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Posts tagged ‘music’

Pushing the boat out: Creativity in the Open

Kamloops. Creativity in the Open. Out in the open. The Wilderness stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is water in the valley, snow on the distant mountains, etched clouds above, and wonderful smiles to surround us on the TRU (Thompson Rivers University) campus here in Canada. It was an opportunity to push boundaries and explore. My appetite for learning is large and this was a feast.

The convergence of beautiful surroundings, people, thought, has been magic over the past few days during the Creativity in the Open event, organised by Tanya Dorey. It has been a privilege to share so much with these people. It started as a conversation at an online meeting between academics from diverse fields – a curriculum designer, a biologist, a philosopher, and a musician. It was our ‘play-date’ where we could talk and snatch a precious few moments to know one another better than text-base interactions allow. (there’s a story connecting that meeting to the event that just happened, and that will be in the collaborative magazine Kintsugim issue coming out in about a week)

There is an inherent joy for me, in being at a place and an event where creativity is valued, welcomed, and fostered. I knew that I came bringing something that would be new for people – playing instruments and giving them the tools to make some recognisable sounds in a short space of time. Working together in different ways than the everyday desk environment provides, and using a different medium to convey creativity – sound. I would be pushing people, but there were also opportunities for people to push me. Read more

Applied Imagination: I think, therefore I can

Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.

It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more

A scene of hope

This is a post about life, and finding hope in what you have, where you are.

The church is ancient. The village is in the Bayeaux tapestry, King Cnut’s daughter is buried there, the place goes way back before anything I could claim to be ‘my time’ or really my understanding of time.

I was in the midst of it, and for a few moments time I was aware of the scene around me. Read more

Shuffle the deck: Scales becoming tunes #MUS654

Listening, and thinking on the way music creeps under your skin to make you move… I spent this week thinking on scales and their relationships as part of #MUS654 – of notes to notes, and yes, the relationships of the notes to people. Context can be everything and it can change so much. The way things are ordered, presented, and the way we look at them is important for how people attribute meaning.

For each type of musician, there are different physical parameters that influence the mechanical logistics of how we paint our sounds. Let me explain… in my last post I talked about how singers don’t use ‘fingerings’ for their notes. They have intense links between the conceptual understanding of what needs to be done to achieve a certain pitch and then they make the sound. There is no looking (down the throat!) to check they have the right positioning. Yes there are physical aspects of singing that can be seen – like mouth shape and torso placement/use, but there are unseen aspects and somehow there is a strong connection between the mind and the outcome.

Likewise for other instruments the mind is very important, but there is this pesky other bit that cannot be ignored… As a cellist, I work with my hands Read more

Time to open #MUS654 for 2017

It’s the start of another academic year, and I have just welcomed a new group of wonderful final year students to my undergraduate class on repertoire for the young performer. It’s a great one, in that we are so diverse, from classical to folk to rock and yet all on a common path of figuring out how to create a year-long curriculum for a learner. One of the first things I tell people is that I am not in a position to tell them how to ‘do’ their instruments. I can advise and guide on how to learn and devise learning. Time to open our minds! (featured image CC BY-SA by Eddie van W.)

We have more in common than we think – even with this year’s group spanning ukulele, clarinet, electric bass, voice, and violin. With all my classes we have no textbooks, and I strive to gather as many resources as possible for the students. For some classes these are paywalled, and fortunately we have access. For this class, there are many great resources that serve our purposes that are freely available. Over the past few years I have developed an open educational resource that is the closest thing to a text book that we have. It is here as the #MUS654 pages. There is a drop down menu for the pages, and I’m going to keep a grid of all the posts I make this year on a page there.

The idea was born out of two things:

  1. I can’t tell everyone what to do (I really could not pretend to have the expertise in ALL the instruments- that would be beyond pretentious)
  2. The people who can advise are out there, and so I thought wouldn’t it be great if my students worked to engage with you all, and in turn you were all invited to join in as well! (yay!)

What I had devised was like a mooc, but it isn’t a class that people need to register for. It is more of a cMOOC (that’s where everyone connects up and they devise the content). I didn’t realise it when I started this class in 2014, but that’s what I was creating. In this project/#MUS654, we discuss the commonalities of music, planning, engagement, but you have to do the heavy work and make the content for a curriculum (if you want). Otherwise you could just dip in and out and join in with anything that takes your fancy.

