Sunday, August 13, 2017

The End of Drones


Anyone who has been to an Orff workshop will have been initiated into the power of just two notes to carry music’s song—C and G. It provides the rock solid foundation over which melodies can sing and repeated patterns tumble together. It is reliable, dependable, always there when you need it, never boring unless everyone else goes home and C and G are still playing. It can get a little restless and begin to explore beyond its territory, trying out a C-G-C-A pattern or moving it’s lower note- C-G-D-G and occasional both! (C-G-D-A).

At the beginning, the kids and the novice Orff student are present with just C and G, Mom and Dad, that’s your family, they’ll always feed you, clothe you, give you shelter. And it goes without saying that some families are two Moms (octave C’s) or two Dads (Octave G’s) and not only is that just fine, but isn’t it interesting?

And hold on, there’s more! Sometimes you might sleep overnight at your aunt or uncles and there they use A and E, or your grandparents (D and A) while you and your four brothers or sisters play and that feels like a whole new ball game. And sometimes your original family goes on a trip and you’re kind of the same, but your hotel is different from your house, so it’s a slightly new world with F and C or G and D. (Orff folks, are you nodding your head? Novices, are you scratching yours?) 

Well, all these families are constellated under a name. Some people call them borduns, but I prefer the one syllable word “drone.” As in the drone of bees or the drone of traffic, that underlying steady sound that grounds and gives background to all the other sounds. But lately when I teach that word to kids, they associate it with something else.

And so, hilariously, did the Canadian Immigration Officer today. If you are ever held captive by me at a dinner sometime to hear my Canadian Immigration stories, you better have an escape plan. There are lots and one-minute into them is enough to make my daughter Talia scream and roll her eyes out of her head. Suffice it to say I’ve had trouble at the border. So now I come prepared with a flyer of the course I’m going to teach to show them that it is only five days and does NOT require a work visa.

The Immigration Officer today actually read some of it and when he got to the phrases “…ostinato, pentatonic scales, improvisation, the use of drones…” he stopped abruptly and said, “What’s this about drones?”

HA! HA! HA! I really had to laugh and explain to him what it was and acknowledge that soon we will have to change that word. He took my comments at face value instead of throwing me down to the floor. Or hey, maybe he thought I was top-security clearance and was there to help the Canadian military. And it is true that C and G repeated endlessly without any melody or ostinato above could be a good torture device. But instead I will continue to use it for its life-giving properties. In fact, tomorrow for my 5-day World Music Course. Still room if you want to come. But be clear what you’re signing up for.

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