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Posts tagged ‘ECCO’

Connecting online: A shifting reality

I’ve been thinking and watching and experiencing as time unfolds, and the different processes and interactions in my life adapt to the new reality of physical separation.

‘Online’ has unquestionably become more and more a part of life.

 

Are interaction and engagement the same online?

Is it *just* that there’s a screen between us?

No. Yes. Well no, but, maybe

– it’s complicated.

Actually it is different.

Everything is different. It is a different mode of being, and unlike what we’re used to, there are different parameters being applied not only to working/playing/talking online, but to life itself and this impacts how we engage.

For example, several months ago when I chose to type something online to someone, I knew I could also go see them. It didn’t matter if they lived a continent away, the possibility existed that I could go see them (maybe not right away, but in a month or a year I could) – and that put a different sort of expectation of that mode of communication in the array of possibilities. Of course I could go see someone, that’s what people do. Physical presence was primary, even if it was a distant possibility or might not happen frequently.

Not now. That possibility as we knew it has been removed and this impacts our conception and approach to engagement. What was a supplement is now primary and we have not necessarily recognised or acknowledged, what has been removed, and certainly haven’t replaced it.

I experienced this in working with my orchestra,

who are a dedicated group of adults all eager to learn, make, and experience music together.

Over the past few weeks the orchestra has met online a couple of times, in one of these group meetings with lots of little tiles on the screen. I did warn them that we can’t all play at the same time online… but they wanted to. Nobody wanted to mute their microphones, and what resulted was like a pixelated sort of aural indigestion mixed with a touch of sea sickness. Don’t get me wrong, it was a joyous rehearsal, but definitely not anything like the traditional in-person experience. The publicly available video conferencing tools are optimised for speech not music, and in conversation, generally one person talks at a time. When everyone talks at once the software can’t cope, and when a bari sax, violin, bassoon, and oboe (amongst a dozen other instrumentalists) all compete to be heard it definitely has a hard time deciding which participant should be prioritised.  There is no real chance of amalgamating the sounds at once, and in terms of hearing what’s going on, there was also the delay factor – that is what gives it a touch of sea sickness.

Where does this leave us? Does this mean rehearsing online is a failure or has no purpose?

Not at all.

It is DIFFERENT.

After the second rehearsal, I found myself really using every ounce of my teaching knowledge to understand the experience of all those online – the learner/rehearsal participant and me as the leader/teacher. Now I know the person in the fancy shoes (I’m avoiding saying ‘standing at the front’) in a teaching setting should not be a “leader” (yes read that with a cliche definition of ‘leader’ with all the stereotypical baggage that goes with it) but there is a WHOLE lot of unspoken perception and awareness that goes will skillful facilitation of a group to enable each person to both come to the experience and give of themselves during the experience in a way that feels free and acknowledges their individual value. That sort of leadership is needed. Maybe it should be called ‘thinkership’ or something. (answers in the post please)

I was, and am, thinking –

what is missing? what do we want? what do we need?

How are we impacted by what has been taken away and how can we recognise this and then (possibly) heal those gaps and move forward?

Can we move forward without recognising this?

I don’t think so really. We may tread water, but not move forward. Ultimately there are cracks in our reality and without seeing them, it is difficult to be able to look at what we do have – technologically as well as at our physical disposal (wherever we are) – and then figure out how to use these things.

One important thing is not to attempt a direct substitution. It goes wrong with the best algorithms… lemons become lemon cleanser or this absolute cracker from a few years ago:

 

sweet toy, but the family might be hungry…

One thing does not equal the other, even when it sounds the same.

We’re just having our lecture online. Um, no. not just.

I was struck by the orchestra’s last rehearsal – because they are all so open, honest, and forthright. We all TALKED on the session, and afterwards, discussing what was good, what was missing, and I am the first to admit that I do not have a solution.

