OK, it’s not exactly improv. But close enough with an idea this brilliant. It’s improv for the audience!
In today’s world of music education, old-fashioned, lecture-based music appreciation and general music classes lack relevance for students, and, frankly, just don’t cut it anymore. Music history classes certainly have their place, especially at the college level. However, college students would clamor to register for music classes that offered them an opportunity to create their own music.
The Future of Classical Music by Greg Sandow has long been one of my favorite blogs. His latest post was an account from Sally Whitwell about her “experience as a performer and composition workshop presenter for teenagers at the Perth International Arts Festival”; if you’re interested in creativity in music and music education, this is a must-read.
Whitwell was shocked, shocked that the festival had a hard time finding classical musicians to do creative workshops.
I won’t rehash the whole post – you should read the original to get the details of how she worked with the kids to use text and workshopped melodies to create a song (see below). The staff turned the ideas into a notated composition that was later performed:
“In my perfect world, all kids would have this opportunity to be creative with music.”
Thanks Sally, and thanks Greg!
Improvisation is … a significant tool for experimenting, probing, inquiring, and discovering. Improvisational experiences represent a way for the student to test complex ideas at the level at which he can perform, control, and evaluate. The Improvisational Method represents a means that enables teachers and students to simulate mature experiences normally reserved for stages of advanced instruction at the earliest moment of musical encounter.
Practice inventing motifs of 3-4 notes. Work toward the ability to transpose them (and play in sequence) fluently diatonically and chromatically.
Learn to transform short motifs in a variety of ways (augmentation, diminution, backwards, inverted, change rhythms, change mode (e.g. major to minor) and so on).
Use short thematic material or motifs that you (or your audience) might like to (and be able to) whistle.
Lower your expectations. Go for quantity. Holding out for perfection is a great way to strangle your creativity. Start with something (anything) and then make something out of it.
If you build it (and this inspiring video shows that anything is possible), they will play!