Clowning around with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

A guest story from our Furthering Talent Ambassador Hub The Music Partnership! This piece first appeared in their Spring newsletter which can be found here.

On a cold frosty November morning, sixteen AYM students met for their Autumn Term Student Get Together at Entrust HQ to work with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, composing music based on the movement and actions of clowns. Let me enlighten you on the tomfoolery and clowning around that took place, if you suffer from Coulrophobia, look away now!

Students began the workshop watching a vintage video excerpt of Little Tich and his Big Foot Dance from circa 1900. This demonstrated what is now well established, exaggerated clown movements which lead to a discussion around the movement of clowns. Students worked in small groups to explore several other possible humorous clown movements, ranging from walking into walls to drunk walks to dramatic and elongated falls to the floor. These clown movements were then developed into short musical ideas which represented each movement. After a quick break, students listened to the second movement of Igor Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet. This movement was inspired by the music hall performer and clown Little Tich, Stravinsky saying he was “inspired by the jerky movement, the ups and downs, the rhythm, even the mood or joke of the music was suggested by the art of this great clown”. Thinking about the shape and character of their own created movements, students explored the musical ideas they had already created and developed them further. Once refined and rehearsed, students looked at how to plan and structure their musical gestures into a music score. These scores took the form of standard notation as well as graphic notation. This written representation allowed other students to perform and interpret the original musical ideas and gave students the chance to develop their music writing skills, exploring new ways to notate music.

Once everyone had created their own short piece, students formed three larger groups to compose an ensemble piece together. Sharing their ideas and working collaboratively enabled the ensembles to develop an expanded and complex music score. Towards the end of the workshop, students were able to show off their musical prowess by sharing their work with other AYM students, parents, and carers. The AYM Student Get Togethers aim to introduce students to new genres, new musical experiences, to ignite a desire to explore new learning further, and to inspire their own musical playing on their chosen instrument. What a way to spend the day clowning around!

Thanks to our Ambassador Hubs for all of their incredible work. Find out more about the Furthering Talent programme by clicking the button below.

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