Archive for the ‘Gillian Howell’ Tag

‘Hidden Music’ found at ArtPlay

Back in October I created a site-specific workshop/performance event for children called ‘Hidden Music’. It was a musical hide-and-seek game in which children composed original pieces for specific sites around the venue, ArtPlay. At performance time, they hid themselves away in their chosen site, only performing when they got found. It was a pretty magical day – here’s how it panned out:


We walked around the site in small groups, deciding where we’d most like to create a piece for performance.

We wrote riddles and clues to put in a program to help the audience find our sites and performances.

We wrote music that used the environment in some way – its physical attributes and space, or ambient sounds that could become part of our composition. One group positioned themselves on the side of a hill and decided to run up the hill several times throughout each of their performances. (They were very tired by the end).

After we’d finished composing, we did a dress rehearsal, walking to each of the sites in turn and seeing the other groups’ performances.

At 4.30pm the performances began. Parents and friends came along; we also invited families who were in the playground next door to ArtPlay at the time we were about to start. The Hidden Music children spent a few minutes going up to adults and children, describing the project, and inviting them to join in the musical hide-and-seek. Quite a lot of people decided to do this. They gathered in the foyer at ArtPlay and heard an explanation of how the performances would work.

Then the ‘finding’ began. Younger children raced around, excited to discover the performances as quickly as possible. There were four spaces altogether – two inside (on a staircase, and inside two ‘cubby houses’) and two outside (in an empty shipping container that happened to be available, and in the small ‘forest’ behind ArtPlay).

Musically, the pieces were very varied. The piece created on the staircase used the steps up and down as a kind of physical graphic score. One child would walk while their partner would play the notes assigned to each step they touched. The cubby house pieces played with antiphonal effects and distance, and the group in the forest created a multi-section piece that used a gong to signal the start of each section (which always involved them running further up the hill in order to perform it). The piece in the shipping container included a very loud, thunderous section that required the players to bash the sides of the container with their hands, feet, elbows – while playing their instruments! Very dexterous, and the children’s suggestion.

Each group performed their music 4-6 times, and with each repeat performance, their confidence and performance poise grew. By the end, they were adding things, changing things, improvising new sections – all without discussion or planning. They were so in sync and comfortable with each other, the music began to develop new turns, with the performers hearing, responding and intuiting where it was going. This is one of the great gifts of this kind of performance project. Children don’t often get to do multiple performances of the same material in quick succession, but when they do, they can make  tremendous leaps of musical understanding and confidence.

Hidden Music was such a joyous project! At the end of one of the performances, one child turned to the musician working with him and said, beaming, “I’m just having the best time!” Later, the children talked about the things they’d learned, and what they’d particularly enjoyed. You can hear some of their comments, as well as those of members of the audience, in the video below.

In 2013 Hidden Music will move on to the Arts Centre Melbourne, and in that enormous, iconic building with its many levels and corridors and corners and staircases I know we will find even more beautiful and unusual sites for performance.

Photos in this blog post are by Melbourne photographer Charlie Sublet (www.charliesublet.com). Hidden Music was funded by the City of Melbourne.

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Mexican Sunday

In preparation for next Saturday’s Jam on El Salon Mexico at the Myer Music Bowl (see the last paragraph of this post to read all about it), I’ve spent today working up a flexible arrangement of El Palo Verde, inspired by this fantastic version:

It’s wild! It reminds me a bit of brass bands from the Balkans – same kind of anarchic, high-velocity playing. I had fun transcribing the tuba part this afternoon. I don’t think we’ll be doing it quite this fast. Still developing ideas of how the crowd’s picnic utensils will come into it…

UPDATE:

Ole! The Jam was indeed a wild Mexican Saturday. I got the audience involved in all sorts of ways and a small number of children came down the front with their picnic paraphernalia in order to play solos. Here is some footage from the event:

New York Jazz Club 2

Back in October, I led the second KEY composition workshop, with Australian Art Orchestra musicians Jordan Murray and Philip Rex. We were taking inspiration from the music of New York jazz trombonist Josh Roseman (who owns his own jazz club), so I called the project New York Jazz Club, and people signed up the moment bookings opened.

We created two pieces – a laid-back A-minor groove, and a frantic, schizophrenic contemporary piece that jumped between genres, styles and pastiche with a randomness that would be right at home in any downtown New York club.

Take a look: