Sunday, July 21, 2013

Νot always about gardening. A discussion with composer Dionysis Boukouvalas.

                                                                                   artwork: Thalia Xenaki          

We spent the day together. As we were living on different countries last year, the opportunities for reunion were rare. We were university colleagues, him already a conscious composer. This time, he was holding his first personal CD, English Gardens. I had already explored his website and had been present at one of his concerts. We even wrote a first step music collaboration together. This time I had to ask in the form of an interview, hoping for "descriptions of thick and thin", as memories from the performance of his CD were fading away.

MF. I see that you present your CD as " improvisations for piano solo". In which ways this open  type of musical process becomes stabilized and is being documented? Is there any intermediate cerebral processing or do you record many playing hours and then choose material?

DB. These are live recordings, so stabilization comes as a consequence of the recording process. In the case of this CD, "Secret Place" is the only piece in which I applied editing to remove material, while only two pieces begin with a pre-composed theme - "Voyage to Innocence", and "Rustle of Light". But even then the development is unpredictable.

MF. Do you have in mind a specific artistic trend as a part of your personal culture, in which perhaps your improvisational results belong?

DB. There are musicians that have influenced me for sure, but I could not speak of conscious influence. If I should mention some names those would be Keith Jarrett and Wim Mertens.

MF. How much did you surprise yourself playing for the disc?

DB. No surprise. Only good moments and bad moments, just as in life. Now, both can surprise you or not, according to your psychology. We see everything within a filter. It’s not a rare occasion when we don’t like a piece at first but we change our mind while listening to it after a time.

MF. In the case of English Gardens, did you have similar moments?

DB. This particular CD was recorded in a period of five years, in different times and places, which makes it difficult to recall. Presently I am looking at the subject of surprises in a sense that if one believes in one’s self they just go on functioning, without being surprised by good results because they know they can achieve them, or feeling bad for a miss.

MF. In your concerts after the CD came out, did it happen to have new musical moments, in the context of re-interpretation and presentation of the basic themes?

DB. In order to reproduce faithfully enough an improvisation I have to transcribe it in advance, in order to follow a similar harmonic, melodic etc path. Otherwise, I move in totally different directions and do not succeed in reproducing the magic of the original moment. Because a free improvisation is exactly this: a moment. Let me make a comparison: It is as if you have lived a beautiful experience in a journey, and next year you try to repeat it, by going at the same place. It is more likely that you would have a greater time by going elsewhere. And, of course, you couldn’t control the result by scheduling. In other words, free improvisation is not free anymore if you try to control it. Only thing
Ι can do is present a “photograph” of it, thus the transcription. That way i can approach the original mood. And of course you can make new ones!

MF. Since when have you been practicing improvisation?

DB. Since I was a child. I was sitting at the piano, playing songs by ear. Doing that, I was experimenting with different things, and this leads to improvisation. Even earlier, I started composing, a process interwoven with improvisation.

MF. In what way?

DB. For me improvisation is like a real-time composition, and composition like a “frozen” improvisation.  In fact they both have to do with personal decisions. The basic difference is the dimension of ritual, that an improvisation always has, while composition usually lacks it (with the exception of composers like Jani Christou). Ritual is inherent to improvisation because the listener witnesses the birth of music itself, and not just its reproduction.

MF. Are you planning any new project?

DB. I am working on a second CD, quite diverged from the first: More "dark" in its quality and with the participation of other musicians (I decided to limit myself to various string players). Aside from that, most of the pieces will still be free improvisations (an even more risky endeavor, since this is not solo anymore).

MF. Can you mention one or two important moments so far?

DB. The release of my first CD was a watershed, reflecting the completion of a first cycle: a musical adolescence, represented in a favorite mood of mine, that of “sweet melancholy”. Apart from that, it was rewarding receiving positive comments from important musicians like Ketil Bjørnstad.

MF. So, what English Gardens means to you?

