Improv Flash Mob!

English: Flash mob at UNC's Davis Library at t...

Today is the next-to-last class in my Creativity in Music class. CiM is for non(music)majors and it’s about where music comes from, that is, improvisation and composition. There are two lectures a week on some aspect of composition and one workshop session in smaller groups (about 14 or so) where we improvise. Improvisation takes place with what we have – the only instrument available is the upright piano – which is 1) body percussion 2) mouth noises 3) vocal sounds 4) room percussion (table, desktops, wastebasket [as a drum]) 5) found percussion (stuff brought from home that makes noise: pots & pans, ibuprofen bottle half filled with dry rice, any number of things). It’s plenty to come up with something. The last half of the semester they are assigned to quartets (“bands”), which they name themselves. Typically, I have a band come up to the front and give them from 8 to 15 seconds to plan the next piece, which has certain restrictions (“Clapping only.” “Feet only.” “Mouth noises and vocal sounds.” “Everyone on piano, but only 2 notes each.”). They put something together quickly and then perform it – a mixture of improv and composition (i.e. planning). Pieces are generally about a minute long or so. Then we discuss what just happened. This is harder that it sounds, apparently, but they are getting better at it. Instant aural analysis. Today is something on a larger scale, and outside the classroom.

Continue reading