Composing for theatre through musical improvisation

by Eivind Lodemel | 1 April 2014

it is important that we work against our students’ instincts to be overly self-critical

Introduction

Improvisation is a key part of music making, and it provides one of many strong links between music and theatre. Developing confidence through improvisation can help students develop new skills and techniques in a very organic way, while they see the music come alive in front of them. Additionally, improvisation creates instant differentiation, where all students are able to play, compose and perform to a level that suits their experience. Using improvisation as a tool with students always poses some risk, but the rewards in terms of learning and achievement are always worth it. For the purpose of this publication I am presenting this idea as a structure to produce music for a piece of theatre, particularly suitable for work with middle school and high school. However, the structure can also easily be used to create music for films or just as a way of approaching composition in the classroom.

Resources

This project can be adapted to suit the resources you have available. However, I would always prefer to have the following:
-A selection of instruments that the students will be able to play. Keyboard instruments, tuned percussion and percussion instruments are preferable to string, woodwind and brass instruments if you are working with beginners.
-A large space, or several small spaces where students can spread out to work on their ideas.
-A laptop computer with recording capabilities (I use a small portable recording system with a good microphone that can be connected via USB.

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