DB. I got inspired from the english type of garden which, in contrast to the french one, is free and adventurous (for me, magical). At the same time, the title functions as a symbol of free improvisation, one that comes into being from the mood of the moment, without being based on specific themes. A musical psychography, and a bet from the musician’s part.


 artwork: Thalia Xenaki  

Dionysis Boukouvalas is a composer from Zakynthos, Greece. His first personal CD, English Gardens, was released on 2011. It consists of live recordings of piano solo improvisations. One can listen to it or buy it (physical or digital copy) here:


For more information see:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A hundred of guitars in Athens Concert Hall and the vision of music during the weak greek years

Just a few days ago, on December 9th in the evening the famous Greek guitarist Evangelos Boudounis (, performed in Athens Concert Hall with his "100 classical guitars", an ensemble which is consisted of people aged frοm 10 up to 73, all of them old and new students of Mr. Boudounis.
The ensemble hadn´t performed again since July of 2004, during the Olympic Games in Athens at Herodeion (, when "Greece was at its best", as he said. While now he wanted to repeat the artistic event, as a way of expressing his resistance on the bad situation that the country reached so far. He disagreed with the expensive prices of this concert, but, on the other hand, it was important for him, having a big bunch of young people who want to shout that they are here and feel strong to manage the country's situation. Moreover, the greek guitar school is the third best in the world, as he claims.

Actually, we read, the performers now became 210, and this is one of the basic concerns of him "how they will manage to reach the stage in a proper order?"
The ensemble has a long history, started already back in 80´s during a workshop in Rethymnon, Crete, where in the presence of Manos Hatjidakis, he accepted to conduct it in the closing concert. This time the repertoire was still wide and demanding: Renaissance dances, "Spring" of Vivaldi, Shostakovitch's "Waltz", and even "The Dance of the Lost Dreams" of Manos Hatjidakis, Piazzolla's "Libertango", and a composition of Mr Boudounis under the title "Waltz of Herodeion".
And as a creator of this ensemble he knows very well its needs, its difficulties, the specialties of  guitar as an instrument, and its attitude inside such a populous ensemble. But this is the challenge for him, believing that an instrument like guitar, which does not have any long history, has the opportunity to adapt new concepts, supporting its 20th century repertoire, without attempting to lose its character as a quiet and peaceful instrument.

What comes even more interesting, looking  a little bit on the backstage of this ingenious and charming concert, is the fact that part of the ensemble are now students (or x- students) of the Musical Workshops of the Greek association "Friends of the Island and the Sea" ( This is an interesting concept of a group of sensitive greek citizens, who try to fill the gap of non existent music education in some of the remote small greek islands by sending teachers who visit the islands twice a month, the last 16 years, even for teaching only at a few small students ). Υes, the islands we usually visit for holidays during the summer easily, do not have frequent connection with the inland during the winter.
The islands where so far Musical Workshops are held are: Sifnos, Serifos, Andros, Tinos, Kea, Santorini, Ikaria, and Limnos. The concept is imaginative but difficult in performance, although, there have been some interesting result, fruits of a constant tenacity of all the participants.We can dedicate another blog article to the wonderful projects of the Friends of the Greek Island and The Sea.

Back to the "Hundred Guitar Ensemble" now, we can listen some music of the work, using the Youtube player:
Waltz of the lost dreams (Manos Hatjidakis)
Andante (Antonio Vivaldi)
while our favourite is...
Libertango (Astor Piazzolla)

With the help of professional lightening the ensemble resembles to a beautiful rose, whose perfume is at the same time its sound! And Vangelis Boudounis adds "when everything is synchronized on stage, the sound is like you have a candie in your mouth"!...

And i can reassure you, Greeks need nothing than a sense of candie in their mouth, this period!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Maria Kallas: She lived for her art, she made her life like an art

Some days ago, on 2nd December, 89 years since Maria Kallas' birth were completed.
This exposition "Una donna, una voce, un mito", after have visited New York, Rome, Mexico, Tokyo, and Athens,  has been remaining in Valencia for over a month now. Always postponed my visit, always something else was happening.This week finally the time had come.

The museum of Carmen, "Centre del Carmen", (please, follow this link if you want to know more on the museum) is located in the old city of Valencia, and in fact is an impressing old church, a huge one, if i just make a comparison with the traditional Greek images of the tiny camp churches. I would still never had noticed, i think, if this exhibition was never released there. Although it's qute an adventure to experience it. After passing the entrance, one cloister, some corridors, a second cloister, you find a new building second where you enter the exposition rooms and you hear some first notes of the sorpano's voice, the absolute signal that you are here, at the right point!
The whole exposition is divided in five sections, each one referring to an other option of her personal life.
a. Clothes. What you see here is more her choices on dresses for her performances, the original ones, almost all of them signed with famous signatures, like the Christian Dior dress who magnetized Onasssis, or the Tosca dress for the Covent Graden's 1964 opera performance.
b. Jewelry. Accompanying her public artistic appearances, the jewelry is even more impressing, especially if you think that those are the smallest remaining objects of Kallas' earth presence.
c. Concertos programmes. This section satisfies the fetish history lovers, musicologists, opera passionates, collectors, because those documents function as a glance to the opera´s world through the diva's viewpoint.
d. Personal life. Small furniture  and other material objects of everyday life complete the image of an era, and bring us closer to the cultural context of her life in a material sense.
e. But even more that all the above, what emotionally worth is those personal belongings like letters, notes, telegraphs, photos, etc. Here one has the opportunity to be engaged a little bit more with the case.What the eye captures first, is a handwritten love letter to Aristoteles Onassis, after 9 years of an affair, and one week before he gets married with Jacky Kennedy. Tragic and comedy together: next to it a short morning message to her housekeeper on the day necessary stuff (butter and sugar were the only things i got, because of her impressing graphic character.)

