It's been a few days. Sorry.
We've finally had all of our classes though- Thursday evening was "creative ensemble" and Friday was "creative skills." Don't those names tell you *so* much about what we do?
Since they don't, I will.
Creative ensemble is an opportunity for us to all play together and work on pieces for longer than an hour, with the possibility of eventually performing them. Usually when we are composing either as a group or individually or working off of each other's riffs or improvising we don't get much of a chance to really develop any of the material and see where it could go- what sort of orchestration we'd like and all that. So "creative ensemble" is a space and time to do that with. Nell Catchpole is the tutor for that, and she had to be on her toes with us because Heather was in America, Tara was at a concert or something (so both of the cellists were gone), and then Kate didn't bring her oboe and instead brought a small accordion, a glockenspiel, and a melodica; so Nell had nothing like the instrumentation she was expecting and had to changer plans pretty significantly. It went well, though since it was just the first session it felt a lot like everything else that we've been doing- I'm sure it will develop more as the year goes on.
Creative Skills is a sort of practice room for leading workshops. (Why is it called creative skills? I dunno.) We're learning warm up exercises and songs and then practicing them with each other. The class is scheduled from 10am to 5pm, but we shoved lunch in there and a couple of breaks as well because that is just far too long to be stuck in a small windowless room with 10 other people. This week we broke up into pairs and made up a body rhythm to teach and use as a basis for various exercises. We also had a discussion about what warm up exercises are for and why we do them. Want a recap? Here is what I can remember without my notes:
Warm ups are good for:
managing energy levels (bringing up and/or down as appropriate)
focusing the group
getting everyone to something silly so they relax
teaching rhythmic and melodic material
ensemble skills (listening, paying attention to others)
physically warming up the body and/or voice
setting the tone for the workshop
figuring out individuals' levels without "auditioning"
assessing the musical level of the group
The best pair, in my opinion, were Caroline and Jorge. They had a rhythm in 4/4 that began with a jump, moved up through the body, and had pitches associated with it. The jump was really useful because it meant that you had to prepare for the next cycle ahead of time- the same way that you have to breathe before a phrase and prepare that. (You have to prepare all movements, but the jump was particularly useful because if you don't *really* prepare and think ahead there is no way you are getting off of the ground.) They eventually had us in a circle jumping to the left and to the right in this little dance that had all of us laughing and sweating- it was pretty great. The singing was great because it reinforced the body rhythm and and vice versa. You could then use that melody as the starting point of a piece once the workshop got to instruments. I also really liked that it moved upward from the ground- we jumped first, slapped our thighs, snapped twice and I think there may have been a clap- I don't remember; but leading up from the feet really grounded the pattern and made it comfortable and natural to do.
I need a little video of this, it is hard to explain...but this is what they're eventually going to give me a degree in...
Friday was the college Halloween party. Apparently in the UK Halloween costumes are always something scary- vampire, witch, devil, monster, etc. So Meredith and I tried to disabuse our British friends of this notion. Meredith was a Greek goddess (she had an extra bed sheet and made an impressive toga. Though it was a good thing I had some safety pins.) And talked about our favorite costumes ever like when I was a pineapple in 8th grade and also the kid in elementary school who was a milk carton. The Brits think we're crazy, but for once this is something that Americans have done for a longer time than they have. (the implication being, of course, that we're right and therefore the winners. Not that everything is a competition...) The party ended up being pretty lame until the very end when the dj got everyone dancing to Thriller and Don't Stop me Now (what does Queen have to do with Halloween? I understand Thriller, but Queen?) which was pretty great because everyone was singing along and standing in a very wonky "circle."
On Saturday I finally visited Peter McCarthy! Took me long enough, I know. We went to this totally awesome Turkish grocery store to pick up a few thing for lunch, but I think I'm going to go back just for the spices, and the vegetables, and the pint of hummus for £2. We had a really good chat back at his home and he ended up loaning me a bunch of unaccompanied bass solos that I'm going to look through because I miss actually working on something. So that was totally cool. He has a garden out back where he feeds all the local wildlife, so there were a bunch of sparrows and he apparently has three hedgehogs though I didn't see any. No squirrels though.
So there you go, and update! Woo hoo!