Questions for the Workshop leaders of the CMM workshops 6 and 7 February 2016 Amersfoort
The workshop leaders are all members of the puntComp study group, and one workshop leader is also employed at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague as head of the Master NAIP
Q What did you think of these two days?
1 Very interesting and enormously instructive. The workshops took place in a music school which is in itself unique: in terms of history (one of the oldest and most respected music schools in the Netherlands, where a great deal of talent is taught) and in terms of the building. The school forms part of a complex for cultural/educational activities unparalleled in the Netherlands. The Municipality of Amersfoort has therefore clearly signalled how important art and culture are in the community.
In addition, the two days were very well organised. There was a great deal of support from the Music School itself, but all the participants knew what was expected of them. What’s more the programme on offer could elaborate on educational pathways that had been laid out earlier. In other words for us, the workshop leaders, it felt like coming home.
My participation during these days was also a form of research/challenge. I have been involved in leading ‘creative workshops’ (CMM in the jargon) for 15 years and a few years ago I came to the conclusion that there were some serious limitations in the way of doing things. Because I was not satisfied I and others of the same opinion began to investigate how we could raise the levels of current practice. That was how we discovered the initiatives taken at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague to introduce the Kodály method to Dutch music education. That inspired us enormously.
This weekend was my first chance to see in practice how three forms of musical education could influence each other: traditional musical education focusing on learning how to play an instrument, creative music-making and music education as inspired by the Kodály method.
2 First of all, it was a good experiment. Well organised and thought out. I always enjoy seeing and hearing adults and children doing things with music together.
I got to discover the various teachers’ musical qualities. These are all good musicians. I had the impression that this talent is normally insufficiently deployed. It may be that teachers do not always feel at ease with each other. This would negatively affect the group dynamics needed to communicate through the music at the required level.
I really enjoyed working in a large team. Although collaboration was sometimes limited, it is nevertheless really good and instructive to work on a project together.
And lastly I would like to say how good it is that a weekend like this is rounded off by ‘literally’ giving people the stage. I think this gave all participants a feeling of satisfaction.
3 It was good to work with such a team of strong workshop leaders in a project of this size, with such a diverse group of participants of all ages. In fact it was amazing how well everything went, although I feel that we, as a team, should have thought more about the compositions in terms of how the materials would suit the various groups. I feel we missed a few opportunities there. That was probably due to the fact that we all had insufficient energy by the end of the first workshop day, because there was certainly the opportunity to do so and there was a requirement for this. Nevertheless I think it’s fantastic that this music school has come so far!
I personally had varying success in working with the group of teachers. On Saturday we began with plenty of energy and developed some splendid material and I think that most of the workshop could be described as energetic. Despite some teachers being sceptic about CMM (they were quite open and honest about this), most of them were prepared to remain open to the possibilities.
The relationship between CMM and Kodály was not in balance in our group. Kodály requires a great deal mentally and this had a negative effect on our workshop at a certain point. On Sunday there was even less energy and the group radiated a negative feeling. There were a number of factors responsible for this. There were only five teachers on Sunday, which meant that we did not have the full complement. In addition to vulnerability and frustration because others apparently would/could not invest in the weekend, the negative atmosphere led to a less satisfactory result and we got less of a kick out of playing together, in contrast to the Saturday when we had all played together with so much enjoyment.
4 Very positive.
Good team, and combination of expertise and flexibility. Driven, yet relaxed working ambiance. Pleasant, good and motivated children.
Even moving venue appeared to go well.
Big compliments to everyone.
5 Top! Inspiring. Challenging.
Working with a dream team was enjoyable. Really cool! Encore!
The repertoire we used was chosen because the Dorian scale was to act as starting point for the weekend.
The chosen pieces (song and instrumental) provided both Dorian mode and rhythmic patterns, a bass line and melodies which the children could all sing. These elements then became the starting point and the building blocks for the CMM session.
There was a particular focus on Bartok’s Former Friends from Microkosmos. Everybody could sing the melody and walk the bass line. Some of the pupils investigated the melody on their own instruments, others did this with the bass line. We elaborated on this material in various combinations and by means of a number of tasks we arrived at a new composition. We also investigated ‘new’ sound colours a bit. Something surprising had to ‘happen’. There was discussion about form, beginning-middle-end, the chain composition. The children had ideas about balance and ‘being able to hear’ the loud/soft instruments. On Sunday the groups were allowed to rehearse their pieces, finish them off and play them to the rest.
There was also time for something new and we went to work on a rhythmic pattern. (This did not make the final performance, by the way)
We remained rather close to the original Bartok composition.
Both days were organised well.
It was really pleasant to have so many suitable and quiet rooms available. It gave us the possibility to work in relatively small groups (about six children per group) in a focused manner.
Beforehand we had been worried that the pianists would not have enough to do because of the other instruments that were present. The children however sorted this out successfully amongst themselves. And it was REALLY good that there was a grand piano in the Flint after all! That made a big difference. THANKS!