Last but not least, the exposition also provides an extended documentary on her. one should have his\her time to sit comfortable, and really enjoy the rich provided material. Here many of her colleagues, partners and other important people of her circle, talk a lot about her, offering bits of her world. "Do we really know the woman, the real person?", one of her colleagues is wondering. "Ï don´t think so", he answers by himself. Many unanswered questions have been left, having to do with her personal choices, her life as a human being.
Many people claim that her life was like a romantic opera. Being there at the exhibition, one can really remain for many hours, and after the end, he would feel like being in one of her performances. The documentary is a very long one, containing rare material, like interviews with her, talks on the uniqueness of her voice, unknown details of her artistic work. A rich experience who does not let you unaffected.

For some more impressions on Maria Callas here is an announcement for the opening of the exposition at El Pais Spanish newspaper, and, also, a different kind of knowledge about the soprano, from an other blog of an opera passionate, a more specialized one!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One day in Casa de Música of Porto, Portugal

The day was great! Sunny, relaxed, with the sound of seagulls over our heads.
"Where does music go when we don´t listen anymore"?... I was thinking.
This sort message by a child voice was adapted by the Third Program of Greek National Radio. The classical lovers were listened to it for years, between the broadcasts.

Having visited the Casa de Música in Porto, i experienced again that music slides to the memory and if it's interesting, lovely, lively, the conscious searches for it again and again. Music has the strength to create new needs, emotions, connections.
I felt highly motivated for several reasons. The concert i had booked was consisted of four different works of four composers of our times. Then, it was a new concert hall and i knew it represents many trends of music, with references from Early Music to digital creations, remixes and so on  So it was not a Symphonic or Philarmonic Orchestra, but the "Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa". Moreover, it was the participation of a child chorus. My friends were highly recommending it. Last, but not least, the monthly programme of the Casa de Música was presenting "Theseus Journey" as the principle work of this concert.
Let´s see the program, as it was written at the sheet of paper available for free:

Alfred Reed
Puncinello [1973, 7 min.]

Luis Cardoso
Cançóes de Pessoa- 4 cançiones sobre poemas de Fernando Pessoa, para coro juvenil e banda de concerto [2012, 15 min.]
    1. Havia un menino
    2. Intervalo
    3. Sou em guardador de rebanhos
    4. Bendito eja o mesmo sol de outras terras

Kris Roemers
Theseus' Journey, poema sinfónico em trés partes [2012, 20 min.]
    1. A Profecia e Viagem para Atenas
    2. Navegando para Creta, encontrando o Rei Minos
    3. Ariadne e a Batalha com o Minotauro

Bert Appermont
Egmont, Poema Sunfónico [2004, 17 min.]
   1. O Casamento
   2. Filipe e Egmont
   3. Fatio Prudentia Minor
   4. Unidos contra Espanha
       First Part of the work
       Second Part of the work