Good things came out of those online sessions:

  • We saw everyone. oh that was nice to see others!
  • People’s names went with face and instruments at the same time. -sometimes in a big group that gets lost, and it brought people together
  • It was good to interact with me – I conducted with extra life-sized gestures.
  • They heard themselves individually- at home you hear your own part.

It was a different focus with a different outcome and it was definitely a different experience.

We have to have the opportunity to think in new ways. This is a challenge and I don’t really have answers yet, but at least with the orchestra, we are carving a new path – together. In the meantime we are still meeting, but the focus has shifted. It’s not the same, and these new directions are both challenging and exciting,

and yes, I’m learning too.

Featured image CC BY-SA-NC by Arts Electronica

Let the music play!

Home bound does not mean life stops.  But the past week has been challenging and we’ve seen the emotional effects and the physical constraints of suddenly living in close quarters with a house full.

ps I LOVE my family and the extra time from not commuting is bliss, but we tend to do either noisy or physical things and in an open plan big room… I’ll leave you to imagine dance routines, cello lessons, Mario Kart, essay writing, computer programming, and we haven’t even gotten to the art instillations yet. (and yes, I am serious)

One of my beloved weekly activities (in normal times) is leading ECCO, the Encore! Chichester Community Orchestra which is an absolutely lovely, gregarious, inspiring group of adult amateur musicians. There are a regular group of 35-40 who come together to play all sorts of music, and we welcome everybody. The most inspiring thing is how everyone comes together – musically and as a cross-section of the community.

When we disbanded rehearsals, a decision I took on Friday 13th, there was a definite sense of loss. We have a phone group and there was a sudden influx of messages saying ‘thank you for taking this difficult decision, but also I am so sad that we have to do this.’ As the days progressed it became very clear there were going to be no physical rehearsals any time soon.

It was when my friend Duane (who has done super cool things for and with me in the past like this and this) posted this video on Instagram.

 

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A beautiful song by Queen Liliuokalani “Ku’u Pua I Paokalani”

#c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" href="https://www.instagram.com/duanepictures/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Duane Padilla (@duanepictures) on

He is always doing fantastic things, and I wrote to him to ask if perhaps my orchestra could play it… He came back to me with the best message:

Interesting history of the song. The song was written when the queen was imprisoned under house arrest for 8 months after the fall of the monarchy at the turn of the century. They tried to isolate her but she was allowed to receive flowers from her garden picked by an 11 year old boy, who secretly wrapped them in newspapers so she could at least hear about what was going on in Hawaii. The lyrics talk about the beautiful flowers

He also said that indeed he had the parts, and he would not only send the parts, but sent a video on how to improvise a percussion part. (you can see that video HERE) Duane is a very gifted musician and teacher, and he demonstrated on a case, really clearly exactly how to make the sounds and what rhythm to use. He also gave specific bar numbers with reference to the score so our percussionist could follow.

I wrote to the orchestra with the proposed project… we are going to make a virtual piece! I’d edit the sound and make a video and it will even be shared as a conference presentation at the #OER20 online conference (was going to be in London, but life has changed for us all).

Then these two videos arrived…

You know, some people say there are barriers to so many things in life, including technology. I say poppycock. (that’s a suitably silly thing to say, isn’t it?) Actually generally I say YES I CAN – well, I might not say anything, but my smile will say that to you, and chances are you will find a way. I must admit I never expected this from our trombone player, Mark:

and Dorothy has definitely risen to the challenge of creating a Hawaiian Ipu for her role as percussionist.

I’ve learned that being physically apart does not mean ‘isolated’. This will be joyful, and already it has generated well needed smiles and laughter. We will create our virtual performance and record it by April 1. Watch this space! If you’d like to be an honorary ECCO (encore! Chichester Community Orchestra) member, you are welcome to join in with the project HERE.

In the meantime, in whatever way you can, please – let the music play on!

(featured image by violscraper CC BY-NC)

 

Dear Orchestra, I love you.

