I was sitting with my daughter last week watching Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (Warner Brothers, 2005) and was struck by a particular passage of dialogue. Just after the first of the bratty, selfish children (Augustus Gloop) gets eliminated from the tour of the chocolate factory, the Oompa-Loompas perform an elaborately choreographed song and dance routine which describes the events which led to this child’s early exit from the film. Shortly after the song finishes, the following dialogue occurs:
Charlie: Mr. Wonka, why would Augustus’ name already be in the Oompa-Loompa song unless they—
Willy Wonka: Improvisation is a parlour trick. Anyone can do it. [turns to Violet] You! Little girl – say something. Anything!
Violet: Chewing gum.
Willy Wonka: Chewing gum is really gross. Chewing gum I hate the most. See? Exactly the same.
Mike: No, it isn’t.
Continue reading ‘Improvisation is a Parlour Trick. Anyone Can Do It…’
I almost arrived late for the first class of this MOOC! I hadn’t realised it was running until I saw mention of it on “Cafe Saxophone” (a brilliant online forum about anything saxophone). So I signed up for the Fundamentals of Music Theory MOOC (from the Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh) during its first week.
I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I had done 2 other music related MOOCs, with very disparate experiences, so I was prepared for almost anything. I have played the saxophone for 5 years, having taken it up ‘later in life’, following redundancy from a job as a Research Scientist in Radio Communication systems! So my background is definitely not in music.
Continue reading Fundamentals of Music Theory MOOC: how was it for me?
Last weekend I had the pleasure of giving a paper at the ‘Creativities, Musicalities and Entrepreneurship‘ conference which was a wonderful event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. This post is essentially an abridged version of that presentation.
In addition to my university work, I also teach music in schools and on a number of youth music projects and, therefore, spend a lot of time working with young musicians. One particular youth music project that I am involved with affords young musicians (aged up to 25 years old) an opportunity to work with music industry mentors (professional musicians, composers and audio engineers), over a six month period in order to write, record, produce, publicise and sell their own music. Through working on this project and in schools/colleges/universities I have become very aware of a number of interesting issues surrounding the music making of young musicians, particularly in informal learning environments, and I will use this post to discuss them briefly. Continue reading An Ecology of Music Making: Young people, leisure, industry and education
OK, if you are reading any of the posts on this site you are probably a bit of a music geek (compliment, not pejorative)! So, be honest – is there anyone who doesn’t (at least secretly) enjoy the ‘Top 5 Records’ game? If you’re not quite sure what I am referring to then have a quick look at this clip from the film ‘High Fidelity’ from 2000 in which a group of record store employees indulge in a round of the game (as they do throughout the film). Not only do they demonstrate how the game works but they also show, and caricature, a lot of the other interesting attitudes that surround the choices that people make when asked to list their top 5 records.
Continue reading Top 5 Records:
This post will be used to show a short documentary that was made to outline an interesting project that I was involved with earlier this year. The project involved working with and mentoring a quartet of disabled musicians in the composition, production and dissemination of a 3-part piece of music, entitled ‘The Deep‘.
The documentary includes footage from the studio session and commentary from myself and other members of the team.
This project was funded by Creative Scotland’s via CP Productions and was a collaboration with Drake Music Scotland
This March, I attended the International Festival of Innovation at Leeds College of Music . The conference brought together several strands of research and practice, including Popular Music, Classical Music, Leeds International Jazz Education Conference, and the International Festival of Innovation in Music Production and Composition. In previous years, these strands have been run as separate conferences, and I have been involved with the Leeds International Jazz Education Conference for several years. To my mind, bringing together these events was an inspired move: scholars and practitioners from each field were able to network and share ideas, and delegates frequently found there was more in common between the disciplines than they had previously thought. Dr Zack Moir (@zackmoir) and I got talking at a coffee break, and ended up having an impassioned discussion about new methods of teaching music. We agreed that practical musicianship can be informed by theoretical and historical understandings, and vice versa.
Continue reading Conflict and Coherence: Thinking About Idiomatic Interplay in Music
Earlier this year, I was asked to run a workshop on ‘Communicative Improvisation’ for the University of Edinburgh as part of their ‘Innovative Learning Week‘. I have led many workshops on improvisation in the past, some focussed specifically on jazz, some on pop/rock, some on free-improv or improvisation for dance, for example, but never on ‘communicative improvisation’. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of exactly what this meant or how I would approach it. Also, when I agreed to do it, the only information about the participants was that they could could be from anywhere in the whole university (not specifically for music students) and that they may not even have any previous practical musical experience. As it turned out, the group comprised a range of people who had never played an instrument before , people who were professional musicians and everything in between.
Continue reading Learning to Improvise: Communicative Improvisation Workshop
Everyone who enjoys music knows it can make them feel good. They recognise the welcome of an old favourite, or the excitement of hearing for the first time something they know they’re going to love. Musicians and healthcare professionals have long been aware of the potential for music, played or heard, to affect our health; the earliest applications of music in clinical settings in the UK date back more than a century (1). More recently, research interest in these links has burgeoned across the life sciences, particularly here in Scotland. On June 23rd, the new Scottish Music and Health Network brought together more than a hundred researchers, musicians, clinicians and patient group representatives from around Scotland (with a few from further south) to discuss how to build the evidence for music as a means to improve wellbeing.
Continue reading Mapping the Future for Music and Health Research in Scotland