Mary Cohen: Enhancing Musicianship Through Movement

Mary Cohen: Enhancing Musicianship Through Movement


Hello! My name is Mary Cohen. I’m the Area Head of Music Education at the University of Iowa and Associate Professor here at the University of Iowa. Today I’m going to talk with you and we’re going to show you some examples of how movement can really enhance your musicianship. These are ideas you can use for your own teaching as well as your own experience of improving your skills as a musician. We hope you enjoy this segment. What we’ll be doing today is we’ll be having five different approaches mainly focusing on one, but it’s important to know about a lot of approaches that use movement to enhance musicianship. One is by a man you’re probably familiar with: Carl Orff. A second one by a Swiss music educator named Emile Jacque-Delacroze. The third one is a program called Creative Motion, and the fourth one is the Alexander Technique, and the final one that we’ll be spending a little more time on is interplay. The Orff approach is rooted in group play; natural behavior for children. The teacher designs sessions that enable satisfaction, success, and joy in the activity. Some of the core components of the Orff approach include speech, singing, movement, and playing instruments. Effective sequencing is important and include exploration, imitation, improvisation, and creation, known as the Orff process. There are many Orff organizations across the United States, and I encourage you to look in to see what organizations are happening in your area. What workshops do they offer? They are a lot of fun. The second approach is Emile Jacque-Dalcroze (whose original name was Emile Jacque, by the way, and Jacque was too common of a name, so a colleague of his suggested he needed a more exciting name, so he took on the name Dalcroze). He was a Swiss educator who incorporated movement into his music theory classes. His approaches use rhythmic movement, known as eurthymics, aural training, known as solfege, and improvisation, mainly on piano, to assist participants in developing a deep understanding of musical concepts and expression as well as connections to arts disciplines and human activities. The body canon in this video was one type of a eurythmics activity. The third approach is creative motion, and according to their website, creative motion is “the study of the efficient use of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional energy, which occurs naturally in the body.” They offer wind-swept workshops in the summer months and creative motion leaders are available to lead sessions at other times of year. The sessions that I’ve been to with creative motion have been a lot of fun, really incorporating some of the ideas of Alexander technique, a lot of the ideas of really analyzing phrase structure in the music and a really great opportunity to develop a deep sense of musicianship through music. Some of you may be familiar with the Alexander technique. FM Alexander was a Shakespearian actor who experienced intense vocal distress when reciting. Through a self-discovery process, he realized that he used unnecessary tension when speaking, both for acting and in everyday activity. Movement re-education is a simple description of the multiple leveled procedures and discoveries that are part of the Alexander technique. You may know the person John Dewey, the American education guru, not to be confused with Melvin Dewey, of the Dewey Decimal system. John Dewey and FM Alexander knew each other. They met in 1919 at a New York dinner party and started working together. Their ideas really correlate well together. John Dewey’s concept of learning by doing and FM Alexander’s technique is something you learn by doing, so John Dewey wrote a lot of the introductions for FM Alexander’s books, and he said that Learning the Alexander technique by reading is similar to trying to explain to someone who has not had vision their whole life what color is. So I invite you if you have the opportunity to take an Alexander technique workshop or class or lesson to do that so you can really experience the ideas of the Alexander technique that relates to undoing and understanding the natural connections and movements of the body. The fifth approach which we’re going to play with a little more today is called Interplay. Interplay was created by Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry about 25 years ago. It’s based on eight different ideas or tools and when you go to an Interplay session, there are lots of different forms. You’ll be seeing some of those forms here in a moment. Interplay is a system for unlocking the wisdom of the body. It uses music, storytelling, and movement for creative self-expression and community building. It is based on eight different tools or ideas and during a session, participants experience a variety of forms or activities. Some of the Interplay forms that we’re going to explore today include Foundation and Decoration, Three Layer Soundcake, Walk Run Stop, Babbling, Group Toning, Following and Leading. One of the strengths of an Interplay approach to music learning is that all the activities really allow the learners to express themselves individually. Rather than going to an Interplay activity knowing that there’s a particular expression that’s going to occur during the performance, the people that are doing the interaction and performing the different activities are going to be expressing whatever it is that’s appropriate for them at the time. You may have heard of the phrase “a constructivist approach to learning.” The Interplay system really takes that concept to a very high level, if facilitated effectively. Today, we’re going to play with some of the forms that really allow the learners to express their voice in different and unique ways. In Interplay, singing is not the type of singing you might see in an American Idol show or in some other type of vocal competition. Rather, in Interplay, using your voice in any way possible is part of this whole concept of singing. So we’ll be playing with some different forms that use our voice, including One Breath Songs, Foundation and Decoration, and a Three Layer Soundcake. In addition to the vocal activities, we’ll play with some movement activities: one called Walk Stop Run and another storytelling activity called Babbling. The singing activities allow people to really express their own voice in whatever way they are comfortable expressing it. One of the forms that we’ll play with is called Group Toning, and for that form, there’s a great opportunity for the participants to explore using their voice in ways that have some parameters but lots of room for changing and developing and adjusting. In addition to Group Toning, which allows a person to really express themself in a unique way, some of the group improvisation activities such as Foundation and Decoration give the participants a chance to really feed off each other and do group vocal improvisation where they really listen and allow their own vocal part to intermix with the other voices around them. The Three Layer Soundcake allows the group to hear the different waves of sound that happen across a group when only a few of the voices are present, rather than all the voices at one time. Each of these activities have lots of variations in their endless varieties of how you can apply them depending on what the needs are of your group, and what the feeling is for the group in your overall social and musical goal. The movement activity Walk Run Stop is an opportunity for the participants to really play off one another. If you choose to do the activity without any recorded music in the background, there’s a little more opportunity for the people to really engage and play off of one another. If you choose to use a recorded piece of music in the background, that can allow the group to make interesting connections, either directly with the sounds coming from the recorded music, or maybe even moving in a way that’s contrary to the sounds that you hear in the recorded music. As human beings, it’s natural for us to move, and the relationship between moving and music, whether we’re thinking of the rhythmic elements of music or the melodic elements of music or other components of the musical experience, there’s a real natural conduit between moving and hearing music. Making music; feeling musical phrases. I encourage and challenge each of you to come up with you own really interesting and creative ways of applying movement to enhance your own musicianship and your own musical teaching. Thank you.

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