Today I had the pleasure of talking to Scott Waddington about his son Isaac, a professional singer-songwriter. This interests me from both the angle of making it within the music industry and from the perspective of learning and teaching in music. Isaac’s skill as a singer, pianist, composer, and someone who can work have carried him through. He has been fortunate to have a family setting where he was both supported and allowed to explore and pursue his chosen avenues.
In the interview Scott gives a snapshot of where Isaac is now, and then explains the path of his musical education. He talks about the impact of a suggestion from a stranger on becoming a chorister, and the journey to London studios and the profession. Scott describes some of the challenges Isaac navigated to get to where he is today. Have a listen to the 22 min interview below.
At the end of the interview he mentions a couple of current projects. I’ve embedded the Cadbury’s advert and the track Someone Like Me below so you can have a listen. Read more
Over the years I have gotten far more brave with my own learning and with sharing aspects of the journey. There is no destination in sight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t arrival points. This post notices one.
Sometimes progress in learning is difficult to see – looking for the wood through the trees is a phrase that comes to mind, and there’s an excellent passage in the book The Forest People by Colin Turnbul where one of the forest dwellers is shown a clearing for the first time. He climbs a mountain and upon coming out of the forest into a clearing this was the scene:
On the plains animals were grazing everywhere; a small herd of elephant to the left, about twenty antelopes stared curiously at us from straight ahead, and way down to the right was a gigantic herd of about a hundred and fifty buffalo. But Kenge did not seem to see them.
Sometimes we cannot simply understand what is before us, even if we are in it. The same holds true for learning. As we progress day by day, today is likely to resemble yesterday, with small changes. It is only when we step back and look at progress over weeks or months that we can see changes clearly. Read more
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
I travelled a lot by train during the past two days as I went from south to north of the country and back again. The six trains were fine, and besides being vehicles of transportation, they were vehicles for a window into humanity. I saw some beautiful people. Actually there were so many beautiful people and kind people, and people loving their special people that I was really struck and pleased to be part of this thing called humanity. It gave me hope in a time when, if allowed or directed in a certain way, there is so much noise and hatred being spewed into the public arena.
I am not advocating hiding one’s head and putting on the headphones to block out the big wide world, but I was reminded of phrases and images, and I’d like you to indulge me in a short story of the people opposite me on the first train.
Firstly, she was a beautiful baby. Full of sunshine and absolutely not demanding anything from anyone else, but sat next to her mother and softly sang. She was singing. My first thought was, oh, how I wish I was so comfortable and felt ‘allowed’ to just sing. They I thought, hey, why can’t people just sing? Society? Convention? Baggage of the past? I still must believe deep down that some of those walls are real. Letting go takes time. Back to the story:
This lovely child sang, and what did the parents do?
They smiled and they joined in.Both of the parents joined in. They sang little nursery rhyme songs and later they softly sang full songs and the baby joined in on long notes when she caught on to the structure of the song. It was absolutely joyful.
I smiled and said she was beautiful and how lucky she was to have a mummy and daddy who sang with her.
The freedom of learning to express with music and to be so supported. There is far deeper meaning and transference than just a baby singing. There is a message about learning, an instrumental or musical vocabulary, about confidence and motivation, and about community.
I am reminded of words and the images they invoke:
We the people
We are not without voice, we are not without purpose, people are not without love for one another. For me, part of humanity is celebrating those we spend our time with along the way, in our everyday journeys.
By the third train I saw this sign:
and on the fourth train, when I noticed amazing people I told them so. On the fifth train were two beautiful women. I told them so. When they got off two stops later, they were smiling and laughing and they thanked me again and wished me well. None of the other passengers had spoken, except to check directions with whoever they were already with. On the sixth train I smiled at the baby across the way. He waved back. The man opposite sighed loudly and took two headache pills. The baby and I smiled. The baby gave everyone smiles even though few smiled back.
Speech, the melodic qualities therein, and a favourite nursery rhyme. Sounds like a #MUS654 task to me! This is my effort at listening to a nursery rhyme – one of my favourite versions of Twinkle twinkle, having an go at notating the speech, and playing it on the cello. I thought about reading one myself, but I knew that I would read it in an affected way just because I knew what the task was about. The idea is to listen for the melodic qualities in speech and to see if you can come close to replicating them on your instrument. It is all part of this week’s #MUS654 topic of What makes a melody?
Most English speakers have a surprisingly limited melodic range in their speaking voices compared to speakers of other languages. For this exercise I choose one of my favourite parts of the animated Alice in Wonderland, where the doormouse recites ‘Twinkle twinkle’ with a twist at the un-birthday party. Listen from 10 seconds to hear just the right bit:
and then I sat down at the piano, and copied the voice… and it was a bit messy:
You can see it was tricky to decide what notes it used. I had someone else listen and they agreed it started on B, but then said – it sounds like it’s in C.
and then I played it:
When played on the cello, it is completely removed from the original. Beside the ambiguity between the lovely cartoon mouse and my ‘interpretation’ of the notes, there is the great difference in the tonal quality. I have not spent a long time getting the articulation right – but I wonder what is possible? There are composers who do use voice as a basis for their compositions and they transform the vocal spoken lines into purely instrumental playing. Take Steve Reich’s Different Trains for example. There are great examples of using speech – listen to 3 min 20 where the recorded voice says ‘the great train from New York’ and the cello mimics this, and then later there is the line ‘going to Chicago’ that is played by the viola. There are more… see what you can hear:
Have you had a go at any of the tasks in this week’s session? Do! 🙂