This is another new module for the second year. I will be updating this page as I go along. It will deal with musical perspectives from around the world and how we react to them.
Week 1 – We looked at African drumming. Everyone in the room had a djembe drum with a few cowbells thrown in for good measure, along with a central African bass drum and we collaborated, being led by one person. This taught us about non vocal communication and learning how to communicate with hand actions and eye contact. It would result in different sections of the room playing different rhythms at the same time, creating a lovely sound. Some people from the class took it in turns to go up and be the ‘leader’ and directed everyone. I was resilient to do this at first but I got up and gave it a go in the end. It was something I’d never done before and a very enjoyable experience. It has inspired me to learn more so I am planning on buying a djembe when I can.
I also looked at a book called “The Nature of Gothic” and found some quotes that I linked to collaborative performance.
“The love of natural objects and the ability to represent them unconstrained by artistical laws”. – I saw the natural objects as music and the unconstrained artisical laws as rules or guidelines. So, it relates to improvisation as the love of music is the love to represent it without being held down by any rules.
“A man must look to nature to represent his chosen subject and do so to the best of his ability”. – For this one, the chosen subject is music. So, nature represents everything around us meaning a man must look everywhere around him to represent his music to the best of his ability.
“He makes the fire as like real fire as he can” – This one is quite self explanatory. Musical ideas and musical ability are brought to life as realistic as possible.
“For they do no limit their art to the portraiture of saints and kings but introduce the most familiar scenes and most simple subjects, filling up the backgrounds of scripture histories with vivid and curious representations of the commonest incidents of daily life”. – So, for this one the art is the music. It is about musicians digging deep and delving further into their own creativity and potential to create something that will represent things from daily life instead of the more glamorized things.
Week 2 – We looked at Taiko drumming. This was something I had never seen before and was intrigued to see how it worked. We were taught different patterns which we would all play together. We then began moving around after each section of a piece, creating a smooth flowing musical movement. We learnt 3 or 4 different pieces which were all very different. Again, this was something I’d never done before and again it was very enjoyable.
Week 3 – We looked at samba drumming. This is something I have come across in the past but have had no significant methods and techniques taught to me. We had a variety of instruments including cowbells, a snare drum, Ganzas, Surdos and more. Everyone in the group had a chance to try each instrument. We would play different rhythms simultaneously to create various samba pieces. I enjoyed it, though perhaps not as much as the African drumming and Taiko drumming.
I also looked at a piece of writing called “Music of the Other”. I looked at different sections and thought about what it was saying about cultural authenticity and evolving musical cultures. It made me think about how different types of music from all around the world are now more readily available to us than ever before. The rise of technology is perhaps one the main reasons for this.
The sharing of all these different musical identities can reflect on us as humans. Being more tolerant of each other’s music may make us more tolerant of each other in general. This could apply to religion, politics, art, cuisine or even sexual practices. It can bring us together. We can help each other and allow everyone to grow by sharing ideas and creating new ideas from this.
For next week I have been asked to create a short piece of music using the styles and techniques I have learnt in the previous weeks. African drumming was my favourite so I chose to make a Djembe piece. Here is a picture to give you an idea of my plan.
It is in a standard 4/4 time signature and has 5 different rhythms (A-E). The larger, empty circles represent a bass note and the smaller, shaded circles represent a slap note.
Week 4 – We took everything we had learnt in the past 3 weeks and as a group (of about 20) we put together a performance. This included African, Taiko and Samba drumming. We split into 3 separate groups for each style. I was in the African drumming group using djembes. All in one big room, there was a lot of noise and creativity. Unintentionally, and perhaps down to the fact that we could all hear each other, the 3 groups had all come up with rhythms that linked together nicely. Each group presented their ideas to the other groups and we pieced it all together. Starting with some melody using tube shaped instruments (name I can’t remember), it then faded into the African drumming. This then faded into the Samba part. The Taiko drumming then accompanied the Samba before the African drumming faded back in to finish the piece with everyone playing. I think everyone was pleased with the outcome of the performance and we could all say we had learnt something new in the past few weeks.
Week 5 – We began by looking at some pieces of music by Steve Reich including ‘Music for 18 musicians’ which I had never seen but thought was fantastic. We then tried putting some of those techniques into our playing. With a range of different instruments including acoustic guitars, djembes, piano, snare drum and xylophones we started coming up with ideas and performing short pieces of free improv and improv with some rules. We finished up by performing a piece of music as a group. It was split into sections which we would alternate between. We tried it in different ways, perhaps starting with guitars the first time then drums the second time etc. The end result was a 7-8 minute piece that showed a lot of progress over that couple of hours. Here is one of the takes:
Week 6 – we performed short pieces we had made in groups, each of which took ideas from what we had seen last week with the Steve Reich style. Each group took a very different approach but they all sounded excellent. Here are a couple of examples:
Each group then had to try and use their pieces in different ways – mixing up the order, the tempo, the dynamics etc. It goes to show that one small idea can be transformed into a rich, full sounding piece.
Here is a video of the final project my group performed for this module. It shows the initial ideas, development and final product of the whole project.