Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mothers' day: UK style

The US and the UK have different days for celebrating mother's day and for the UK that day is the 2nd of March. So for Mommy I decided that the best gift would be to accompany her to Heathrow and carry as many bags as possible. To be fair, I would have done this regardless- but isn't it handy to have it fit in so nicely with a holiday?

We had a very nice visit after she came back from Amsterdam. Latana was nice enough to loan me her air mattress- so in spite of having very little floor space due to a surplus of instruments and suitcases- both of us were able to stay in my flat at Sundial Court. The air mattress wasn't as bad as I had feared, but I think I need to invest in a second pillow...

Mommy arrived back in London on Thursday evening just in time to watch my first jazz/pizzicato technique lesson with Nathan and then Creative Ensemble. The lesson was fantastic and fun and I'm really looking forward to working with Nathan on our next couple of lessons before Easter break. In Creative Ensemble we worked on a riff exercise that involved each of us choosing three spaces to place a note in a cycle of 8 beats and then repeating that. What develops is a generally pretty funky, if a tonal, riff. Nathan then had us transpose up a minor third, up another minor third, down a semi tone, and back to the original. This was more than a little confusing but we rose to the task admirably.

After that Emma and I each had our turns to lead a short 45 minute workshop with material that we created. Emma worked a short 2 chord pattern and melody and it was nice. I like her aesthetic. I brought in a clip from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "On the Mountain Top" speech that I had transcribed.

I originally got interested in the speech when we were working on our Earth piece for the Globetown project. I was interested in how incredibly musical his voice and phrase structure was so I tried to figure out if I could accurately transcribe the pitches his voice was hitting in the speech. I chose a short section where he listed places in the world where people were rising up and fighting for freedom. The list centres around g#, a#, b, and sometimes d. Once you start listening for the pitches it becomes more and more difficult not to hear the entire 45minute long speech as a song. I wasn't totally sure what to do with the material- but I was certain that it was ripe for working with in some way.

I played the section of the speech for everyone and assigned a certain place name (Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Akra, Ghana; Memphis, Tennessee; etc.) to each musician. We listened to the clip a few times to make sure that everyone could play the inflections that MLK had used (and deliberated a bit about whether or not they agreed with the transcription I had come up with) Nathan kept the pulse on a shaker and we tried playing around with what order to have the place names come in. We ended up with a very short structure moving around the room in pairs and having a sort of chorus of everyone playing "Memphis, Tennessee" because that was the most rhythmic and fun to play. I'm sorry, I don't have a recording of it to play for you. But hopefully I'll get the opportunity to play around some more with the material- Kate was saying that she could see it becoming a fairly substantial piece involving video as well...

Anyhow- after all of that I think Mommy enjoyed herself but is still a bit perplexed about what exactly it is that we're doing here in Leadership town. Oh well, we're a bit perplexed at times too. It comes with the territory.

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