Learning to reach our and network is more than half of the game for musicians today.

So if you are a player, performer, enthusiast, teacher, learner, or just fancy yourself as a person who enjoys a bit of music – you are warmly invited to join in with any or all of the goings on here. Those studying with me at the University of Chichester will be following along with the content from now until the beginning of December, and I’ll announce the weeks with a blog post and share it as widely as I can. Feel free to look at Session 1: The Mechanics of Sound and see what you think…

You can participate by:

  • Tweeting (in your own account, or feel free to make a fake account just for this if you prefer to remain detached from your normal profile)
  • Blogging
  • Commenting on the main pages and posts here, on this website

You are in control of how publicly or privately you post.

I encourage you to tag things with #MUS654 and I’ll be searching! If I’m clever, this year I’ll figure out how to aggregate blogs! (these technical things hurt my brain sometimes 😉 )

 

I look forward to having you share the musical journey with us! We can learn a lot from one another.

Here’s to #MUS654 2017

Laura

Image CC By by Sharon Mollerus

I have a dream, about music and you

I have a dream and a vision and I believe in connection, and that collaboration allows the creation of far more than one mind could see.

I would like to invite you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to participate in a collaboration contributing to a piece for a concert-type event at my university at the end of April.

It is a positive action event to affirm life, music, and each other called ‘Singing for Unity: Hear our Voices’. It coincides with a certain 100 days, when many of us might like a reminder of the positive aspects of education and the arts. This event is not about politics, but about people, music, and life.

All sorts of contributions are invited: spoken word, music, poetry… It is open.

I would like to make two things- firstly a song. (Yes, I know I play the cello) The old Dylan song – The times they are a changing. I love it. Now here’s the invitation. I had in mind something like the giant internet choir project of Eric Whitacre, but then I thought, hey wait, I can think broader….  And I reached out to a friend in Arizona who recorded sent me an audio track of the chords HERE

and I thought wouldn’t it be great if this could become something more? Remixed into something- a bigger work? The song is the basis and I invite people to contribute how they see – with your dream, your vision. The event will have contributions people from across disciplines at my uni, and I thought it would be a great thing to include the wider educational and artistic community as well.

I would love to have images, music, a verse without words and with different instruments. I would love to have everyone send me their voice, or a talking head, or even just some words that I could edit in over an instrumental section where people said something – a sentence.

 

I believe in connection.  (that might be what I say)

 

Maybe people’s ‘I believe’ sentences string together to become a poem in themselves. (You can see this idea developing as I type.)

I am good at ideas, but I need you to make them work, so please take up the invitation. Feel free to contribute anonymously or as you, however you feel comfortable, to either (or both) of these two things (to interpret as you wish):

1.     A contribution to ‘The times they are a changing’, which could be sound, music, image. The basic song is based on the Peter, Paul, & Mary version (because I really like that one) and the guitar backing is here:

2.     A sentence, in audio, typing (you could always leave a comment below, and I am happy to string them together), or a video of you saying something positive. I suggest the beginning ‘I believe’ or ‘I will’ or ‘I am committed to’…

Feel free to comment on the post, email me, or you could even post a letter! (that would be exciting!) Hope you join me as a named or anonymous contributor.

(featured image ‘the way the wind blows’ by Thomas Hawk CC-BY-NC)

Making music everywhere: Cello Weekend 2017

Music everywhere. Cellos everywhere. Smiles, laughter, learning, good work, new strings, new learning. It is difficult to sum up what a magnificent weekend has just happened with 25 amazing cellists: students, professionals, teachers, children, parents – so many walks of life. There was incredible generosity to support from so many different angles- from a private donor, to three string companies each supporting us with strings, one sponsoring one of the workshops, and then there were the parents and teachers. We had cello cake and cupcakes! Oh my goodness… and the teacher who sat with the youngest students throughout the whole weekend to make sure they didn’t get lost.

Have a little look into what we got up to:

The recordings are taken with my phone as rehearsals went on (you can even hear me counting in the background…) and the music over the last few photos was recorded at the concert – by me, with my phone, while conducting. It was at that moment I thought – oh drat! I could have made a good recording with the zoom recorder in my bag… the bag over there… It’s tricky to get all the planning right when you are planner, orchestrator, director, and deliverer, and if the recording was the only thing that slipped, well that’s pretty good for me.

This last piece was composed by the gal singing, and I had talked to her and said we had a cello orchestra, so why not write out a string accompaniment? She made it easy, and that was great. We did not, however, get to rehearsing it. So only a very few (the youngest members) had heard it before we performed it. The thing is, it is a lovely song – about ‘our perfect world’ and the lyrics say – I’m dreaming of our perfect world, and you’re there… come, take my hand… – It is 100% positive. When we played it, the orchestra could be relatively together and in tune, despite not having played it – and it was a lollipop at the concert, not the main works, so perfection wasn’t the aim for this one – it was about the experience. But, because it was easy, people had enough spare attention to enjoy, look around, and soak it in. I had no score, only the parts, so I was looking at the players the whole time, and something magic happened. One by one, they began to smile at me. It wasn’t everyone, but about 5 just grinned, and I thought,  This, this is why we make music, why we teach, what it really means to learn. 

Ok, I get sentimental, and I admit to being very optimistic and enthusiastic, and it is without apology. I was moved by those smiles, and by the support of people – parents, partners, babies (yes we really did have a 2 month old baby at the Cello Weekend), and unseen supporters (Thank you Charles!). Thank you to everyone who attended and who made this weekend possible. To the University for the use of the Chapel, to the string companies: D’Addario, Jargar, and Larsen, and to the players. You are truly amazing.

I very much look forward to next year’s event.

Save the date: 

Cello Weekend 2018

April 14-15

Standing up and showing up

This post is about hope and standing up for one another. The unfolding events of the past six months or so have troubled me. Nobody likes to see a bully or a hater normalised. Nobody likes to see bad news. Nobody likes to be told and shown how destructive … the negativity is all over the place, like a cancer. Well it’s not really all over. You can choose not to watch the tv, choose to block the ads, choose not to sign up to the tolerances and looking the other way, but that is not easy. It takes choice and action – some might say agency.

(featured image CC BY-ND by Mike Keating)

Last night, Jan 20th, there was an event at my university, initiated by one of my students, and we organised it together. It was a positive event to change our perspective and combat all the ugliness that can invade and cloud our vision. We wanted to celebrate unity, love, and join together in solidarity with one another and with the extended community. We did this with words, song, poetry, music, and by being physically present. It was more than a conversation and went beyond agreeing or disagreeing with something – we were doing something. Everyone there showed up and stood up -All manner of people were represented in those taking part – multiple nationalities, various mother tongues, students, teachers, administrators, senior management, alumni, people from other universities, able, disabled – in a wheelchair, blind- old, young, men, women, and we came together. Voices were heard to speak for and represent those who were not there, but wanted to contribute. We sang together. We sang the March of the Women by suffragette Ethel Smythe, a song she conducted with a toothbrush, through the jail cell bars while imprisoned. Original songs and poems were shared about loss, healing, distant friends, and about expression, hope, and unity.

One brave gal stood up, and before performing said, I don’t play on my own (I don’t think colleagues knew she played at all) and she sang about sending hope to friends on distant shores, with the wonderful lyrics, ‘give me a smile and I’ll send you a rainbow.’ Someone else sang a Woody Guthrie song acapella – about a plane that crashed as it was flying ‘unwanted’ workers to Mexico – ‘deportees’. We were invited to join in with the refrain – ‘adios mes amigos… you won’t have names on the airplane, they’ll just call you… deportees.’ Quiet voices could be heard singing softly in the cold chapel, darkness all around outside.

It was enormously moving. There was hope – with Maya Angelou’s ‘A brave and startling truth’ and some very moving words about the motto from Trump’s maternal family clan motto, from Scotland (his grandmother was an immigrant): ‘Burn without being consumed.’ The speaker reminded us that this is something for us, now, to stand with one another, to stand for one another, -and I thought of the candle that passes it’s light to another without diminishing- we must not allow ourselves to be consumed, certainly not by ill.

We took our turns and everyone played a part, and after having arrived feeling the weight of- well feeling melted and consumed by events across the globe, we left with smiles and laughter, and even hugs. We left with hope and strength.