There are many things that we do in life, and this is one of my best. It’s funny how these things make themselves manifest. Every week I meet with a group of people who come together to form an orchestra and we enjoy learning and playing. We make music. We are an orchestra. I know very little about the people. I have no idea where they come from, what their jobs are, if they have jobs, what they believe, like or dislike, what they eat for dinner, what they do or have done in their lives, and yet we do amazing things together.

Last night was our concert. It is nice to recognise where you are and a concert is a way of doing this. We framed it as an informal playing of our pieces: anyone can come, it’s free, we all bring food and drink to share, and we make music. We were in the University Chapel, and I had (not so) jokingly told everyone to dress warmly as the main preparation. Where we are it’s winter, and although it is not sub-zero, the winter in England is cold and wet, and it gets in to your bones. The Chapel is very beautiful, but it is a big, big space with two giant stained glass walls that was built before people thought of insulation or heat retention, and let’s just say that heating is a challenge. There was no problem last night – the place was packed and with 100+ bodies in the audience it was toasty.

Our policy is that anyone can come to be part of the group and basically you turn up when you can and when you want to. Something must be going right because we had 46 people listed as performers on the programme.

What’s so special about this group?

We do it. We make music and it actually sounds good and it’s not conventional and it’s not your usual group makeup, and sod that, we do it anyway and I have not remembered a more purely joyful collaborative concert experience in a very long time.

We have saxophones (who actually save the day more often than not) in the group. We have 5 flutes and 9 clarinets, as opposed to the traditional 2 or maybe 4 in an orchestra. Dorothy is a killer percussionist who even bought her own cymbals for our Tchaikovsky and next term is going to debut on drum kit. Hubert and Eunju bring their daughter to every rehearsal and she is amazingly patient and sweet. Ray and Mark have taken on arranging songs they want to play with the group and next term we’ll see two of our violinists play a solo, Bach Double Concerto, with us.

There’s music in the air like moisture waiting to form clouds and blow across the sky in wonderful formations – making patterns, giving breeze and shade, and bringing storms as well as rainbows. We bring people together to form those possibilities, and last night we made it happen.

It wasn’t about right notes or perfection. It was just about growth, being a part of, and letting music be the medium that carried us and the audience. And what an audience – it was a full house! The things that people said afterwards were not about how theme A was presented with care and made such a contrast to the B section and weren’t those keys in the development a surprise! No, they said thank you for giving my family such a wonderful evening both experiencing the music and performing. That was beautiful. See music is all the more meaningful when it starts with meaning, and here it wasn’t primarily about the sounds, but about the accomplishments, the audacity of someone to believe that after however many years of not playing they could do it again, that even though they never did a grade whatever or maybe never played with others that they could. You can. You bloody well can, and I’m not going to tell you otherwise. I am going to do everything I can to find a way to help you to do it. -and no, it’s not perfect, but neither am I. My goal in life isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be with people. This music had meaning because everyone in the space cared about each other and collectively worked to make it come together.

I wanted to somehow thank the orchestra, so I did one of my odd-ball things and made them all cookies in the shape of them. Orchestra cookies J You can see the trumpets, clarinets, oboes held out to the side, bassoon, contrabassoon, sax, and the strings… Somehow a little gesture of being willing to spend time thinking about each one of them (and producing something yummy) seemed a good way to say thank you, to celebrate each one of them.

After the concert there was such an air of genuine happiness from all. I heard from one of the players that the musician next to them had turned to them after we finished performing and said – that was really lovely. They all came to hear us. -and the first person said to me, in relaying the story, ‘It’s a bit like a children’s nativity where the parents come and their child is just the best thing, but for us we’re adults, and we were the best thing for our people, and that is really special.’ They are 100% right. It is special and such an important thing to cultivate in life. Celebrating others is the best.

Here’s to the next year of music making. Thank you ECCO Orchestra. I do love you.

Laura

…and we have beautiful photos thanks to Andrew Worsfold: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40432608@N08/albums/72157712128704463/with/49192585592/ 
ECCO Concert 7 December 2019