazing and creative week with 5 to 16 year old string players at Cadenza Summer Music Week in Winkler, Manitoba.  Improvisation games, compositions with the trees and wind, compositions of Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and R. Murray Schafer.  Thank you Rochelle, organizers, teachers and students!

excerpt from Canadian Music Educator Column

During workshops or schools visits I have, at times, been told that all music education is creative. I challenge whether asking students to help decide where to breath in a section of The Planets is keeping their creativity and sense of exploration alive. Fear might just stand in the way of music education becoming a truly creative experience for both students and teachers. Rehearsing and performing the rep can be great but take a moment, breathe, let go and try truly creating something. Some ideas:

Compose a vocal piece based on a mode of transportation. Use that word and the sound of that mode of travel only. Ensure there is a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

Create an ABA piece using only 1 note each.

Compose a piece of music that is exactly thirty seconds long that explores one of the following.
Higher and slower sounds
Longer and quieter sounds
Faster and lower sounds
Shorter and louder sounds

Compose a short piece based on the first and last sounds you heard yesterday.  Include some silent moments.

Compose a piece of music using an instrument you’ve never played.

Describe how a piece of music could start, how it might shift and develop and how it might end, then pick a group of instruments to improvise accordingly. Comment on their attempt and ask them to try it again.

Compose music for the start of the school day and perform it in the foyer as students are walking in.

Make a soundtrack to a favourite poem.

Attempt to create the longest crescendo that ends with an abrupt cut off followed by silence.

Silently but passionately pretend to play your instruments just to confuse a late student or teacher.

Use a scene from a Shakespeare play as your music. Improvise your characters part on your instrument. Play out the scene. How did it go? Try again.

Shout all together, play a quiet long note, stop, play a loud short note, 1/8 notes on a Bb major triad slowly getting louder then end with a long tone cluster. Reflect, decide what you want to do differently/better, then try again (even if it is completely different).

Create an introduction to a favourite piece that you have been rehearsing. Think about what might sound good before the actual start. Try an outro. Try adding a new section in the middle.

Search for a truly happy sound, a sad one, a surprising sound, an unsure sound, a lonely sound, end again with your happy sound.

Improvise the sounds of a nearby park, start and stop together. What did you like, what did you not like? What would you change? Try it again and hope for more to like.

Together as a class, compose a piece of music for a special occasion (Remembrance Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.).

Adjust any of the above to fit your class.