It wasn’t quite planned to have that outcome, but it happened, and it wasn’t a nation-wide, county-wide, or even city-wide event, but a small gathering. What I most hope to convey in telling a little about it is the amazing feeling that unity and solidarity that standing with one another brings. And what gifts of talents, words, research, and personal inspiration come forward to support peace, togetherness, and hope when an offer is opened and people are invited were truly unexpected.

I encourage you to consider doing something similar, or coming up with your own idea, and even if there are 5 people present – never underestimate what good can be achieved.

Here are some of the things that were read out:

Image CC BY by Rhett Maxwell

 

Cello Weekend 2017 – Join Us!

It’s time to think ahead and book for this year’s Cello Weekend! This is a chance to come together and study at the University of Chichester campus for a weekend with teachers and students from the university as well as cellists from across the wider professional musical community. Cellists of all ages are welcome, and there is something in the programme for everyone – from the orchestral experience of playing the classics of Mozart and Bach in an all-cello orchestra, to exploring aspects of performance, practice, and technique, to having a go at experimenting with modern techniques used by folk and jazz players as they go beyond just playing the notes. You can even have a play on a 5-string electric cello… or you might stick to the classics and watch others perform.

This year we welcome two outstanding professionals: Angela East and Kay Tucker. Angela will lead a musical surgery entitled “Any Questions? Your opportunity to find the answers to issues that have puzzled you for years!” Angela is inviting every participant to submit a question in advance of the weekend. Kay will be speaking, of course, about String Babies! and how our approach to reading and understanding music impacts all of us.

We also welcome two fantastic student-professionals who are both currently studying for their MA in Performance at Chichester: Nikolai Krinitsky and Joe Chilcott. Each of these people brings insight and understanding that will give you a fresh look at your own playing and at how you understand music. Full biographies and information about our guests is listed below the poster (scroll down!).

There are opportunities at the Cello Weekend to learn, explore, play, and meet other musicians. For more information, please contact me. My email is on the poster below. Local accommodation is also available for those travelling to get to the weekend.

AngelaEast:

Angela has combined playing and teaching throughout her career. At first, she taught in a number of schools including Haileybury, Leighton Park, Epsom College and Eton, where she taught the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. She also taught adult beginners at the City Literary Institute, where she had the largest classes in the music department. At this time she was freelancing as a modern cellist, mainly with the London Mozart Players.

In 1979 Angela acquired a baroque cello and became co-principal cello with the English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Known for the ‘elemental’ style of performance (The Times), Angela East is highly regarded as one of the leading continuo players of the Early Music Movement., having played with many of the foremost baroque orchestras in London including Principal Cello in the first performance on original instruments at Glyndebourne under Sir Simon Rattle.

Angela trained to become a Suzuki cello teacher in the 1980s and is a level 5 teacher and a teacher trainer. As her playing career developed, she began to develop her home teaching practice and has taught numerous children, some of whom chose musical careers and many of whom still play.

In 1997 she became a member of Red Priest. As well as having performed all over the world in some very interesting and unusual countries, this group has provided her with the opportunity to perform as a soloist, to make arrangements of unlikely repertoire such as Handel’s Messiah and she has been a partner in Red Priest Recordings, with whom she made two solo recordings, one of the Bach Cello Suites and one called ‘Baroque Cello Illuminations’ that includes pedagogical material. This CD was chosen as CD of the Fortnight by Classical Music Magazine.

In 2005 she enrolled with the Brighton School of Alexander Technique and graduated in 2009, providing an extra string to her bow. As well as teaching young children, she now teaches beginner adults by combining cello with the Alexander Technique and, on the other hand, gives Alexander lessons to a number of professional cellists. She has now devised a course and is writing a book for parents of children who wish to learn an instrument (any instrument, any teacher) and her self-run teacher training courses are now in their fourth year.

Angela gives regular recitals; one of her programmes is entitled ‘A Tale of Five Cellos’ in which she plays the viola da gamba, the bass violin, the baroque cello, the five-stringed cello and a Ventapane cello of 1828. Her repertoire extends into the 20th century with the Kodaly Solo Sonata and a number of jazz pieces by Aaron Minsky and Mark Summer. She has performed many times on radio and television, including Open University programmes and has been awarded an ARAM for her distinguished services to the music profession.