I also noticed that for some children it was quite a lot and quite intense.
I also noticed a ‘buzz’ in the whole building. Everywhere there were groups hard at work. The atmosphere was quite different from normal.
6 I enjoyed the two days working with youngsters and my colleagues
It was heart-warming. Wonderful, and nice and relaxed. It all felt quite natural. Hats off!
It was good to work with youngsters who play their instrument well. Being young and leaving the well-trodden path; in fact that seemed to be quite natural to them, I noticed. Yet they were not used to some things and then another point comes to the fore.
The youngsters learn that playing music at sight is the very best that they can achieve.
Something they’re not yet conscious of: how making your own music actually works. The strength you get from it.
That intrigues me.
Why is it more satisfactory to reproduce a piece than to make one yourself?
Of course this is connected with age.
The adolescent. Looks uncomfortably around to see if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Or to see if it’s RIGHT..
Q What did you notice in particular?
1 I’ve never before witnessed how the method of creative music-making could get the process of learning going so quickly and at so many levels; this led to high quality learning. All participants (students, teachers, external workshop leaders) experienced a collective process of learning for a whole hour. They learned to sing in tune, move synchronously, imagine the sound ‘from inside’ and to perform complex rhythmic patterns according to the Kodály method. After that it appeared to be really easy to involve the participants in the process of creating music. This process demanded a considerable amount of working together. And of learning from each other. But it was also a process in which the participants showed considerable commitment to creating music that enabled them to express all their own musical qualities.
I’ve never before seen such wonderful results being achieved on this scale and with this intensity in such a short time.
2 At the top of the list: the lack of inhibition and musicality in the children. Of course this is a talented group, but the ease with which they switched between reproducing and composing was remarkable. It seemed to be one and the same thing for them. This group can achieve fantastic things together and this I think is unusual in the Netherlands.
I also noticed how diverse the opinions (and openness) of the teachers’ team was. This is probably related to age and experience. Once more I’ve noticed that if teachers have to work in groups, think up solutions and work with their intuition, this leads to problems (although probably unnecessarily so).
A third point is that I was very much aware of the drive and motivation of those that initiated the weekend. To get such an event going you need an enormous amount of motivation and vigour. My compliments.
3 I noticed that the teachers had many questions regarding the usefulness of CMM and how they would be able to translate these workshops into their own lessons. The motivation to apply CMM is still very limited, but varies from one teacher to another. I noticed a certain amount of rigidity and in some teachers enormous frustrations when it came to playing without a score and not knowing exactly what you were doing until the presentation; there was a need to plan everything exactly, and a fear of letting go. For that reason some of the teachers, I believe, felt very vulnerable and not in control. Thinking back, I believe we didn’t do enough for them. Ideally I would like the contact with each participant to be at the point he/she has reached, at the point he/she feels strong/confidant. As far as I’m concerned that did not happen. The frustrations increased on both sides as a result. That is a shame.
4 What I particularly noticed was the positive mood. These children are used to new approaches and are ready to experiment. They have confidence in and are curious about what will happen and they can work creatively without help. Something the organisation should be proud of.
5 What I noticed in the children was:
Collaboration, intense degree of playing together. Growth.
In the teachers: uncertainty, pleasure, resistance, but also people who dared to show their vulnerability.
In the parents: enthusiasm
In the workshop leaders: curiosity.
-All groups worked for long periods and really hard. And these children seemed to be able to remain focused right up to the concert.
-The children got on really well together. There was a great deal of peer-learning, although that differed per group.
-The children knew really well what the others in their groups were playing. They weren’t just concentrating on their own parts but on playing together and on the whole.
-One of my pupils said that he had to do his best to get his ideas across to the group and he was pleased that after plucking up courage, he managed it.
-Another pupil said that she normally felt quite intimidated by other players at the Academy, but that during this weekend that had not been a problem at all.
-And someone else said that he was lucky with his group, that they had good discussions and lots of ideas. They were proud of their piece.
-There was also a group of five that did not manage to make any music at all for some time. Endless discussions and chatting, and they also really wanted to write the notes and melodies down on paper.
- One teacher that was helping out felt the groups needed guidance.
Personal note: I myself would like to understand some things about this subject better.
How does that work precisely, why does a ‘helping’ adult prevent the creative process developing in the pupil? Our pupils are all very used to working with teachers who provide help and tips. So I think they immediately go into the usual mode. They know what they should be aiming for musically and technically, what is expected of them, and how that will subsequently be confirmed. But that takes away all creativity!!
For instrumentalists is that polishing up for a performance later in the process definitely important. But probably they can do much of that themselves because they are used to taking the responsibility and especially if their reflective powers are called for. Control over one’s own learning process.
This same adult also believes, by the way, that the final result was poor. This is difficult, because how do you discuss this? Which results are we talking about in fact?
