Exercises for Improvisation, Composition, and Compovisation
- 2020-01-24, 13:51:28
This article was originally written for a module of the Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology which I did in 1996.
Creative music making has always been seen as something which is difficult to do, some thing which is not for the average musician, but which can only be done by certain types of performer: the Jazz musician, the Rock guitarist, etc. Somehow people seem to forget that in 99% of cases their very first experiences with a musical instrument will have been of an improvisatory nature, for how many of us were able to pick our instrument up that first time all those years ago & read & play a piece of music from a piece of paper; indeed how many of us were even able to read music when we first bashed at the keys of the classroom piano as a child ?
Nowadays the ability to play more than just what has been written down by some body else is becoming more & more important, & also to teach this ability to other people. The British National Curriculum for Music has composition as a major part of its syllabus. Music Colleges, such as Birmingham Conservatoire, have as a constituent part of their courses classes in improvisation & composition, & options to take this further for more advanced students. For the professional musician, contemporary music increasingly includes elements where the player must take more responsibility for what happens next, & the jobs in the London Sinfonietta & the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group [...]
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The Secret Power of Music
- 2020-01-24, 13:34:40
This article was originally written for the Musical Philosophies module of the Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology which I did in 1996; I've often had cause to refer to it since then so I've reproduced it here on my main site to make it easier to. It is presented as a description of philosophies held be other people and groups and not necessarily a personal view.
"All music, based upon melody & rhythm, is the earthly representative of heavenly music" - Plotinus (AD 205 - 269)
"Hear, & your soul shall live" - Isiah 55:3
Music as an organisation of sound is known to have existed for over 3000 years, & writings from the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, India & China suggest there was such an artform at least 1000 years previous to this. In our so - called 'scientific age' it is often easy to forget this; & music as it was taught in English schools until very recently even served to implicate a denial of this fact, by its labelling of our mediaeval music as 'primitive', its concentration on the theory of music apparent in the 'common practice' period, & by completely failing to mention the existence of methods of making music outside of the traditional Western art music mould.
Along with the increase in interest in the study of the theory & practise of other musical cultures on an equal footing to our own, there has been an upsurge of interest in what some people like to describe as the [...]
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Gil Scott-Heron, 1949-2011, and the best concert Iâ€™ve ever been to
- 2011-05-28, 18:10:24
It’s not my custom to publicly mourn the death of famous people; generally, it’s a thing other people do which makes me feel a bit icky – I didn’t know the famous person, and the famous person didn’t know me, so whilst it’s always sad when anybody dies it seems pointless to outpour grief for somebody one didn’t know and who didn’t know you.
I’m not going to break that habit and publicly mourn the sad death of Gil Scott-Heron, but instead I’m going to talk about the best concert I’ve ever been to in my 41 years of life, and what perhaps will remain the best concert I’ll ever have been to in what remains of my (hopefully at least another 41 years!) of life.
It’s a story I’ve told people in person more times than I care to count; there’s some people who’ve heard it more times than they’d care to count. I tend to present a fairly robotic, sentiment-free face to the world, but telling this story is one of only two (and you can read the other one on birmingham-alive!, if you want) which genuinely brings an emotional tear to my eye, rather than just my allergies to the many airborne particulates where I live.
I can’t quite remember if it was late 1989 or early 1990 (it was definitely that academic year, because I was in my second year as an undergraduate at Birmingham Conservatoire) that I went to a concert at the Birmingham Hummingbird. Myself and my best friend at the [...]
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