She has contributed articles to journals such as Arco and Early Music Today, has published editions of the Donizetti String Quartets and her book ‘Play Baroque’ has been published by Stainer and Bell, with several pieces having been chosen for the ABRSM syllabus. She has contributed articles to Early Music Today magazine and to ESTA and Suzuki newsletters. She has taken part in over 200 recordings including some by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Eminem, and has founded two groups of her own – the London Baroque Soloists and the Revolutionary Drawing Room, with whom she recorded eight CDs of Boccherini and Donizetti, one of which was chosen by Stanley Sadie in his ‘Critics’ Choice’.

She has been a member of ESTA since the 1970s.

Kay Tucker:

An alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kay has been playing the cello since the age of 12. She gives recitals both as soloist and ensemble player and is a professional cello teacher. In 2002, Kay was invited by Trinity GuildhallExamination Board to select cello repertoire for the 2004 strings syllabus. She has recently completed setting the cello repertoire for the new Trinity Guildhall syllabus, running from 2007. As a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, she has adjudicated at well over 100 national & local festivals throughout the UK. She is a Music Mentor for the National Festival of Music for Youth

Kay is passionate about the cello, and in teaching others to play well, whatever their age. She strongly believes that establishing a sound technique is fundamental to maximum achievement and enjoyment on the instrument.

Kay is widely experienced in teaching cello at all levels and to all ages. Over the years she has organised and given masterclasses & workshops. She is also a deputy teacher at the Royal College of Music. Students have gained music scholarships and exhibitions to independent schools and a number have been awarded places at the leading conservatoires. Most of Kay’s students have continued to enjoy the cello well into adult hood, some professionally

Kay encourages all her students to participate in chamber music and orchestras. Students have gained places in the West Sussex County Youth Orchestra, Surrey County Youth Orchestra, Brighton Youth Orchestra and the National Children’s Orchestra. Kay has had a number of works composed for her and her students; most notably ‘Mellow Cellos’ by Howard Thompson, and ‘Deep Space 5’ by Douglas Coombes.

Joe Chilcott:

 

Joe is a singer/songwriter who plays the guitar. He has just started playing the cello, but his strengths lie in his creativity with the use of his guitar. Joe is able to imagine a world of sounds and to create these on his acoustic guitar, using every part of the instrument. You can listen to some of Joe’s work here. He is studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester and notably, he was in the semi-finals of the UK Open Mic competition in November 2016. I promise his session will produce smiles and beautiful music.

 

 

Nikolai Krinitsky:

Is a cellist who comes originally from Moscow. He studied in Moscow, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Royal College of Music. He is now studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester. Nikolai possesses an impressive level of technical skill, and surprisingly, also a great humility as a performer. These two do not always go hand-in-hand. He is gentle and approachable, and has a way of encouraging performers to find the joy of the music they are playing. His insight comes from years of performing and also from his own skill as a composer for the instrument. He has composed many cello studies, caprices, and a sonata. His performance class is sure to be inclusive, encouraging, and full of genuine appreciation for music making.

 

Teaching to let go

(3 min read)

“…the delicate relationship between teaching, giving knowledge, and learning knowledge”

This comes from Chapter 4 of We make the road by walking, a book of conversations between the educators Paulo Freire and Myles Horton. Paulo goes on to elaborate this quote, talking about going beyond the knowledge that the people bring to a situation. (p.151) I am struck by this book, how much it resonates with me and I sincerely wish I had been able to meet these people in person. It’s my holiday read, part of a book club, and I suppose this is my post about Chapter 4. It is a short one, not because there is less that inspired me, but because there was one paragraph that leapt out for me. Paulo speaks about this balance between teaching, knowledge, and learning and adds the authority of the teacher.

“The other mistake is to crush freedom and to exacerbate the authority of the teacher. Then you no longer have freedom but now you have authoritarianism, and then the teacher is the one who teaches. The teacher is the one who knows. The teacher is the one who guides. The teacher is the one who does everything. And the students, precisely because the students must be shaped, just expose their bodies and their souls to the hands of the teacher, as if the students were clay for the artist, to be molded.

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to be­ come themselves. And in doing that, he or she lives the experience of relating democratically as authority with the freedom of the students.” -Paulo, p.181

This is so true, and a difficult one to learn. As a teacher it is a huge apocalyptic epiphany to know, not intellectually, but to really understand that you (or I or anyone) cannot change another. Read more