-Some children were in their element. They had ideas, enjoyed themselves, stretched their limits. They thrived on it!
-Other children had fewer ideas, so were less satisfied, asking ‘What’s the point of this? ‘
For them there was insufficient challenge and click, and perhaps these children are only used to teacher-guided working. When asked to think up something themselves, these children couldn’t produce anything challenging, so they were insufficiently involved.
6 I noticed that once they got going, they put together some splendid pieces of music. They told a story. Even though they weren’t completely aware of this. Gifts, little pearls, raw diamonds. It is always a case of feeling for and seeking the entrance; switching on/making possible an environment in which creativity can blossom. Where experimentation is possible and desirable and which can be extended through to one particular presentation moment.
I also noticed that there were strong leaders within the group. Logical but also rather remarkable. How do you tackle this? On the one hand, it gets the group going, but on the other hand it can also halt the creative process. I mean that a group can go no further …… in their amazement.
*How do you regard the relationship between ‘Kodály Prepare’ and what came out of the CMM workshop?
1 It creates a world of difference for me. That makes it really valuable. Without ‘Kodály Prepare’ there wouldn’t be a CMM workshop, as far as I’m concerned.
2 I find both methods of working interesting and I think it’s very worthwhile using them at arts centres. I don’t think the collaboration was at its best this weekend. But having said that, it was also the first time, and so there has to be opportunity to experiment. A few things that I noticed in the collaboration were:
- The preparation was totally ready (fixed) as far as the Kodály people were concerned. I understand that many hours of preparation go into this work, but I would like to see more flexibility in the materials.
- The Kodály moments were long and intensive. This requires a great deal of energy which means that there’s not enough left for the CMM section.
- The Kodály moments were planned during the moments when people were still fresh (mornings, after the lunch) which meant that CMM had to be done at the more difficult moments of the day (end of the morning/afternoon).
- All the CMM work is applied according to what the Kodály method has supplied. It would also be interesting on, for example, day 2 to use material in the Kodály moment that was made during CMM on day 1.
- All the CMM people took part actively in the Kodály activities. It would have been nice if the Kodály people had been able to participate in CMM (if only to practise thought-up elements).
3 Up to a certain point, I believe that Kodály is certainly valuable in ‘pre-researching’ the material you want to use for composing. I also liked the fact that the Kodály method was also applied in the teachers’ group to their own – complicated – melody, in order to internalise it. In no time at all, everyone knew the melody and the groove as a result.
So far I’ve found the Kodály repertoire rather dry and fussy, but that is purely a personal taste and preference. What I really saw as valuable was the idea that you can approach interesting facts about a piece of music from different starting points and in this way internalise it. In follow-up Kodály workshops I would let the group further elaborate on the material they’ve made. I believe we will then have found a good balance between learning skills and creating new/personalised materials.
I particularly noticed the enormous concentration showed by the pupils right up to the very end (what an achievement after a weekend like that!). They were amazingly capable of approaching everything in a flexible and open manner in both workshops and presentation; they could separate themselves from their scores and in that way show their creative sides. Fantastic this has already been achieved.
4 I’m very enthusiastic about the method and about the two workshop leaders who did the preparation. Wonderful how they needed so little effort to get everybody taking part. Fantastic to experience this, really great.
5 As far as I’m concerned, it is extremely logical and sensible to bring together ‘Kodály prepare’ and CMM!!
The basic musical elements of form, sound world, harmonics/melodic/rhythmic building blocks can be ‘rubbed in’ in an enjoyable manner. By singing, clapping, and moving we and the students took in the music, keys, and the rhythmic patterns of the bass lines. We could further elaborate on these during the creative work process
I noticed that the Kodály lessons brought me more sharply into focus and made me cheerful. I got into learning mode. After a short while I was able to participate in the group in a way I had not thought possible. I could absorb the music in various ways and at different levels. It was important to experience this. Consciousness comes later on.
The next step – transferring this to your instrument – is a logical one. The Kodály Prepare stage gives the pupils the tools to hear and recognise the whole piece as well as their own part.
6 Working according to the Kodály principles works. It opens up your brain
But . . . . I would also like to have seen more of this.
What do I mean by this?
The body percussion that was ‘learned’ could also have had a place (optionally) in the workshop sections, such as in the tutti section. I think a lot can still be achieved there. Or singing together. Because that works. Also in the tasks the workshop leaders carried out amongst themselves. More could have been achieved there.
Kodály is all about skills. Apart from the fact that I think the sol-fa system is enormously enriching for dealing with language, tones and notes. These skills should be more broadly deployed.
Warming up together was really valuable. You get to know EVERYONE involved.
Ideas for further development:
- Interchange between the groups. I myself needed.
- Combining the pieces of music.
This sort of thing continues to be an interface; an intersection where you, if you have the opportunity to overlook the whole process, you can see what could be possible. What the potential is in a group.