The musical director was wearing a crazy shirt with cube motives in black, white and grey, the children behind the band, both boys and girls, were wearing light blue jeans, white shirt, and red tie! All together, with the gold shining of the instruments, and the minimal black net curtain background of the auditorium, made a nice Sunday morning atmosphere  Light was entering from the big windows´surfaces.
And the music started!
        The first piece, small, spirituous and happy, said "Bom Dia" to the audience and raised the curiosity for the next ones. It was written from this American composer, for the "Symphonic Wind Ensemble" of the University of Western Illinois. The composer is also well known for his "Greensleeves" adaptation, i recalled later, a favorite old song connected with Christmas.
        And then Fernando Pessoa. What a honor. With children voices. I was struggling to get somehow the lyrics, as they were not (unusually) available, but i could not. There was a nice purpose behind the participation of the young choir: They should start getting to know the big poet. Very well functioning melodies, the one that are kept in mind long after the end of a concert, those serious poems were telling important stories, but through the children' voices with delightful touch.
       A Belgian composer with a Greek theme was coming next. Being a Greek, this was more like a surprise that Portugal had kept for me. This symphonic poem through its programmatic character, managed to shape the journey of the Greek mythology legend, and his fight with the life-threatening monster Minotaurus. Sharp dynamic changes, strong sound, gave the impression of an adventure, as it was. The composer, harmonized for this purpose, the most ancient surviving notated music of 138BC.
      After the end of Theseus' adventures in Crete, emotions of nostalgia (saudade for the Portuguese culture) fulfilled the space. With the orchestra colored even by small orchestrating details like "rhythm clapping", or a "glockenspiel", and the "solo of the guitar", also, anticipating the tutti arrangements, an intimate piece had started already with a march character due to brass family introduction. Egmont is a favorite work, like we know from Beethoven´s synonymous, a tragic history in four levels as the milestones of the work.

A small boy with his mother was sitting next to me. Also many other children around. And the chorus never escaped the scene. I was wondering if it was for educational purposes, as they only were singing one piece. Was this a good way to listen, also, without making any noise, in front of us? Maybe. But they were moving. And were making noises. As all the children of the world do, and as they should.
This was a nice experience. Like conquering one more music hall of this world. In one of the most magnetic mediterranean cities i have been so far!...

Just discovered a link for some architectural information .
You can also visit the official webpage.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's talk about New Media and Music Education

It's true. Conservatories have been experiencing lately less students. At least on the case of the namely "classical" instruments. Too much focus and hard studying for an unsecure future as a musician professionalism? Global crisis has added to the phenomenon. Music apparently seems as a luxury facility for many people. And the increasement of the internet life, moreover, gives new options for a more modernized communication, although in many cases confuses the clear minds and pushes them away from the good old focus of studying an instrument together with the teacher- the oldest and probably the most secure way of transmitting music from one generation to the other, in a historical depth and a geographical width.

                                                          (Tod Machover's "Hyperviolin" )

On the other hand, new researches on the media, new technology gadgets, and computer-based material is appearing, focusing to "sound" and "music" making productions. Software for home studios, hardware taken as "robot" musicians or "instruments", internet applications for iPads, iPhones etc etc etc. Even music lessons through Skype, YouTube and similar programmes are now very fascinating. But is this a serious answer to those who do not see where the future of music is?

Does all this production mean to empower the interest to music? Is their aim to add a positive new experience on music teaching and learning processes? Or is it just about some of the globalized products for commercial usage until the next ones come to the surface? Having been participant of the academic, musical training, in the more "traditional" sense, seems difficult to answer without a simultaneous critical thinking. At least my professional environment gives me much food for similar thought.
The other day i was a participant of a music education organisation's discussions about the present and the future of their activities. One professional "old school" guitarist was sitting next to me, commenting that "No, we can't compare the soft touch of a chord and the sensation this action provides, with the pushing on the keys of a notebook".
During the same period, a colleague of mine, stated at our meeting of school music teachers, that he no longer struggles between the "conducting" or "playing" dilemma, one usually faces while rehearsing or performing with a school choir. He writes the music material through a computer software to a nice karaoke archive, and the "orchestra" plays for him, while he has free hands for standing in front of the children conducting and supporting them. And of course having on his back happy ever satisfied teachers and school head masters for the full orchestra sound.
I respect both of this kind of perspective these opinions present. They belong to different personalities, different generation musicians, and different specialization on music, also. But which one do i approach more? Well, I can't say that i don't embrace the romantic vision of the guitarists, and I can't say that i don't have any kind of natural curiosity on some of those interesting applications, or that i haven't ever tried them, also. I would rather say that i even collect them carefully, for future lesson plans with my students. While on the other hand, struggle to find time to play on my piano. Let's get through some of them:

Those three webpages above provide applications consisting of a number of music characters that you can interact with, by pushing on them. This is a nice example of experiencing quickly enough the concept of instrumental or vocal polyphony and harmony.The musical result can be each time different, depending on the users'choices on voices, number of players, contradictions between solo and tutti etc. The third case, named IncrediBox, is more complicated, including much more different musical parameters than the other two. But i find it quite funny, and helps raising the discussion on musical themes and motifs, composing, minimal music etc. It could be a more modern way of teaching music theory. Maybe not referring too much on the classical studies, but it fits perfect to general music classes of the schools. One colleague of mine has included the "Singing Horses" at her webpage as a supportive material on her special education musical classes! Also if one wants to make a kind of practice in mixing, should visit a BBC´s related application, and, last but not least, we provide you also from here a fresh idea on how to play your music with a band through internet. Here a re the links:
The Fanfare Music Band
The Singing Horses
The IncrediBox
The BBC On Line Mixing Game
Practice Your Music

