Down Your Way – Castle Vale High

I had a wonderful session working with year seven students from Castle Vale High School last Friday, it was a chance for us all the bond, learn about the project aims and do some rhythm/pulse exercises. I was really impressed with how quickly the students were able to recognise and play different patterns from our sound bank.

We even had time to loop three phrases which were framed by their music teacher and artistic director Dave Howard with some groovy guitar riffs. You can listen here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Down Your Way Planning

Today I went to Castle Vale to start planning the ‘Down Your Way’ project with Dave (artistic director), Ian, Nicola (our coordinator) and Chris. It was really nice to be in a space where we could share and trial exercises for our workshops, this was the first time I had completed such an exercise with an arts organisation in a professional (as opposed to training) setting- it is so vital, I had so much fun and learned loads!

I hadn’t been to Castle Vale for years and was amazed at the regeneration that had transformed it from a run down, sometimes intimidating, extensive tower block estate to a friendly, positive, community oriented area. There were lots of green spaces, colourful buildings, most tower blocks knocked down! It was such an impressive transformation!

This project shall help provide a documentary of this remarkable journey, old and young shall come together- converse about the changes and turn some of the sound bites into music. I am working with a primary school and a local sheltered housing tower block for elderly residents.

I brought to the table a couple of exercises enabling Key Stage 2 (primary school students) to confidently turn there sound bites into rhythms. I received some crucial feedback!

The exercises intend to make young people aware of pulse and rhythm and then rhythm in songs and words. In the end, after a fair bout of trial and error and lots of friendly advice, this format appears to be quite suitable;

We are sat in a circle and:

  • we use our feet for the pulse and instruments for rhythms
  • we work in a time signature of 4/4 and 2 bar phrases
  • the first bar is for a set rhythm and the second silent
  • the second bar gradually becomes an improvisational space
  • we use the space to make up our own rhythm
  • easy peasy

Second exercise:

  • we singing a catchy song as a group and then in a round
  • we then dissect it into separate rhythmical phrases
  • each group sings a phrase and the workshop leader orchestrates entry/exits

You can do this with any nursery rhyme. Each group can sing a short phrase-with the same pitch/melodic phrasing but the entry can be on whatever beat of the bar you choose.

Model what I want:

  • use a random phrase like “Digbeth has no trees’
  • get pulse going
  • model how it can be turned into a rhythm and drill
  • then ask group when ready to contribute other ways in which the phrase can be said rhythmically

Cognitive task:

  • split group into smaller ones
  • they chose their favourite phrases
  • using the same technique create rhythms out of the phrases

Sharing time and lots of praise 😉

Here are our ugly mugs:

Down Your Way

I have been invited to work as one of 3 lead artists for a Sound it Out project called ‘Down Your Way’. We’re in the preliminary stages at the moment and will have a planning session this week. I was keen to sign up because of it being an intergenerational heritage and music project. I think it’s important for young and old to be able to interact with one another regularly, especially creatively because both parties have important skills, experiences and perspectives to share.

During this project participants will collect and research the history of Castle Vale and work them into a musical performance of some sort.

One of the tasks I have been set is to create exercises that allow interview material to be turned into melodic ideas. I am pondering over ways to turn words, text and oral history into musical phrases. How can I do this in a fun, engaging manner? Well, I am not sure as of yet, still mind mapping ideas and outlining problems. I shall post my findings.

I also came across an excellent blog by an Ozzie chap lady called ‘G‘. It has some cool resources for any music education practitioners and has inspired me to share more workshop ideas.