04/23/13

It’s a New Day: Composing with Kids

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.”

Amen.

Thanks Sally, and thanks Greg!

12/3/12

Creative Places: UW-SP

Hogwarts

Someone – maybe someone who studied at Hogwarts – should make a magic map that shows where the most creative chunks of geography are, as far as musical creativity is concerned. We all know where the big schools and big cities are, but they are not always the most creative places. I’m listening to an audiobook at the moment about business, and the chapter I’m on is about innovation. The author points out how much innovation comes out of small, upstart companies (the author calls them ‘tyros’ – another word for ‘beginners’) that are full of energy, short on hierarchy and rules, and are free to simply ‘go for it’. Try, risk, fail, try again, go way outside the box, work tirelessly with imagination. What often happens, however, is that these companies, after they achieve success, then start adding layers of hierarchy and rules and management and start playing it safe and lose their innovative edge to – you guessed it – a new generation of upstarts. Microsoft -one example out of many – took off like a skyrocket early on, but after it got big – very big – and hired phalanxes of R&D people, experienced years of being unable to create anything that could be called innovative or cutting edge. They’re not alone, they’re just one example.

I don’t know if educational institutions follow the same trajectories as businesses seem to, but to get back to my original point about mapping the creative hotspots, the biggest schools aren’t always the greatest hot spots of creativity. Some times there are amazing things going on in smaller and/or lesser known places.

I got to visit one last month.

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10/21/12

IEM: Teaching Improvisation in Spain

Map of the Canary Islands.

Canary Islands

I just received a very happy surprise: a note from Daniel Roca of the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Canarias. Daniel is on the faculty of the Institute for Music Education (IEM: Instituto de Educacion Musical), which has “been developing a methodological system of teaching music in any level… based on improvisation (and its partners analysis and aural skills). Read Daniel’s summary page of IEM in English here. They publish educational materials through their publisher Enclave Creativa Ediciones. Since I only received the note a few minutes ago, I am still learning about Daniel and IEM, but it sounds like we think alike on a lot of issues. Daniel (I glean from the web) teaches composition, is a founding member of #(928), an improvising ensemble, has several published booked, and has won prizes in composition. I look forward to a long and rewarding exchange of ideas with him. Going to the IEM site, let me quote (i.e. copy/paste):

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09/18/12

Proofs!

It’s been a busy start to the school year. Besides the regular horn teaching, I’m teaching Creativity in Music (where does music come from: improvisation and composition – for non majors) and Weird Music (a first year seminar – weird, meaning unfamiliar to incoming freshman). Lots of work, lots of fun. I will detail some of what we’re doing in these classes soon, but right now I just want to announce some other news:

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08/28/12

Improv Quote of the Day: Backwards Thinking

A Folk Song A Day

Our whole music culture has grown out of our folk traditions. We can trace our whole understanding of melody, phrase, and musical expression through song. We are so limited now by thinking that you can only make the sounds that you can write. And that’s backwards, because you can make hundreds of sounds and the writing is like froth on the top of the wave. You can only write the least important part.

– Alice Parker

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