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An Approach to "Avant Garde" Music for the Beginner


Source: The Choral Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2 (OCTOBER 1973), pp. 7-8
Published by: American Choral Directors Association
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Accessed: 01-02-2019 08:08 UTC

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An Approach to 'Avant Garde EVA MAE STRUCKMEYER

National Junior High School

Music for the Beginner

Chairman for ACDA
Director of Choral Activities
Horace Mann Middle School
Wausau, Wisconsin
Our world has been described as a goals : the students grasp the idea, but
"global village" — simultaneous expan- more important and much more subtle,
sion and contraction of ideas and activi- the teacher illustrates his belief in the
ties. Old boundaries have been burst ; music and reveals his spontaneous atti With the challenge of performing for
new definitions are being shaped. "Mu- tude. Having the students perform withrest of the class, each group is
motivated ; the leaders in the groups
sic's definition should be specific yet as out the teacher's aid can create chaos
appear; musical discriminations are ver
broad as a 'span of time in which there because of student inhibition and natural
is change due to conscious manipulation tendencies to deride the new and un balized; and music is a priority topic
within the sound gamut audible to familiar. Then our attempts to free the at the evening meal in many homes.
man.'"(l) At the same time we observe musical spirit have only served to shadow Activity, not passivity, is the clue to
stimulating compressions in the field of it more, success. At the right time during the
music : performers are also composers ; When the students can successfully aforementioned process, a published selec
improvisation and composition are less perform each line and then the three tion in this idiom should be presented
polarized; popular music is "serious" parts together they are eager to invent to the students, the thrust being to ex
music too ; and "avant garde" music their own four-beat musical sentences, tend their curiosity and understanding.
needs a more appropriate title. To be- Guidelines for format and performance The reality of a printed page brings
ginners it is "avant garde", but to the are established by the composer and ths"domusic into focus ; and SOUND con
wore experienced the new music has ing one's own thing" is a basic premise. cepts ("sound" meaning both auditory
already been accepted, as a valid part of The students' early efforts will beand
ac reliable) have been established.
the culture. ceptable if they can be read clearly and Ideal openers which I have used with
satisfaction are:
A gestalt is developing. Our teaching easily interpreted by another performer.
MUST reflect this unity. Performance, The writing skills necessary at this
TION, Daniel Pinkham, 2902, E. C.
composition and improvisation are not introductory level are much simpler and
separate tasks. Fragmentation stultifies less formalized than those needed to
music's propelling nature and is boring function on the five-line staff. They are Ashley, Oxford University Press ;
HIST WIST, R. W. Jones, A-1076,
to children. In this connection, a know- also equally as inventive. And learnings
ledgeable and enthusiastic teacher can from each form of written communica Shawnee Press; SPEAK WORDS OF
PRAISE, F. Dale Bengston, G-156, The
NEVER be replaced by electronic hard- tion transfer to the other. For additional
ware or a packet. assistance consult the books NEW odore Presser; SOUND PATTERNS
How does a teacher develop enthusiasm CHORAL NOTATION by Frank Pool NUMBER ONE, Bernhard Rands, UE
for "avant garde" music? By the same er and Brent Pierce, 1971. and NEW 14647, Universal Edition.
avenue we hope to provide for children CHORAL DRAMATICS by Bent Lor There are useful recordings available.
— personal experience. Involvement, do- entzen, 1973. Both are published by Wal Among them are :
ing — not just listening — DOING, ton Music Corporation. EXTENDED VOICES, Odyssey, Stereo
How does one find these experiences ? The next step will be to experiment 32160156, and AVANT GARDE, Deut
On the adult professional level one can with the combinations of sounds. Func sche Grammonphon, Stereo 137004.
observe and participate in rehearsals, or- tioning in small groups can be stiniulaFormulating a goal and approaching it
ganize one's talented friends for experi- ting for this process because of thefrom the most elementary level you deem
menting with this music or attend a group dynamics of verbally sharing ideas necessary for your students demands your
workshop. The personal qualities neces- and suggestions, and it necessitates spabeing a sensitive teacher whose class
sary for this effort are open-mindedness, tial change for the class. Students of room management abilities are flexible,
whose self assurance is not threatened,
willingness to shed inhibitions and ability any age need variety of space, pace, mode
to cope with threats to the security of of presentation, etc. to avoid fatigue, and whose perceptions will release the
one's long-established musical judgments. With their peers and in small groups unlimited range of musical learnings in
herent in "avant garde" music. Contem
An educationally exciting approach for the students feel less restraint in expres
plate the catastrophe resulting from lack
youthful beginners is to involve them sing themselves. The teacher should get
personally and almost immediately in the out of the way and allow them healthy of preparation for this idiom ! Condi
tioning at the beginning avoids the com
creative aspects of the music. The fol- latitude in implementing their ideas.
lowing is a one-measure three-part com- Give short suggestions such as : plications of inhibition throughout the
learning of a composer's honest effort.
position in 4/4 meter created by the "Maybe you would like to combine
teacher and taught partially by rote: lines of various people's compositions Whatever type of orientation you de
and create a new one — a composite." vise for your students be sure it produces
"Perhaps more rhythmic or pitch vari instant success and reveals the flaz'or of
ety could be possible and more interest this style of music. As they proceed with
ing." their own compositions and those of other
"Try to combine appropriate bodily more experienced musicians their musi
motion into each of the four-beat pat cal sensitivities will grow.
terns." An informed audience is usually an
"Study the vowels and consonants you appreciative one. In this context, remem
ber to educate the audience for whom
chose. Would different ones be more
effective ?" you perform "avant garde" music. The
By actually performing the lines for the These activities willdefinition
probably of music
encom in the first para
students, the teacher accomplishes two pass sections of several classofperiods.
this article could form the


