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Finding the In Door to Music

I’m going through a phase. It began about a year ago. An eager young face looked up at me, cradling a too-big guitar on her lap; written all over the face was “teach me.”

Finding the In Door to Music | Jay Albert

I live for this: helping others in to the world of music, sharing what I have learned. We had gone over a few sounds you can make, exploring the box and the strings to see what they do. We had seen and felt how to hold it without it trying to fall off. Then I opened the method book, the one that purports to show a beginner how to play the guitar, how to read music, how to make music. For my student’s first portentous and exciting try at making a song she was given something like this:

Now, if you don’t read music, this sequence of notes falls just barely short of incredibly, mind-numbingly boring. No melodic shape, no rhythmic interest, no lyrics, no sense of key for your ear to hold onto. Nothing. It is a very standard way for one of these books to begin and it is, to my mind, non-music. Read more..

Errors, Trials and Process

I recently finished a songwriting residency at Brook Park Memorial elementary school:

  • 2 weeks,
  • 600 students,
  • 26 songs written, rehearsed and performed!

Here is one song’s story:

Errors, Trials and Process | Jay Albert

Errors Trials and ProcessA class of 4th graders came in with a poem. It was for a residency I designed using songwriting to explore the relationship between literary voice, choices in musical composition, and how revision plays a vital role in expressing oneself in both media. It was a great project, but not a lot of time in which to do it. I had two half hour sessions with them to turn it into a song that they could perform with me in an assembly. The poem had been written by two of their number; it was lovely, brief, and expressive. Our first session consisted of finding a melody for it and editing the text to make it more rhythmic, more performable. My process was to listen to their words and group-recited rhythms, and then offer musical ideas for them to vote on. (I love the whole voting thing, in a situation where I must provide musical material for a group it enables them make concrete choices and own the composition that results.) Read more..