Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

A musical retelling of ‘On the way Home’ August 26, 2010

Filed under: 1A: extending my arts practice — concerttuning @ 5:33 pm
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On the way home.MP3 by Alice Hyland.

This recording was taken while performing the story, ‘On the way home’ to my parents. While it is no means perfect, it is a starting point from which to expand.

It quotes a number of famous tunes:

  • Claire’s ‘sad music’ = Early French Song by Tchaikovsky
  • female friends = The Trout by Schubert
  • male friends = Kontretanz by Beethoven
  • wolf = wolf theme from Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev
  • crocodile = ‘never smile at a crocodile’ theme tune from Disney’s Peter Pan
  • Dragon = ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from Opera by Wagner
  • Happy music = The Trout by Schubert

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My first audience member aged 3 August 25, 2010

I had the fantastic opportunity to test-drive my musical storytelling on my 3 ½ year old nephew. The story that I was working on was one of his favourite books, so I hoped it would be appropriate for his age. The day before I had brought my cello out and showed him how it worked and even let him have a go. I first tried playing it to him just after we got back from a long walk and he was playing with his new racing track. However, when I got to introducing the ‘big, bad wolf’ I was told, ‘Alice, can you stop playing your cello now, it too loud’.

I little deflated, I gave it another attempt the following day, asking whether he wanted to hear the story if I didn’t play so loud. I started by putting my mute on, but after a few notes he told me to take it off! Much to my relief he stayed engaged for a full 20 minutes, and even played a part in telling the story.

I sat on the sofa while he sat on the floor with the story book on my music stand, so that it was clearly visible. He alternated from lying on a blanket and listening, to standing up to look at the story book when prompted and even got up really close looking at my cello.

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Experimenting with story books and music

I visited my parents house for a week and took the opportunity to go through all my old cello music. I found a great book with lots of well know tunes arranged for cello.

Having the idea that I wanted to involved the audience, I enlisted my Dad’s help to see if we could make up a story together. I chose a piece by random and playing through each phrase asking him questions such as who do you think the story is about and what did he then do? However, this did not produce the results I wanted, as as Dad pointed out he did not have a child’s imagination and there wasn’t enough contrast in the piece. Though we made up a piece about Pinocho not going to school, I knew I had to rethink my strategy.

The original plan was to add words to a classical piece, but after hearing an account of how an animateur combined stories and music, I scrapped my original idea and decided to start with the story and work the music around this. Consequently, I delved into our old children’s books to find some good stories for inspiration.

I selected some books that had lots of repetition and a clear structure, so that there were plenty of opportunities to repeat tunes. Some particular favourites were ‘On the way home’ and ‘Peace at Last’ by Jill Murphy, as well as a recent book, ‘Room in a Broom’ by Julia Donaldson. Another story to look at would be the ‘Gruffalo’. These books all have several contrasting characters, as well as a repetitious structure.

I then experimented added tunes to characters as well as creating sound effects with my cello until I had something resembling a story interrupted with short musical interludes.