Flautists and dancers! Better than me trying to dance. Definitely.
Day 1 CoLab: Me “shadowing” dancer Romana. Hilarious. I really enjoyed it though…..
After a wonderful lie-in it was my first proper trip to Laban. Sorry to say that I had never been previously, even after a year and a half at Trinity Laban. What an amazing building. Anyway…
It was great to see the kids, we seperated into dancers and musicians and I led a warm-up with the musicians, focussing on tuning. This was the main issue I had with the previous day. The kids didn’t really know what to be in tune was or how to be in tune and it was affecting the performance. So this was my opportunity to make them aware of their instrument and how they play with others. It was shocking how sharp the saxophone was, he had never pulled out that far before ever, glad I could help him be aware of that! Even more shocking was how flat the clarinet was, and how he couldn’t push in any more. At one point they were a true semitone apart when both playing an “a”. Luckily it improved during the warm-up so it was less shocking later in the performances.
The performances went really well, and the change of spaces from the Studio Theatre to Studio 10 was really fascinating. The kids were great, very committed and convincing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It opened a new world of expression and music making to me, and a new love for dance.
The main thing I can take from this experience is that I love working with teenagers. I knew I already did from my teaching work but this has concreted my passion for working with that age group. Especially now I think I want to do more workshop type teaching work. I think I’m quite good at it too. I felt like the kids appreciated what I had to say and actually liked me.
Also I am intrigued to look into dance and how I can use dance in my playing. Maybe collaborate with dancers in my music making or in their choreography. I am already planning on working with Tony Thatcher again on a project for my Masters. I cannot wait. He is an inspiration!
Colab has been a fantastic experience for me. I have made new friends and have things to look forward to thanks to CoLab 2013.
Not such a beautiful day in Brighton! Not such a cheery mood!
However, after a brief dance warm-up (Fred and I completely messing up the dance we were doing…Fred mainly, I was quite good) we moved into improving our piece from the day before. My ideas were to add chromatic notes, add long notes, remove the strong crotchet pulse by adding heavy accents at the beginning of our respective riffs to create strong cross-rhythm. Tony agreed to my ideas so we set straight to it. We developed this by letting George play long held notes on the electric bass to begin, without a set-key so not starting with such a strong tonality as we did before. It also removed the ironic groove unfortunately. We then started bringing in the riffs one by one at a very quiet dynamic. Building it up layer by layer until all parts were playing. Then we started messing with our riffs by adding random chromatic notes. The music started morphing into some sort of Rite of Spring-esque sacrificial dance. The kids seemed really into it and started bopping around to the beat and getting louder and louder and more and more animated. It was very exciting music making!!
The final product was a very convincing structure of a semi-improvised devised piece which was lacking a regular pulse and completely made up by the kids with the aid of us Trinity-ers. When we performed it with the accumulations the dancers had created, it was even more effective. It looked like a bizarre tribal dance with crazy music. I thought it was fantastic. So did Tony!
By the afternoon we had an outline of our “final piece” that we were going to perform at Laban on the 4th day.
1st part: dancers exhaust themselves, no music
2nd part: dancers start accumulation, music starts after second person begins their accumulation and it all builds and comes to a climax and then dies and merges into…
3rd part: 1 minute solos with musicians, scores aswell!
4th part: missing……………
The 4th part was a mad 45 minutes of creating something from nothing. My idea was to use words using the letters A-G to create sonic piece of music. A, AB, ACE, BAD, BAGGAGE, BEAD, BED, CAGE etc. We played this for the first time in the sports gym and it was amazing. The tonality shifts while each person works their own way through the words at their own pace. All the kids loved it especially with the resonance in the hall. Tony also loved it. The dancers had created a group accumulation to go with this music and it was beautiful. Such a contrast to the more fast paced more active part beforehand.
I was now convinced that this piece was convincing and really wonderful.
Shame I had to leave. I loved Brighton and loved this project and didn’t want it to end!!!! Luckily I had another day left then….
Day 2! Such a beautiful day in Brighton. Sunny and warm (for February).
We did a dance warm-up again. I love dancing. I think I might investigate some sort of class I can go to! Anyway….
At the end of day 1 Tony set everyone homework of producing a graphic score of what they produced in their quartet. To be honest, I didn’t spend much time on mine as you probably see from the attached photo. But it was a vague outline of what my parameters of the performance were! Anyway, it was very interesting to see the dancers idea of a graphic score, as as I learnt dance is rarely notated formally.
We then set about creating a combined graphic score for all parts of our production. We decided to use colour (but we didn’t have any to start with) we also decided we needed a timeline to track the order of the performance for everyone to follow. The scores the kids I was working with had created were fabulous especially the dancers.
