Including 5 activities for conductors and students on being in the moment, being more expressive using acting and reflecting on competition.
This post is from the #rehearsalhomealone series on activities for ensemble students who are #stuckathome due to COVID-19.
Alex Shapiro writes fascinating music that spans everything from whale songs (she can see them from her house!) to electronic music and pieces of paper. You might have conducted or heard of her awesome band piece, PaperCut, where the band uses paper as percussion instruments by scrunching, rolling, tearing etc. (See below for a cool student at home activity using this!).
1.06 - On competition and excellence
3.51 - 2 Tips on getting in the moment
8.14 - Connection vs. Competition
8.52 - Giving great energy when there isn’t a live audience
10.09 - We make music to communicate
10.51 - Using tech to get better at performing
12.56 - Be like a film actor
13.29 - How being in ensemble is acting in front of a green screen
15.39 - How Music is like a puzzle
21.05 - Being kind to each other in a time of uncertainty
23.37 - How to find something around you of value & meaning
24.55 - How to inhale and find beauty
26.10 - How music can improve your mental health
1. Being in the moment
1 Find a quiet space where you won't be interrupted. Put on a recording of a piece you enjoy. Close your eyes and move to the music. No conducting gestures, no beat patterns! Be connected to the music and see where it takes you. Experiment with moving with different parts of your body.
2. Being an actor
Watch this short excerpt of actor Danny Kaye conducting the New York Philharmonic with his front to the audience. How would your version of 'what the audience sees' go? Have a go at acting the skit yourself while the music is playing. If it feels weird, just try imitating Danny's facial expressions!
3. Reflection Questions
Consider the following questions about Competition and Music:
- What does competition mean to you in relation to music making?
- What value does competing bring to your students individually and as a group?
- What does it take away from your students individually and as a group?
- How much time do you spend working preparing for competitions vs. other performances?
- What does this communicate to your ensemble?
1. Being in the moment
Find a quiet space where you won't be interrupted. Put on a recording of a piece you enjoy. Close your eyes and move to the music. Don't try to conduct, just move. Be connected to the music and see where it takes you. Experiment with moving with different parts of your body. If you're feeling weird - use your hand to trace the up and down of the melody or try making faces to reflect the feeling of the music.
2. Hot, Angry, Sleepy, Excited Cross Buns
Using the piece 'Hot Cross Buns' video record yourself playing it in these 3 different ways. Notice how it feels to play in these different ways.
1. As if you were really angry!
2. Sleepy, like you just woke up from a nap
3. Excitedly, like you're just about to eat a delicious hot cross bun, cake or cookie!
Watch the video. How did you communicate the different feelings? Body language? Tempo? Sound quality? Articulation?
3. DIY Paper Music
No instruments required!
Watch this video of Alex's piece PaperCut and how the band makes sounds with paper. (There are other versions with cooler effects but this one you can really hear the paper).
Make a 16-bar/measure piece that uses only sounds made with pieces of paper. How many different sounds can you make? (Try scrunching, tearing, rubbing, folding, changing speed).
Record a video (or audio) of you performing the piece either as one track, or with mulitple tracks using ACapella app (video) or Audacity (audio).
A simple approach to instantly approach every piece with more musicianship, storytelling and emotion - for us, and our ensembles!
Being told to play louder or softer is okay. Being told why is better.
The path to musical nirvana starts with a single question. And the path to musical hell starts with telling the ensemble what to do.