Monday, 26 June 2017

Choral Chameleon Institute: Day 3

Perfect little artist's corner!
Sunday morning in Brooklyn, and it's a bit of a nice lazy start to the day - which is a good thing, because last night it was muggy and hot and horrible in my apartment, so it took me a while to nod off! Safe to say though, I got started on my piece, and decided to spend the free morning at a neighbourhood coffee shop enjoying some people watching while I continued on with my piece. It really is a lovely area of the city this little corner of Brooklyn, and with the sun shining, it was the perfect time to crack on with some creativity!

Starting off the afternoon it was back in with some more ear training, which included an interesting discussion of the concept of perfect pitch, and yet more discussions about Solfege, specifically 'Fixed Doh vs 'Moveable Doh' ' - probably time to explain the difference! - The Solfege system relates to the 'musical alphabet': C-D-E-F-G-A-B = Doh-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti Fixed Doh means that 'Doh' is always the same note, regardless of what key you might be in. For Moveable Doh, 'Doh' will be whatever the tonic/root note of the key you are in might be - so if you are in A major; A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G# = Doh-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti. The debate that arises is which one is better, and why you might use one over the other. Many of the participants on this course have been taught Moveable Doh, and are thus struggling to wrap their head around using a different system, unlike me, who is just struggling to 'speak in another language'! Generally speaking, what I’m finding most difficult of this whole ‘ear training experience’ is learning to use completely different words to describe the notes I already hear in my head - for example, if I see an A on a score, I will hear the A, and would want to sing ‘A’, but the Fixed Doh Solfege system requires me to sing ‘La’ - when you then have to do them all in quick succession, that’s when the ‘fun’ really begins! I’m not entirely sure I’ll have it down by the time I leave the institute, nor am I sure I’ll use it in any real way when I leave, but it is fascinating to be learning about it and approaching something in a completely foreign way. 

Everyone hard at work!
Our masterclass for the day was with course director Vince Peterson, on the subject of 'Your Career in Music'. A hugely honest and insightful masterclass, which Vince delivered with both compassion and humour. The overall premise what how 'Art is Work', and that what a lot of people view as 'talent' is actually completely overrated. Having a career in music is based on knowing yourself, REALLY knowing yourself: your habits, your needs, your goals, things that help you work, things that distract you, your personal triggers and admitting your fears. It's about understanding what you're great at and who needs/wants what you have to offer, and likewise what are bad at and what do people not want from you. There was discussion on the Myers-Briggs Test, which essentially gives you insight into your true personality type, and how this can be related to your career, and discussion on how versatility in the music business essentially if the path to money! Overall, this masterclass was a full package of useful information, which I liken to the masterclass I experienced with Lawrence Dillon at Charlotte New Music Festival - a little bit of a life changer!

In my conducting session I tackled my second piece that I will conduct with the choir, which just so happens to have been written by course director Vince Peterson, and heavily features irregular time signatures in 7/8 and 5/4 - oh yeah, no pressure then.... That said, I'm up for the challenge, and this piece poses itself as a massive learning tool. A lot of my focus with this piece was learning how to beat the irregular time signatures, as well as more on the subtleties of what your hand gestures actually mean for a choir. I'm very much looking forward to trying all this new stuff out with the Guernsey Glee Singers when I return to Guernsey! - Finally, having got some notation on the go, my composition lesson with Jeff was also very productive, as I was able to show him how my piece was developing, and likewise he was able to make suggestions on how to expand on my ideas, and push the harmonic language a bit more. Jeff seems to really understand how I operate as a composer, and has a really warm way of discussing ideas which I find extremely helpful, so I'm really positive as to how my piece is going to turn out.

All in all, a shorter, but jam-packed day of music exploration, which was rounded off with a nice little dinner with a couple of my fellow composers in a local Venezuelan cafe, and a brief moment watching a live production of Shakespeare's Richard III in Carroll Park - #artiswork #artiseverywhere

Richard III - in the park on a Sunny Sunday evening!

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