Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orff Workshop

This weekend I was lucky enough to be sent to an Orff workshop down in Richmond. Orff Shulwerk is another school of thought surrounding music education. They had a lovely little browsing library and I found a book called Comparing Dalcroze, Orff, and Kodaly by Gilles Comeau. I thought "oh, perfect!" and proceeded to write this whole paragraph down:
"For Jaques Dalcroze and for Orff, rhythm is unquestionably the most important element, the foundation of all musical composition and all artistic works. It is not surprising, then, that they both use physical movement as a basis for music education. In the Orff approach, however, movement is not the only medium of choice; language is also fundamental in learning rhythm, perhaps even more important than movement. Kodaly, however, tended to emphasise the melodic component by developing a pitch discrimination, a melodic ear, and inner hearing. It is not surprising that he favored singing as the preeminent medium for music education."
Now, I don't know how helpful that description is for you, but it was brilliant for me. The workshop was run by a delightful German man named Rodrigo who spent most of the workshop being both incredibly silly and incredibly tactile. (Do German's have a smaller personal bubble than the Brits? I kind of suspect not and blame his lack of one and willingness to invade others' on his Portuguese background.) We learned a number songs from around the world and he did an excellent job of teaching us the songs in small and fun steps so that we were playing games and enjoying ourselves, but also repeating the songs again and again and again without getting bored.

There was definitely more of an emphasis on words than I've experienced with Dalcroze workshops. That being said, it wasn't always easy to remember the words since the songs we sang were from Taiwan, Tanzania, Japan, and Germany. (And the German one was in nonsense words! But German nonsense words...)

One of the things that I really liked was that three of the five songs we learned were singing/dancing games. So that the movement was definitely tied to the rhythm, but also tied to specific group movements that meant that if you got it *wrong* well, you knew.

In Dalcroze one of the exercises that you do is called a "follow" and you move about the room in a manner dictated by what you hear from the piano. Say, for instance the teacher is trying to get everyone to walk around the room to consistent quarter notes. The only thing that is helping you to know if you are absolutely dead on or not is the sound of every one's feet. If you hear one big CLOMP! then it's all good, if you hear cloclclocclclomp....then you're not together as a group. Eventually you feel it in your body and through this method you develop a very secure sense of pulse and inner rhythm.

In contrast- this weekend what we were doing was playing games that involved rhythm: our Taiwanese song eventually involved two pairs of partners with sticks sitting perpendicular to each other and tapping them on the ground and slamming them together in a specific rhythmic pattern. The sticks made a hash sign that opened and closed as the rhythm went around. There was also a dancer that had to put their foot in and out of the opening and closing square in the middle of the sticks and then make their way gracefully across the square while stepping at specific times dictated by the rhythm. It was a lot of fun and if you got it wrong your foot was caught in a bunch of sticks (fortunately made out of lightweight plastic, not painful) so you knew you got it wrong. I don't know how much that helps if you haven't already got a pretty sound sense of rhythm, but it was a great dance/game; a lot of fun.

One of the other things that I really enjoyed was that any time we were dancing, or doing some sort of complicated body percussion, or playing on the xylophones and other instruments: we had to keep singing the song. This meant that one or the other aspect (singing or rhythm) had to be solid enough to you could put it on autopilot while focusing on the other aspect. At least, that's how I dealt with the complicated multitasking issue....

Lots of fun, lots of good and useful ideas, and if you even mention in passing a Japanese clapping song game about making Mochi I will force you to learn it and play it with me because I *love* it.

Ps. Yes, it's the same Orff as Carmina Burana. I love that man.

1 comment:

nortonmiddaugh said...

And what about The Mahler Method? That's where you learn rhythm by laying in a closed coffin, while the instructor beats it with a sledge.