Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dancing with the metronome

One of the activities consistently taught in the Music for People musicianship and leadership programs is doing rhythmic improvisations to a metronome. The metronome, which we so often relate to as an instrument of torture, can become a friendly accompanist and partner.

In this morning's first-year seminar class, we started out with a relaxed group jam session. Then I placed a metronome on the floor, in the center of the circle, and did a vocal percussion improv to it while dancing a bit. Then each of the students did a vocal percussion improv to the metronome. They were a bit restrained and few of them really got into it. So I went back to the middle of the circle, picked up the metromome, held it to my ear, cradled it, etc., while doing a sort of rap about loving and dancing with the metronome. Then each student took a turn holding and dancing with the metronome and the difference was amazing. Getting the body involved is so powerful!

I'm emphasizing more and more with the students the three main focuses of improvisation I've observed: part of a performance idiom, as a mode of exploring the languages of music and the techniques of one's instrument, and as a mode for self-expression and emotional release. How can you take these approaches I'm passing on and use them in the rest of your musical life?

You can actually have fun with a metronome. A lot of them got that today. I got it all over again.

OK, time to go dance again!

No comments: