In the Drop-in Wednesday morning class series, I realized that I had been doing a mathematics run. The first week was about addition. The next was about division. So last week, I decided to try subtraction. (Can you guess what is coming this week?)
We worked with a series of 8 beats that gradually whittled itself away to 1. There is not a lot of music that fits this pattern, so in lieu of a recording I am offering one of my own compositions for you to play with. I’ll leave it to you to explore ways to use it for movement. If you are stuck for ideas, go through the previous posts. Many of the techniques and suggestions will work well here.
This piece is meant to be a springboard for improvisation, kind of like a jazz ‘head’. It’s also something of a Dalcroze two-fer: there is a harmonic association (two things put together) tucked in. Hint: it has to do with the intervals. Try it on the piano!
To warm up for this one today I let a gesture or movement unfold as slowly as possible until it reached its limit. I tried to wait until I was really ready to begin a new one. I sometimes resisted an impulse or two so that I could really listen to what my body wanted to do. You might find some spacious or interesting music to open up new possibilities. Don’t worry about matching the music just yet. I am on a Muhal Richard Abrams kick, and that really worked for me today. He has just the right balance of mind/body/spirit for this! Experiment with speed, length of gesture, spatial planes… or anything else that feels right. The sky is the limit.
When you are ready, you can use the track below. You’ll hear a very slow measure at first. Find your large gesture or movement inside this measure. I begin by dividing it into two very large and slow beats; eventually the two become three, then four and then six. Don’t worry about counting at first, just investigate it through movement. Eventually, I bring in the division in the left hand. There are 12 per measure, but you can just continue moving in the same way. I enjoyed finding a way to divide the large gesture into 2 parts, then 3, then for, then 6. There’s no warning as to when I change the grouping, so you’ll probably have to catch up a measure or so later, but that’s not a problem. Enjoy the cross-rhythms!
In fact, for a more advanced challenge, try moving a different grouping then the one you hear. You can also experiment with combining two with hands/feet, left/right, body/voice, etc. I would recommend that you try to keep the spirit of open, free, curious and investigative movement, though, even if you up the challenge level.
Happy dividing (and conquering if you so choose)!
We’ll work with this in the Open Level Drop-in class (online) tomorrow. If you’re not on the list yet and would like to be (this will run through the end of March 2021), just let me know via the form on the “Dalcroze Annex” page in the left menu.
Also, new Eurhythmics, Improvisation, Solfège and Pedagogy classes are starting a new semester as we speak at the Lucy Moses Dalcroze School in New York City.
Here’s the series we did at the end of today’s drop-in class. It is somewhat of a classic. It’s in simple quadruple time (for example, 4/4). One measure of beats, one measure twice as fast, another measure of beats, one measure twice as slow. In 4/4, then, it would be 4 quarters/8 eighths/4 quarter/2 half notes.
Try it in canon between the feet and hands (drum is nice here); left and right; hands and voice; piano and voice, etc.
In this recording, I play the basic pattern once through, then twice through in canon. The left hand follows the right. We usually associate the right hand with the hands, and the left hand with the feet. In my own practice, I tried to loosen the iron grip of this association by doing it as the reverse. I was only partially successful!
This is just one example of a series with basic pulse levels. Why not make up your own? Change the meter or the tempo. Better yet, improvise the canon. For an added challenge, try a three part canon: feet/hands/voice. All of that should keep you busy. For best results, I like to precede this kind of technical stuff with enough juicy, free, open movement to grease the wheels (sorry, mixing metaphors again) before heading down this thorny path.
Open Level Drop-in class for February and March has begun. See the “Dalcroze Annex” in the menu at the left to find out how to join us.
Also starting this week is another round of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, Solfège, Improvisation and Pedagogy at the Kaufman Center.
Please join me for some fun. And who doesn’t like fun?
I’ve updated my course offerings for this semester. To see them, click here, or visit the Dalcroze Annex in the blog menu.
I am offering another Open Level Drop-in Dalcroze Eurhythmics class in February and March of 2021. I really enjoyed the format this past fall. It was great fun to see old and new faces. 45 minutes goes pretty quickly, but I always felt invigorated and ready for the day ahead by the end. It was a wonderful surprise to have such an international group. In our final sessions, there were just as many ending their days as there were those beginning their days!
I hope you’ll join us. There is a suggested $10 fee per class this time, but if money is tight for you, please come anyway and take the class for whatever feels right for you.
Once we start the sessions, I’ll be adding blog posts for related practice.
Another reaction game, this time with a musical signal. You will hear music in a meter of 4 (e.g. 4/4). If you hear a division of 3 on the 4th beat, the next measure will be in a meter of 3 (e.g. 3/4), for one measure only.
There are many possible ways to interact with this recording. If moving through space, try stepping on 1 and lightly playing drum, sticks, etc., or just silently clapping, on the other beats. For more of a challenge, do the reverse: play/clap on 1 and step the other beats of the measure. Be sure to take advantage of all the space (high, low, diagonals, back, front…) around you. If sitting, you could assign these roles to your left and right hands or simply conduct.
One note of warning: I did quite a few takes of this recording, many of which I liked but each of which contained at least one error. I finally decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This means that there will be at least one place in the recording that you will wish to give me “the fish eye”.
Measures of 5 are most often broken up into groups of 3’s and 2’s. (The classic model is Brubeck’s “Take Five”.) In this activity, I play with length and placement of those groupings. The simplest way to interact with the recording here would simply be to keep track of 1 within the measure of 5 beats by stepping, clapping. Better yet, move the entire length of the measure taking full advantage of the space around you (up, down, sides, diagonals, etc.)
You’ll hear me call out numbers. For a further challenge, as you step on 1 acknowledge the number I call (2, 3, 4 or 5) with a hand clap, a tap on a drum, or maybe even a toss of a scarf. Want more fun? Use a balloon. 🙂 If using the scarf, aim to catch it on the next downbeat. (This might take some practice for some of the numbers.)
Here’s the recording:
And here’s a playlist of tracks in 5 from different genres for more exploration of music in 5.
Well, if that isn’t the most wonky title for a blog post…
It’s less fancy than it sounds. This is an augmentation/diminution activity for the “amphribrach” rhythm, sometimes called “syn-co-pa”. In 4/4, the rhythm could be written quarter-half-quarter. (The rhythm could be notated in any simple duple or quadruple meter, like 4/4, 2/2, 2/4, 4.8, etc..) In this recording, “hip” means the rhythm goes twice as fast (diminution), “hop” means it will go twice as slow (augmentation). Return brings it back to the original. If you are unfamiliar with this compositional and improvisational device, this is all it means: making something faster (and thus smaller) or slower (and thus larger). When you move it, you really get to experience the changes in size.
The easiest way to ineract with the recording, might be to simply step the rhythm as played and called. Since many of us are practicing in confined spaces, you could step the base rhythm, play (without traveling) the diminution on a handheld percussion instrument, and step and play together the rhythm on the augmentation. I know I do not have nearly enough room to move the rhythm in it’s twice-as-fast form. But if you do, go for it!
Enjoy the syncopation. Try to embody the entire length of the long rhythm value in the middle of the pattern while maintaining the organization of the meter. The agogic accent of the longer note is a chance to expand, contract, lift, reach, etc. It’s a fun one to move!
If you’ve been coming to the drop-in class I’ve been offering on Wednesday mornings, you might enjoy the soundtrack I’ve been using. Here’s a link to a Spotify playlist that includes all of the music I’ve used so far. One of my goals this year has been to expand the kinds of music that I use in a Dalcroze class. I think list is a good step in that direction. I’ll continue to add to the list each week.
Here is a classic Dalcroze “Inhibition” game. Step and gesture or lightly clap simultaneously. At “feet” stop the feet. When you hear “feet” again, start the feet. Likewise with the signal “hands”. You might try improvising this without the recording at first, calling your own starts and stops. You can simply move the beat, or you can experiment with combinations of durations and patterns. On the recording, I take the mover through different combinations of the beat (the basic pulse), multiples of the beat (durations longer than one beat) and divisions of the beat (durations shorter than the beat). You can: simply aim to start and stop the feet and hands at the right time; aim to match the durations you hear from the piano; improvise your own rhythm patterns but let either feet or hands to match the music; start and stop the feet at the right time, but completely improvise the rhythm of your movement.
For good movement, use the longer durations to keep your weight moving through space (i.e. not just putting a foot down at the beginning of the note and stopping). Make full use of the space above, behind, to the sides, etc. for your upper body (i.e. keep the hands moving through each phrase).
Here we play with beats of 2, 3 and 4 divisions. I start with 3, which I am playing with a swing feel on the recording. At “hip” I take a way a division (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 2), at “hop” I add one (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 4). I am playing in a measure of 2 or a duple meter. “Return” signals a change back to 3. It could be notated in 6/8 with a dotted quarter beat for “3”; 2/4 with a quarter note beat for “2”, and 2/2 with a half note beat (and eight note subdivision) for “4”. The eighth note is kept at a constant tempo–or at least that is my intention! This is known as a “reaction” game or activity in Dalcroze parlance. In this case the signal is verbal (they can also be visual, musical or tactile).
Try bouncing and catching a ball on the beat. Bounce from one hand and catch to the other, alternating hands each time. It becomes a short study in the relationship between time, space and energy.
It is common practice in jazz to move between 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and more in jazz, however most often the beat stays constant (rather than the division or subdivision). I do remember Wynton Marsalis experimenting with this device on a couple early albums from the 1980’s, however. I’ll see if I can find it and update this post if I do.
Or… maybe you have an example in any genre of music you’d like to share?
In a measure of two beats, the length of beat can change from as low as two divisions (e.g. two eighths with a quarter note beat) to 6 divisions (e.g. 6 eighths with a dotted half note beat). I call the number of divisions right before each change. You could:
Simply step, gesture or conduct the beat (always in groups of 2; only the length of the beat changes).
Step the beat, gesture or silently clap the divisions. Also the reverse.
Step the division on 1 and the length of the whole beat on 2.
Toss a scarf (if not a scarf, it will need an object with some sort of air resistance unless you are outside or have very tall ceilings!) on the first beat, catch it on the second.
Same as above but also step the division on 1 and the full length of the beat on 2.
Plenty more ways you could get creative with this.
We’ll work with this activity (among others) in the Open Class Wednesday morning, October 6, 2020. This is a free Open Level Drop-in Dalcroze class I’m offering online during October and November. Send me your info through the contact form and I’ll put you on the list.