Having had a go at interpreting a real life aleatory score Year 9 constructed their own graphic scores using symbols, shapes and colour to indicate pitch, texture, dynamics and of course, to build in the element of chance and choice which is part and parcel of Aleatory music. There is a real overlap between this style of graphic score and the paintings of Swiss artist Paul Klee (d. 1940). His often geometric shapes and blocks of colour have inspired a whole range of 20thC composers/performers who have tried to interpret the paintings as music.
For Year 9 the process of interpreting and creating an aleatory score has also raised thorny issues such as:
How can you tell if the music is actually any good and what criteria would you use to judge it anyway?
How do you know whether the performer is playing it correctly and what is a ‘correct’ performance anyway?
Here are a couple of their graphic scores – works of art in themselves:
Year 8 are learning about contrasts in music and got their heads around a full score of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony (well, part of it anyway). For those of you who may be wondering why it is called ‘unfinished’, the work has only two movements rather than the usual four but musicologists are still debating as to why Schubert appeared to abandon it, just leaving a few sketches for the third movement. After identifying features of the melody, accompaniment, dynamics, instrumentation and texture, the students created their own graphic representations of the score. Here are some examples of their work:
As part of their exploration of 20thC avant garde music Year 9 have been looking at aleatory music. The word is taken from the Latin ‘alea’ meaning ‘dice’ so, as you can imagine, composers of aleatory music introduced an element of chance or choice in their scores, leaving some aspects up to the performer to decide and often writing their scores in a graphic format, using symbols and shapes. This of course places the onus on the performer to interpret and create rather than simply reproducing the sounds and rhythms specified in conventional notation. Year 9 had a go at interpreting a real aleatoric score in the form of Stockhausen’s ‘Zyklus’, composed in 1959. The piece has no set starting point (hence the title) and can be read back to front or upside down. Here is what some students made of an extract from the score:
There have been enough studies in recent years that have set out to prove that singing is good for your health, both psychologically and physically, but what difference does it really make? The good news is that you don’t need to have reached professional standard to reap the benefits. Take Sancton Wood Singers as a working example: staff, parents, grandparents, au pairs, rush in, often late, preoccupied with matters of the day but even after a few warm up the smiles are returning and the frowns are relaxing. Those ‘feel good’ endorphins associated with physical exercise are being released, the deeper breathing helps to reduce stress and get more oxygen into the blood which improves circulation. The other really key element is that it is relational, there is a shared sense of purpose and experience. So next time you catch yourself belting out something in the shower or in the safe cocoon of your car, why not look into doing it with a group instead?
Sancton Wood Singers meets on Thursdays at 4pm and a warm welcome is extended to all staff/parents/carers
Year 9 are currently thinking outside the box and looking at avant garde music (literally ‘advance guard’ – music at the forefront of breaking with tradition, pushing the boundaries and turning expectations upside down). Inspired by watching ‘Music for 6 Drummers and 1 Apartment’ (which, incidentally, if you haven’t come across it, is definitely worth a look) and John Cage’s Living Room Music (written for 4 performers using any household objects such as magazines, books and even the floor), the students had a go themselves:
They went on to check out John Cage’s most controversial work, 4’33 which blurs the divide between music and sound, between audience and peformers and even between sound and silence…lots of philosophical issues at stake there. Next stop, Aleatory Music.
This year we can now offer individual lessons in music technology which is an exciting development. These are given by our electric guitar teacher who is not only an experienced song writer himself but also runs a recording studio where he has worked with Thin Lizzy, Polly Paulusma and the Jools Holland bassist Keith Wilkinson. Lessons will cover all areas of music production, including composing, programming, recording, editing and mixing.