Those studying composing/arranging and listening in SQA Music exams pretty soon come upon variation form. If you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone or iPad you can download a free app containing a recording by Kimiko Ishizaka along with a score (with moving cursor) of one of the best sets of variations of all time, Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
This is a time of year I enjoy greatly – and not only because the opportunity to bolster one of Europe’s sun-drenched but struggling economies approaches. There are performances aplenty. In the secondary sector there was MGS Summer Concert – and then a smaller contingent of the Guitar Ensemble played at the MGS Prize Giving last night. It always amazes me how the smaller group (8 members) sounds louder than the full ensemble (20+) – there’s a psychology/physics PhD in there, I’m sure.
In the purely primary zone, there are two nights of Annie at Wallyford PS. My colleague, Ewan Armstong, is the MD for this and puts in the spade work over many weeks. I simply swan in with a bass guitar on the night(s) and join in. On a personal level, this is one of the year’s most enjoyable musical challenges. There is no written part. The trick is to watch what Ewan is playing and decide, on the hoof, the best thing to compliment it. While it’s important that young people grasp the value of rehearsal – of preparing the music as carefully as possible – I think it’s also important for those hoping to pursue the art, that they see other ways of operating – some of which are thrust upon us from time to time. The closing night is this evening. If it’s anything like the miraculous opening night then it will be great.
My final visit to Campie for this session ended with a concert by guitarists in P5-P7 for the P4s – from whose ranks next year’s guitarists will emerge. I was really thrilled by this event. The pupils played excellently and we were able to squeeze in a few more courageous soloists than was the case during the school’s Musical Evening a couple of weeks earlier. Especially promising was the rapt attention of the P4 pupils and their intelligent questions and observations.
Transition is often where the fun is. Pupils from Campie PS and Wallyford PS joined the MGS Guitar Ensemble in the Summer Concert. Tomorrow, former pupils from Wallyford – currently at MGS – will visit the school to join with departing P7s in a performance at the Leavers’ Assembly. I’m always touched by the affectionate regard in which the pupils hold their former school, and with the warm reception they receive from their former teachers. It really is the best way to end the year and helps keep a sense of the big picture.
Have you ever listened to Radio 3’s Discovering Music? One nice touch on the web page is the expression, “over a year left to listen.” Anyway, there is to be a recording made in Glasgow’s City Halls on at 18:15 on Wednesday 30 May. The title of the event is, The Second Viennese School: Introductory Talk.
I’ve always felt somewhat cool towards the oft-quoted links between Music & Maths, feeling that Music has more in common with Language(s). As neuroscience reveals an equal amount of our intuitions to have been either true or misguided, I was pleased to see this article about some recent research led by Nina Kraus – one of the most engaging speakers at last June’s Music/Neuroscience conference hosted by Edinburgh University. It suggests that bilingualism – and music – are advantageous when it comes to processing sound. Much of this comes to being able to block our distractions – increasingly necessary in our busy world.
In October 2011 I applied to participate in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). Under the mantle of Creative Learning Networks, the idea was to enhance creative learning in the (public sector) workplace – school, community etc. One spin-off would be that silos who have neither time not opportunity to communicate would have reason to come together, in the interest of learning. This very much appealed to my cross-curricular mind-set.
Under the leadership of Ruthanne Baxter – then Arts Education Officer and Manager for Creative Learning Network in East Lothian – I was paired with Caroline Mathers at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, soon to be moving into its new premises in Lodge Street. Various ideas were discussed and two projects were agreed:
a short series of videos where working composers would give tips to pupils to help with the composing/arranging component of the SQA Music courses
an online course in the basics of sound editing – using the free program, Audacity and aimed at oral historians
The latter idea seemed especially fitting for two reasons:
the John Gray Centre is, among other things, a museum devoted to local history and community
this seemed, to me, to fit the cross-sector brief
Five composers were initially scheduled to be involved in the video interviews but, due to various commitments, two were unable to take part. Nevertheless, I feel that the three videos we have will be invaluable to students of composition.
I shall post each of the two outcomes individually.
New play-along files of our Showcase repertoire have been posted on the Guitar Group Midis page. They are in the same order as they will be on our programme. Begin with the slow ones (low numbers) and build up to the faster ones (highter numbers).
What will the fate of classical music (and the arts in general) if Scotland becomes an independent nation? There is a short discussion on the topic at 1:30 of this edition of Radio 3’s Music Matters. I wouldn’t describe it as conclusive, but it does get the topic on air and shows that, already, there are some entrenched positions – including intended emigration in the event of independence.
What does the idea of key in music mean to you? Do you think keys have identifying colours? Ivan Hewett (Telegraph music critic) explores the business of keys in the first of a new series of Key Matters.Here, in episode 1 of 5, he concentrates on A major. There is also a short article about the programme here.
The story behind the song – interesting account of the late Gerry Rafferty’s massive 1978 hit, Baker Street. I met Hugh Burns (of the iconic guitar solo) a couple of times and he is every bit the gentleman he comes across as in this programme.
What's life like for an instrumental instructor in East Lothian?