Friday, February 27, 2015

The Joy of Self-Expression

Self-expression is a wonderful thing. Recently, I had the honor of teaching an expressive art and music lesson to 4th grade classrooms. It was such a joy to watch the kids' creativity come to life in our collaboration.

Part of the lesson was to show that music & art have a lot in common. One element we focused on was line.  I explained that just as when artists draw lines that can go up, down, spiral, wavy, etc--I can do the same with a melody line.  So, while I played my Native American flute, the kids listened to the shape of the melodic line I did and interpreted that in lines on their art piece.

The next connection of music and art we talked about was color. I told the kids that when I play the guitar,  I can produce many different moods and shades of expression based on chords I play. Those of you who know music -consider the difference between a C major chord and C diminished chord. Quite a different color and mood!  How would this be illustrated with color? This is what the kids did as they listened to my guitar playing and chose their colors from what they heard.

Check out their beautiful work in the picture above!  Recently, I wanted to have a group of kids play an improvised song for a recital but I was told it would not be enjoyable for the audience to hear a song that was not recognizable. I thought that was a limiting way to view it and as you can see from above what joy can happen to allow self-expression. It is a good feeling to see their work and we all just made it up in the moment! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Waltzing through Winter

One, two, three, one, two, three...that's the rhythm of the waltz. The rhythm of my life the last few weeks as I prepare music for some spring weddings.  The waltz dance is one of the most common dance forms but here is something really interesting I read about them waltzes: "The waltz isn't just a dance. It caused a social revolution when it first became popular in Vienna in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. "You must understand that in those days, in the 19th century, it was one of the first dances where dancers were allowed to hold each other close. " Back then it was very provocative!

Maybe that is what is making me feel obsessed with playing these simple but lovely melodies.  I am drawn to the social revolution in music. Growing up in the tumultuous 60s, that makes sense. But not only that, the music is so pretty.  Listen to this haunting Swedish waltz, "Josefin's Dopvals" played on the Nykelharpa.  

Then there is the Irish Waltz, "If Ever You Were Mine."  Can you blame me for playing these tunes over and over again? These tunes stay with me all day. There is something so comforting about simple melodies and music that is intended to be danced to.  I've always loved music that serves some kind of purpose--that is not just ornamental or only for entertainment. It serves to move people --physically, emotionally and socially as in the revolution!

That's where I've been lately.  Have you danced a waltz lately? My cat Jasper likes for me to waltz with him. One, two, three.. here I go again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Old McLoopy Had a Song

The past few weeks I had a lot of fun teaching a new class at Cville Therapeutic Recreation called, "Sound Journey Meditation." The class comprised of two different ways to be with music. In the beginning I led the class through a deep  music listening meditation. I improvised on my Native American flute and guitar while everyone listened quietly. We all felt more calm and relaxed after that  and then began the next part of the class which was to energize. We did lots of fun things for this!

Last week for instance, I did some looped recordings of us singing a few songs.  We did a funny arrangement of Old McDonald. Before we sang it,  I asked everyone to name their favorite animal. Then I got out my iPad looping recording app (Everyday Looper) and had us record the line, "Old McDonald had a farm" over and over. While this looped, I had us all record on the next track the sounds of our favorite animals all at once. You could hear, "with a roar roar here," "meow meow", "neigh neigh, " "ruff ruff, " and you get the idea. While those two phrases looped, we sang, "eieio, eieio, eieio" over and over. The result was hilarious!

Another time we improvised a happy song. That is, I showed the class what kind of chords on guitar and rhythms would best create a happy mood. Next we selected from index cards one word we could use to express this feeling (it was either, "ah," "ooh," "oo, " etc) Then I hit the recorder button and we sang and improvised for a few minutes. Afterwards, I played our creation back for us to see if we did make a song that made us happy to listen to. Yes indeed! :)

We also played our percussion instruments and played follow the leader, call and response and other games. It was a lot of fun!