Societies need curious, critical, conscious and courageous citizens. Artistic work is one way to stimulate this…
In ‘Ears Wide Open’ a small group of Danish and Egyptian music teachers, composers and vocalists met and exchanged experiences and ideas. During two visits, one in Copenhagen, one in Cairo, we conducted a series of pilot projects, collecting experiences within the field of communal creative processes, instant composition and vocal improvisation.
Why work with instant composition and creative processes in an intercultural context?
When working in an intercultural space we often tend to think and act from a dichotomy perspective, in this case Western and Arab, maybe even modern and traditional. We choose between the two or try to combine them in a fusion. In ‘Ears Wide Open’ we wanted to set the children free, allowing them to experiment with sounds and elements from all over the world, from all styles.
When working within a specific genre, a lot is predefined: Format, roles and hierarchies, values and messages, sound and instrumentation, audiences and participants. Focussing on the process instead of the result and a specific genre, made space for the children’s own ideas and for the unexpected.
During the process the children experienced that the professionals, the composer and others, listened to what they made instead of telling them what to do. They also experienced the need of listening to each other, respecting each group’s idea.
They also tried to listen to themselves, their own voices – and in that process to leave their ‘comfort zones’.
If the composition process was preceded by some kind of introductory material (instrument building, ornaments, the human voice), instead of starting from scratch by the ‘making up’ of a sound, made it easier for the children to enter the process, also for those that were not used to think and work creatively. It supported the democratisation of creativity.
How we worked:
The process could generally be divided in three phases:
1) The input (motivator), starting the process. Here we provided the material, the inspiration for the following composition/improvisation. We experimented with different types of input:
- Introducing musical instruments from around the world and the physics behind sound. Followed by building instrument themselves (also a creative process), they later composed for.
- Introducing parallels in music and visual art (ornaments) from different parts of the world. Followed by drawing ornaments themselves (also a creative process), they later put in to sound.
- Experimenting with the human voice before composing with it.
2) The creative process itself was based on Mogens Christensen’s strict compositional process, with a strong flow fuelled by the composer during the whole process.
- The children worked in a circular process: ‘find’ a sound/small ‘theme’, present it to the others, make it into something more, present again, expand, immitate others, borrow from the others, discuss form and structure, work on beginning & ending, connect and structure the sounds.
This process was sometimes combined with other creative processes:
- working with sound and movement
- working with songs and percussion
- working with vocal exploration
- drawing and design
- building music instruments
3) The output – how the process finds an ending
- Working with the process alone, finishing with a presentation of the final result within the group
- Working with some kind of presentation, for an other class or for a larger audience
The workshops in Denmark ended with a presentation for other students.
The workshops in Cairo should have been combined all together to a large event. Unfortunately this was cancelled due to national mourning caused by terror attacks.
Please take a closer look at the workshop videos, where you will find explanations regarding the different pedagogical elements.