Music unbounded by scores

14 December 2017 | Community
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Jing Jie with some of the young SNYO participants in a sectional session during the creative workshop

Students from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST Conservatory) recently facilitated two creative music workshops which explored collaborative composition with the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) and the Kids’ Philharmonic Junior and Senior Orchestras. This process exposed participating children to a variety of different creative techniques to draw out their ability to compose music unbounded by scores.

“Classical musicians most often play music based off of a written score, where they are told what to play, when to play and how to play from the composer’s written instruction. So it is important for us to also explore and connect with music away from a score, to reconnect with emotion and refresh our joy of creating music ourselves,” said Choi Woo Joo, YST Conservatory Year 2 piano major, one of the student leaders.

The creative workshop with the Kids’ Philharmonic Orchestras, held on 26 November, saw 45 young participants explore different ways paintings could be interpreted musically. Guided by the student leaders, the children discussed their ideas, translating them into self-composed music they later performed at the end of the camp.

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YST students guided the participants from the Kids’ Philharmonic Orchestras in the composition of music inspired by paintings 

Year 2 voice major Lim Jing Jie was one of the nine student leaders of the annual creative workshop with SNYO, now in its fifth year, which was held between 4 and 7 December. Speaking on the composition techniques taught at the workshop, he said, “You never know when you require yourself to be spontaneous to do things. Improvisation teaches teenagers how to listen better, perceive better, respond better and trains aural skills in general.”

The four-day creative workshop with SNYO guided 50 young participants to create music inspired by films of nature, music that changed according to on-the-spot freehand drawings and music to accompany the stage play Romeo and Juliet. They presented their self-composed work to their family members and friends in a showcase at the end of the four-day programme.

Not used to working with children, Jing Jie admitted to apprehension at first. But the experience changed him entirely, he said. “I think my passion in music now is not just in performing or composing or improvising, it’s also in working with the younger generation, and to help them discover the true beauty of playing music itself,” he shared.

For Year 2 French horn major Luke Chong, another student leader who worked with SNYO members, the experience taught him the importance of communication with an audience, “…not only in clarity, choice of words, and tone of voice, but more so on how we get on to the same level of understanding and comprehension as the people we are communicating to,” he said.

Classical musicians most often play music based off of a written score, where they are told what to play, when to play and how to play from the composer’s written instruction. So it is important for us to also explore and connect with music away from a score, to reconnect with emotion and refresh our joy of creating music ourselves.

The two projects were part of Leading & Guiding Through Music, a compulsory module for Year 2 students at the Conservatory which equips student musicians with a broad range of skills including leadership, group composition techniques and improvisation.

Ms Bethany May Nette, alumna and teaching assistant at the Conservatory, explained, “As reflective practitioners, we make sure to continually ask ourselves ‘how do we become an effective leader and make a positive impact in society?’. Through participating in this process, students develop an essential awareness of artistic and social responsibility which can continue to develop well beyond graduation.” She was also the coordinator for the creative workshop with the Kids’ Philharmonic Orchestras.

Elaborating on the importance of this experience for YST Conservatory students, Associate Professor Shane Taylor Constante, who leads the module, said, “While being an expert musician is of course essential to their studies, cultivating a broader skill set in order to make themselves invaluable to a community is also important. Through such projects and study, they can feel confident that they can work with people to appreciate and participate in music, perhaps in new and unexpected ways.”

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At the performance at the end of the workshop, the SNYO participants demonstrated how they were able to change the music they played based on what was drawn on the whiteboard