Stretching your brain

June 16, 2010

The final project for Music History, Culture and Creativity is to orchestrate a small piano piece by Stravinsky, Satie or Schumann. The students were furious at me, especially because papers and other final exams were happening at the same time.

brainhurtI remember the first time I tried to “think” for orchestra–my brain hurt. Then after a while, you starting hearing it–bit by bit. Most non-musicians think it’s magical to “hear” music in your head, and in a sense, I guess it is. But it is a technique that we try to teach our students in conservatorites and music schools around the world. Some have good ears, and some don’t.

After all the kvetching and belly-aching, I was thrilled at the ability of my students to come through. 75% of them used Sibelius or Finale music notation software, and the rest notated by hand. I’ve got most of them trained to supply dynamics, tempo, phrasing and articulation, so I feel good that I’m making them THINK about the sound.

Many, I fear, were just afraid that they might not be able to do it. They would be penalized if they didn’t, so they did. And it wasn’t so bad after all!

I’m not going to tell you I have any amazing orchestrators quite yet, but by Jove, I think they’ve got it!

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