Here is Halo the flautist’s score:
Here is Romana the dancers score:
Here is Kem the flautist’s score:
After talking about all our efforts, we decided to use a “line of energy” along the timeline to map out the movements of both dancers. Then each dancer put their notation either side of the energy line which were indicative of their movements so we could understand them as mere musicians. Then on the outside of their movements we put our musical line. The line followed pitch and also decided note length using length of the line. I thought this draft ended up looking quite beautiful!!
After lunch this is what we created with the use of colour:
The performances with the scores actually enhanced the performances. It combined 3 different arts together which was very touching to be able to say that we created it from scratch with no particular parameters or instructions. The kids seemed pretty impressed too!!
The afternoon led us into creating a riff-based piece of music. Tony’s specific request was to have no regular beat or pulse. We decided the best way for this was having many time signatures at the same time. 3/4 4/4 5/4 and 7/4. The kids produced their own riffs which played along with. We chose the key of G Major because it was relatively easy for everyone. The result was a pretty funky piece of music. “Ironic groove” as we called it. I compared it to “elevator music”. There’s a video of the experiment on here! When we put our ironic groove with the dancers accumulation dance, it didn’t fit at all and I knew that the next day would be a rethink of our ideas to create something less cheesy…..
Not knowing what to expect is part of the CoLab experience, however when travelling to a different city the expectation is actually heightened because of the excitement of actually going away for a few nights! Luckily the first day surpassed expectations, in many different and some shocking ways.
Within minutes of beginning I was thrown into my “discomfort” zone of having to do a “dance-led” warm-up with Tony Thatcher taking us through movements and positions I never thought I would put myself through in private let alone in front of complete strangers. However it was thoroughly enjoyable UNTIL one of the lovely kids from Brighton/Hove collapsed and knocked himself out and started bleeding from his head. Poor Kem. Luckily he was ok and we moved into some improvisation with the dancers leading each other round in a (kind of) trust exercise. It was great to see the young people improvising as it was out of their comfort zone. We experimented with long notes, scales, tonality, short staccato notes and ideas that would take them away from the idea of having to be “concrete” in their music making.
This warm-up was good for a team-building exercise for us musicians as then we moved onto creating music with a set duration of 1 minute to go with what the dancers were going to create. One of Tony’s main ideas for the course was “duration” and how do we manage a certain duration, how long does it feel and what we do in that time. We came up with 4 different pieces of music, all contrasting, through improvising and devising using ideas we bounced off each other. One piece used the idea of long notes, using a relaxed, ambient sound world. Next was a piece made of shorter notes, a more angular piece which used the idea of increasing note length and accents. Then we created a “city-scape” idea, this came organically from the previous piece. Having more set rhythm, use of the djembe and the use of the plucked double bass it had an Adams-like feel. It also began and ended with a fabulously devised solo by Brighton/Hove sax player Alfie. I was very impressed with the quality of creativeness from the kids in this piece, they came up with many ideas. Finally, as Alfie our sax player, and George (TrinityLaban bassist) are “jazzers” we produced a groove based piece to suit their taste.
However when we put these pieces with the movement the dancers had devised in their solos it was obvious which pieces worked and which didn’t. It was apparent the more rhythmic approach wasn’t as effective. The dancers were a lot freer which was clashing against any set rhythm.
The afternoon saw the solo dancers team up with musicians in quartets (2 musicians 2 dancers). I must say I have never had to “shadow” a dancer before and especially such a talented young dancer as the one I had to copy. Romana was fantastically flexible and snappy, I was not, see the video proof! However it did open my eyes to how dance movement can inspire musical expression. The height of the movement helped with the tessiatura of the instrument used, the speed of the movement helped with the amount of notes we used and also the shape of the movement (more fluid=more melodic, angular=large interval leaps). Between me and my young counterpart, Halo, we created a language we both could understand with our respective dancer. A flute duo appeared! (see video!)
We then showed our mixed quartet to the group. And they showed us theirs. It was enlightening to see young people (aged 14-16) be so creative without scores or the constraints of technique. I wish I had had this opportunity at that age!! This was the main lesson learnt from day one. Also that I love playing the flute and being creative. I forget this when I’m doing my tone exercises daily…
Final day of colab down in Brighton. Finishing touches to final piece. Band plays riffs in 3,4,5 and 7 time to throw the beat!
My group’s graphic score. Green is music, pink in dance and the black line is the energy in both. Lasts one minute!
Showing our graphic score attempts. Both dancers and musicians try to express what they did on day 1 without traditional notation! Interesting results!