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IN QUEST OF ANSWERS Pitch is controlled by movement along the vertical axis and change of
vowel sound by movement along the horizontal.
On the conductor's cue, the entire chorus begins together at the place

AN INTERVIEW WITH BENT LORENTZEN marked "entrance." The pitch at this point will be very low (as the
singers are low on the vertical plane) and the vowel sound will be "a"
(in keeping with the indications of the horizontal plane).
Having begun, each singer will then perform the labyrinth along the
mies and I found it so enjoyable. Years direction indicated at his or her own tempo. When the path moves up
later I went to Sweden and observed a ward, the singer will raise the pitch, and as the path moves left or right,
the singer will change the vowel sound according to the indications at the
great deal of this kind of activity in bottom of the dotted lines. Finally, as the path nears the "goal," the
the works of Jan Bark and Folke Rabe. pitch will drop to the level at which it originally appeared. The piece will
Of course I had seen some of this pre end when the last singer reaches the "goal."

viously in Denmark but in Sweden there

was so much more of it. I also observed high

it in one of Eskil Hemberg's first dra

matic pieces entitled "Eighteen Move
ments."(2) My wife was singing in Hem
berg's choir at this time and we had
frequent contact with him in this way.
Then I thought that I should try to
work with these things in a special
manner. I would try to compose some
short pieces making use of these ideas
— not real compositions, but something
like exercises. I started writing pieces,
not especially for choirs, but for the
classroom. I thought we should have
something easy enough for school child
ren to do so that they could master an This exercise is another pantomime. The directions are self-explanatory
and are to be performed at the direction of the conductor.
entire piece in five or ten minutes. I
knew it should not be too difficult be (bring the hands slowly
(all squatting on heels) up over head)
cause many years ago I had composed
some operas for school children. They f
turned out to be extremely difficult to
Frank Pooler with play and to rehearse. The children were
An interview by (in free rhythm, alternate between
bored by the time we were finished. The
the Danish composer and author Bent ( both hands rotate hands over the head and in front
teachers told me to do some works that quickly at the wrist) horizontally, still rotating)
Lorentzen concerning his book on choral
were shorter and not so complicated —
dramatics and the Danish choral scene.
some small things. f
The tape was made in April 1973 at It was then that I started to write the
California State University, Long Beach
book which later became "Sound Form
during a break in Mr. Lorentzen's lec (rotating hands down (All rise, still

ture tour of southern California univer ing and Choral Drama." The pieces in by the sides) rotating hands)

the first version of this book made use
sities and colleges.
of parallel thirds, open fifths, ostinatos,
and fauxbourdons. When I was finished
my publisher told me, "We cannot print
this book. We think most of these pieces (al rotate several times
F.P: I have here your new American are boring, but the last thirty are ex
/spread out) around own axis)

publication, "New Choral Dramatics."! 1)

What does the title mean?
B.L.: The Danish title was "Sound Form

F.P.: Are you saying that originally the

J (rotating
book was much longer? hands

ing and Choral Drama." Sound forming (all stop one after gradually
B.L.: It had over one hundred pieces in it. another, face the come to
is related to what you call choral speech, conductor) rest)

or composing choral works with no text. F.P.: And out of the hundred the pub
Choral drama is similar to eurythmies, lisher liked thirty?
where individuals or groups of people B.L.: Yes, and the thirty were in the
try to make expressive body movements final chapter, the chapter on new music.
to music or to a spoken text. When I I think the publisher was right. The first The work below is aleatoric. The voices should, as usual, sy
was a student at the conservatory we seventy pieces were perhaps a little dry, the downward arrows, and each system should last approx
seconds. The total time of the piece, then, should be abou
had a visitor who demonstrated euryth too theoretical to be of any immediate
interest to school choirs.
F.P.: How was it received in Denmark?
p- =—
—" P_
Has it been used in the classroom? ws

APPROACH . . . B.L.: It has been received better than

any of us thought possible. We thought P

nucleus for a short explanation which that this sort of thing might be too
experimental for Danish children. But
r 1 V
would provide the listeners with broader
apparently, Danish students and class
insights. room teachers were ready for new kinds

In keeping with the younger genera of material. The Danish schools, parti tut «t tttttt ttttttttti 1111 tttt t ttttttttttttttttttttttt

cularly the so-called "folk high schools,"
tion's philosophy of "Do it now "Jump ,fi=~
used primarily one songbook. The book
in, the water's fine," I challenge you was also used in Norway and Sweden.
rp« ^
f f * f 1 r
to turn some new furrows. John Mase It contained many fine songs, by Carl
field in GRACE BEFORE PLOUGH Nielsen for example, but they were all
written for unison singing and it is now

ING writes "To most of its the future a little old-fashioned.

seems unsure. But then it always has
t 1111 tt 111111
it 111111 111iiititi

F.P.: Did it contain folk songs?
been; and we who have seen great

changes must have great hopes." *2No,

B.L.: not folk songs. It contained
songs written especially for the folk, but
FOOTNOTE it is no longer popular Then the schools
1. George B. Biggs, Jr., A SUGGESTED tried the Carl Orff method from Germany /
TAXONOMY FOR MUSIC EDUCATORS, and many other things. By the time my J "ft" rf

Journal of Research in Music Education, book came out the schools were ready
Volume XIX, Number Two (Summer, for something new. In Denmark some PPP /

1971), pp. 170-171. thing called "forming" is quite popular. r 1 r4'' ' i

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