Sunday, February 9, 2014

Singing in the Rain

No, it’s not time for the Gene Kelly tribute at the Castro Theater and I’m not smitten with new love and dancing in the street. It’s just that it has rained for the three days of my Orff workshop in Taipei, where I once again have the good fortune and blessings to sing, play and dance with some 90 spirited teachers. Besides the pleasure of sharing sublime, dynamic, haunting, soul-stirring music and dance with folks ready to receive it, the deeper ideas about how to make music education both more musical and more educational keep finding their voice in me as I talk about what we did and how we did it and why we did it. A few gems rose up in the heat of the moment, but I can’t remember any of them now!

But though it’s a bit pedestrian, I’m more convinced than ever of these simple truths.

• Music first, theory second, music and theory married third.

• Sound and gesture and movement at the beginning, symbol next if needed, sound and
   gesture and movement at the end.

I showed the video of our 17-kid Salzburg performance that we gave three years ago for the Orff Symposium and there was the living record of kids brought up in the musical culture of our school. The Jungians has something called Depth Psychology — this was Depth Orffology. Kids who flowered in Orff’s vision made concrete and real by the almost four-decades of work in a close to ideal setting. Orff himself, who never actually worked with kids, could only guess that his vision was true— here was the living proof.

One of the workshop highlights was the “project” where small groups created something new using traditional Taiwanese material. And they did! Sections with improvisation, a new text with an intriguing rhythmic structure,  a dance to music not usually danced to, new combinations of instruments, a lullaby with a section in Shanghai dialect rap! That’s the spirit! I told them that improvisation is proof that you’re alive to the moment, responsive to the opportunity that each moment in our changing world offers. We honor our ancestors by keeping their creations alive, but we honor them best by keeping the spirit of creation alive, of using what they didn’t have— from ideas to tools to exposure to other ways— to make it genuine and authentic to our experience of the moment.

And so now I turn to begin all over again with kids at an International School. Rain is predicted for tomorrow— in drought-suffering San Francisco as well— so another day of singing in the rain awaits. Well, singing with the rain outside the window. But who knows? Maybe the moment will call for splashing in some puddles.


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