Composers & the Voice – Session 4

Rob Paterson, Guest Blogger
Composers & the Voice composer, 2011-12

Last night we experienced another session of Composers & the Voice,  which consisted of an evening of improv with Terry Greiss from the Irondale Ensemble Project and acting with director Katherine Amshoff.

We spent the first two hours with Terry. He had all of us play games that encouraged us to open up and explore the space around us. I find the improv exercises very interesting and a lot of fun, but as Mikah mentioned in an earlier class, what I am most fascinated with is how this applies (or will eventually apply) to our craft as composers and librettists. Sometimes the benefits of these exercises are not explicit, but the more we explore, the more I understand how everything is somehow related. As a composer, I am used to being both a nerd and living a somewhat cloistered life, so these evenings can be a little scary for me, even though I am a pretty experienced performing musician. Acting and performing music are quite different from performing music on stage. However, I am gradually becoming more comfortable, and now looking forward to these workshops every few weeks.

C&V improv session

Zach, Mila, Daniel, Mikael, and Rob are gven a new improv exercise by Terry Greiss.

Many of Terry’s exercises explore quick interaction and reflexes. One particular exercise he had us do involved standing in a circle and quickly passing around words. There might be one word that you say to the person next to you, and another word that causes you to change direction. A third word might be reserved for saying to the person directly across from you in the circle. Each word triggers a different response. As a composer, what I find interesting is how this particular technique could be used for dramatic effect in a scene, and this whole experience demonstrated how quickly dialogue can move from one person to the next. This will be very useful to know when working with librettists.

Kathleen Amshoff’s assignment for the second half of the session was two-fold: first read a chapter from a book on action by Stanislavski, then develop our own three to five minute scene that demonstrated a common task. We witnessed Zach making tuna salad, Rachel folding laundry, Sidney riding the train, Sarah putting in her contacts, Mikah checking Facebook and drinking coffee and Ronnie making scrambled eggs for her child. Preparing food seemed like an easy way to demonstrate movement without much emotion, so my scene was making pancakes and being interrupted by a phone call.
As Steve Osgood mentioned earlier, It’s amazing how comfortable everyone seems, especially since we all have such diverse backgrounds. AOP did a great job bring together a wonderful group of people, and I am really looking forward to more improv and hearing everyone’s new work in future sessions.
Oct 25, 2011
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2 Responses to Composers & the Voice – Session 4

  1. Haha, I was mimicking gently cracking the little ducking eggs open with a hammer, to help them hatch. I seem to be the only one with hatching experience in the group.
    Great post Rob!

  2. Quote of the Day:
    MIka: What are you doing?
    Zach: Hatching ducklings. What are you doing?
    Mika: Ummm…
    (Exeunt Mika.)

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