Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My kind of Music (6)

When I was in the Sixth Form at school I got involved -though the local youth orchestra- in playing the double bass in some of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Looking back, I realize I had no idea how lucky I was to live in a town where there were sufficient committed young musicians to do this. They are still among my favourite music. There's so much going on, and yet nothing is superfluous. Everyone involved has something interesting to do: everyone is playing a different tune, or part of the tune, all at the same time. As the music flies by, your ear can wander from one instrument to another.

Around the same time I used to meet regularly with a sax player and a clarinetist for sessions of free improvisation (I've just googled them. Ben is now a herbalist and storyteller, Paul still seems to be playing his clarinet in the South Wales Clarinet Choir).

One of the intriguing things about free improvisation in a group is the way the minds of the players work together. It's intriguing in ordinary social situations, using the currency of words and body-language. Dispense with words and interact intuitively with sound and all sorts of things begin to happen. (For example, it's commonplace when you get deeply absorbed in making sounds together to spontaneously end together). I still enjoy making music like this - it's just a case of finding others who share my opinion! I do understand the point of view, too, which says that this form of music making is often more enjoyable for those taking part than for those listening. I've no problem with that, but if people like to listen, they can: it's an adventure, and all kinds of things happen that could never be written down or repeated. I had a look around Youtube to see if I could find anyone doing the kind of thing we did (what fun we'd have had with the internet then, had it been around!). Listening to these guys from Brazil really took me back:


Jingle Poetry said...

cool post.

both my kids are in school orchestra
and play cello...

stay musical,
merry christmas.

Argent said...

Our school had a orchestra - if, by 'orchestra', you mean 'group of barely competent kids playing a collection of instruments, each just slightly out of tune with everyone else'.

I do like to improvise sometime. I have a good friend who plays sax with me and we do this now and then. The trick is to avoid being too analytical and self-conscious, I think.

I LOVe Bach so the Branderbers are always a joy to me.

walk2write said...

I'm not a musician unless you count humming along to a favorite tune. My daughter is trying to teach me how to play the guitar. It may be hopeless, but there we are. Your blog is amazing, fun, daring...I could sit here and read and listen all day.

Gwilym Williams said...

Double bass must be a wonderful instrument to play. Did they let you pluck it?

The Weaver of Grass said...

I'm sure you had fun in those days. We can;t really look to the future and see what we would have done with any art form can we.

Fickle Cattle said...

You know what, I've never even seen an orchestra live. Which is kind of sad. I need to remedy that.

Dominic Rivron said...

Merry Christmas, everybody.

JP: Both play cello in the school orchestra - great. Do they get lessons at school? I'm not sure where you're from. If you live in the UK, find out what's happening to your local schools music services a lot of things are up in the air at the moment.

Argent: That is what I'd mean by orchestra. Can't beat 'em!

Isn't impro fun?

walk2write: Thanks for the comments on the blog! I don't know what sort of guitar you're playing, but I've just created a book of Christmas Carols with music and tabs. It's online at

GW: It can be and they did, but I didn't get to play jazz on it till I was older.

WG: I did. You never know where things will lead. I still don't.

FC: You do. Choose something suitably goosepimply if you can.

walk2write said...

You're welcome and thanks for providing the free sheet music. My daughter printed it out for herself. She can play by ear, sight reads, and also plays using tablature. I can do none of that yet, and she's getting me acquainted with the instrument by teaching me a few simple chords. For now, I'm borrowing one of her guitars, an Ovation. It's taking me a while to get used to the sore fingers. What's your recommendation for a good beginner's guitar--something as easy on the old fingers as possible?

Kat Mortensen said...

It's rather the equivalent of jazz in a classical form. I was never in a band or orchestra, but I did take classical piano for quite some time. Classical music was a constant in my home growing up.
My mother (who is in her 80s, still thrills to her favourites, and new ones discovered daily on the radio).


Dominic Rivron said...

w2w: Hope you're enjoying your printouts! As for beginners guitars, if you want one that's easy on the fingers get a nylon strung classical. It's not just for beginners, of course - there's a lot of fantastic music written for it.

Kat: Yes, in a way - "classical jazz". A lot of people come at it from a jazz angle, too.

A Cuban In London said...

Love the Bach piece, always a favourite of mine.

And your impro session was a pleasure. My record of the year arrived quite late, in December. An EP sent to me by one of the promoters I've been writing reviews for lately. And you're right about the minds of the players working together. The first piece is a twenty-two minutes-long improvisation where piano, voice, double bass and drums get their own moment in the spotlight. Magical, mate.

Greetings from London. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.