Say it with a Sound
Read the first phrase on your card. Act out the phrase using ONLY sound. (for instance: Tell someone that “…this desert is really delicious.” Use only sound to describe this to someone. Possible responses: mmmm MMM! Do the same with the next few phrases on your card.
Sing it-Change it
Consider—why do birds repeat phrases? How do know they know the exact moment to change their song phrase? Is it because of light, shifting ambient sound, hunger, desire? How do you know when to change yoursong? What is it in your body that tells you?
Choose a line from a poem. Voice it with no language--only with sound. Keep doing it and begin to make it more musical. As you sing, choose a repetitive phrase you want to revisit. Go back and repeat it. Notice what changes have happened in your body when you shift the song tone/pattern/rhythm.
Tell Me Why
Using only sound…
--Tell someone why you love the color of the sunset
--Tell someone why you want to come home
--Tell someone why you love him/her
--Tell someone why you want him or her to go away immediately
--Tell someone why you own the land as far as your eye can see and why
--Tell someone why you want to write a new story of your life
Listen to the following bird song and assign as many descriptive words to it as you can think of and write them down. In triads, take turns saying each word aloud. Afterwards, add a tone to each word with an actual pitch. Next, create a repetitive, rhythmic phrase using 3 or 4 of your words, first with your speaking voice, then adding tone and pitch. Try this with other bird songs
Describe the following with a simple musical pattern (or patterns)---as if you were sending a musical telegram to someone you love very far away:
--the color of the air at dusk in a deciduous forest
--the shape of the landforms in monument valley or another desert place
--the face of someone you love who is no longer here
--the first color that appears at dawn
--how danger and fear of being devoured feels in your body
Sing a Blade of Grass
Express these poetic phrases musically:
“I spent more than one life echoing the earth’s sphere.” -Neruda
“When the pain of the world finds words they sound like joy…” -Merwin
“What if I came down now/out of these solid dark clouds/that build up against the mountains/day after day with no rain in them
And lived/as one blade of grass.” --Merwin
In dyads, use the following poetic phrases to create a dialogue with sound only, then tone only, then create a repeated musical phrasing that expresses them one at a time. Do the same in triads…quartets.
“Certain stars leaving their doorways/ hoped to become crickets
Those soon to fall even threw/dice for the months/remembering some promise”
Variations: create your own lines of poetry or prose, or access your own books of poetry and prose and do the same exercise.
In pairs, using the Spanish translation of Pablo Neruda (on your card) ( choose one person in your pair to read the text slowly aloud. (It doesn’t’ matter if you know the language. If you don’t know it make it up!)
As you read, let your partner be your translator and translate the words to mean whatever he/she wants them to mean. Keep your body and your tongue loose. Shake out the “cerebral” as you do this and have fun. Switch roles and repeat. Now try this same exercise using pitch, tone, melody; music as the translation.
Read a phrase from a poem or book first one person, then two people together, then three following this sequence:
a. words only alone
b. sound only
c. tone only
d. add rhythm and tone
e. create a song together
Variation: Create your own words for others to mirror
Pray it Aloud
Alone, in pairs, or small groups:
- Using only 2 musical pitches, thank someone or something in your life for what he/she/it has done for you. Express your gratitude to this person, place or power through the shape and color of your tone. Repeat and vary by adding pitches. Keep it simple.
- Pick a nursery rhyme or traditional song with which you are very familiar. Sing it through once. Now sing it again to affirm a conviction about something you know to be true for yourself.
- This time sing it without the words using only the melody but keeping the same conviction in mind. Now sing it again as if you were reassuring a baby or singing a lullaby to a child.
Laugh a Song
Laughter is a great rapid exhalation of air that communicates joy and delight. Could it be possible the birds are laughing sometimes even as they are singing?
- In triads look at one another’s faces and try expelling air on one or two notes very fast. See what happens….
Listen to a slowed down phrase of this birdsong and create a mnemonic to help you identify it. Use the mnemonic as the basis of a song you create for yourself. It can be short or long, simple or complex but use the mnemonic.
Sing a simple ascending scale pattern. Do the same going down. Now weed out at least 5 notes and create a spare, ascending or descending melodic pattern. Repeat the pattern until it feels solid. Add words if you like. Teach the pattern to the rest of the group or to a partner. Everyone else should try to mirror the pattern exactly. Then one at a time, each person adjusts the pattern to interlock with the original pattern. New patterns can also include harmony. Repeat this until everyone has created an interlocking part. The last person is invited to improvise a melody over the top of it all.
With a group of 5 to 7 singers go outside to a previously agree upon natural or urban area. Spend at least 3 full minutes listening intently to the sounds around you, and within you. Notice colors, landforms, shapes, light, and air. Practice exercising your “sense” of place. Then when ready, slowly create a circle song together. You can use ideas from the song forms in this primer.
After you are finished with the song you have created together, hike again until the group feels ready to pause and “sing a song of place” again. The circle song might begin as a solo, progress to a duet or trio and end there. Or it might include the whole group. Try to move and listen together as a “flock.” Continue for as long as you have time.
Follow-up: Retrace your steps exactly on the return home and stop again in the same places to “re-sing” them. Notice what you remember about that particular place based on your singing of it. Re-create the “place” together with your voices.
dh June 2011