This was an assignment for the end of last term. We were meant to think and talk about how we had developed as people and musicians over the term and write about it in 500 words. This is what I eventually turned in:
Percussion: I now have a better grasp of what various instruments are and how to play them than I did before. I’ve always been fairly good at keeping rhythm, but my approach to percussion instruments before Neville’s class was to find and copy the rhythmic pattern without any idea of how to achieve various different tones and timbres from the drum. I think the highlight of this learning process was when the Brazilian musicians visited and I was able to pick up the Samba dance steps quickly because I realized that it was the same sort of heel/tip motion that we had been doing on the congas, but this time with feet instead of hands.
Improvisation: Prior to Guildhall the ability to improvise seemed like a mysterious magical skill that I really wanted to have but had no clue how to go about acquiring. I was happy messing around on my bass and coming up with random musical lines, but I had no idea how to structure anything, how to make what I was playing sound like actual music.
Ever since Aldeburgh I have felt completely comfortable coming up with a riff on demand. I now can’t help but listen for how riffs are being used in commercial music. Seeing how the components have been structured in various workshops we have done, I now try to figure out how they are structured in what I am listening to so that I have even more examples to draw upon.
Working with Pete Churchill on melody construction skills was one of the most useful 3 hours I have spent in class at music school ever. Using the tools that he gave us I sing and work on making cohesive melodies while I am walking around London. Literally anytime I am walking by myself I am practicing improvising melodies.
Workshop skills: In learning various musical games and songs I think what really began to develop was an awareness of what types of games/songs/activities would work well in a workshop environment. As a summer camp counsellor and through my work with eurhythmics I have been exposed to a fair amount of material, but now through this class I think about those activities differently. I am more likely to consider how to break them down so that they can be taught effectively. Conversely, because of my dalcroze training I am always looking at what specific musical elements the new songs and activities we learn could address or be used to teach.
Seminar: I adored Jan’s classes/lectures. I appreciated having a class that was more theoretical than practical, it was a change of pace that helped to put everything that we had been doing in all of the other classes into perspective. The tools that we have begun to develop with him are ones that I feel like I can use both for thinking about specifically what I would like to focus on in my work (as well as figuring out what my ‘work’ is) but also for what I need to continue to develop so that I can reach the artistic levels that I aspire to.
My entire experience of musical training up until this point has been rigid and directed towards becoming an orchestral bass player. The idea that I could take a path more akin to that of a visual artist: finding out what it is that I am truly driven by and interested in and pursuing that through the medium of music has been a novel and liberating concept. In many ways it is as if I have been finally given permission to do those things that I have always secretly wanted to do. What has my experience been in this first term? One of flowering, of excitement, and of relief that I am finally able to pursue those things I have always wanted to pursue and not known that I really could. During the first term I don’t know that I grew so much as opened. The growing is happening now, already this second term has a very different flavor and is much more about addressing those things that I now know that I need to learn.