Moreover, internet has changed the way we listen to classical music. Long duration symphonies, sonatas, concertos  are not experienced anymore as a whole, converted as they are in pieces, in many cases not even according to their natural three or four part formation. This is quite annoying for the passionate lovers of classical music, but, gives an opportunity to the children to get familiarized little by little on the most important musical works of the music culture of the west. On the other hand, private channels with low cost or free registrations provide live broadcasting on important concerts of famous halls, orchestras and soloists, for those who want a close relation with such events, not to mention the ability to have a live streaming even for your own concert!
I was searching, lately, and waiting too, for a good motivation for listening to some classical music again, as a matter of inspiration. I usually do it this way, if i want to play music soon with a nice mood. Last night it came. A friend discovered the project of a group of German professional musicians, the DigiEnsemble:
Those guys perform music indoor or outdoor utilizing new technology, like smartphones, tablets, etc. Afterwards they upload extracts of those performances to their channel on YouTube.(also to their blog, or in Vimeo), in an attempt to shape the better access possibilities. Here you can have a taste of their collaboration  as an octet with the soprano Anna Gutter, but do not forget to read the information about the technology the use:
By listening to some of their music, one cannot stop reflecting on how far the technology still has to go, working on the interpretative sensory systems, on the path to simulate the human interpretation. The digital ensemble interpretation sounds very persuasive: I suppose they have good (means: expensive) smartphones, recording software, and they trust YouTube- or other media- sound possibilities,  but of course this is not to be evaluated only as "pure" technology. It does not only concern some "button" pressing. Here is the occasion of some excellent players- "the athletes of the small muscles", as Oliver Sachs successfully names the performers- facing also some real composition, that have study before etc etc.

                                                            ( hyperinstruments for kids)

Or we don't need musicians at all? Enough with those capricious artists and their extraordinary demands? Some researchers are currently working on robot musicians. George Tzanetakis at the Computer Science Department of University of Victoria, Canada, is only one of the examples, after the prestigious MIT and their Tod Machovers' famous investigations under the name "HyperInstruments". And this information about robot players is one the Governments maybe should never hear, otherwise all the orchestras will soon be closed or under-sponsored after the shadow of new, cheap players.
But the Greek researcher advises us,"these robots are not like human beings, but rather resemble to highly sophisticated hardware". Some old fashioned maybe will be hurry to argue that "those technology products are not instruments". But for some progress-followers, musicians included, those are just the next generation instruments.
Does the fight ever ends? The interview does not seem to interfere any motivation info about this kind of research programmes. Although we already know from the MIT case, that they believe in the democratization of the music making. Which means that by the hardware they build, they wish for the biggest access they can have -remote citizens, children, elder people, handicapped etc.

Well, what about musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and other researchers on music and its currently deal to Digital Medea? In an almost recent conference in UK, Abigail Wood through her paper presentation suggested that, despite the whole development of a music life through internet, new technology and new media applications, real life is the field where music in fact is being created. On the other side, communication changes, and even if we like it or not, internet and new media have continuously developing roles to play in it. And music is not outside the game. A link form anewspaper like the one that follows here is a mere proof of the phenomenon.
But how many people do have access to all this new stuff in reality? Are we honestly sure that our societies are being democratized through those modern processes? Which children will be able to play with this kind of interactive installations and what will this mean for the other that they won't?

                            From music to sound: one of the rooms of the Haus der Musik in Vienna,
                                providing mikrokosmos and makrokosmos recorded soundscapes.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Intercultural Dialogue 2 | Reflections on mixed music classes

Lately, deriving inspiration from my professional activities on (Music) Education, i am very much influenced of a very special book (a Foundation's research product) coming from a country with much experience on multiculturalism.
The book is entitled  "The view of the Yeti: Bringing up children in the spirit of self-awareness and kindreship", and the Foundation is Bernard van Leer, Belgium.
The author in his Introduction, explains his main idea, that the children of 21st century, cannot avoid of living consciously together with many "othernesses", and moreover, he hopes that his grandchildren will be reading him after years, commenting him like "Come on! Still not taken this stuff for granted"?
Unfortunately, no, we still have much path to walk, and not only because even at the moment, many countries haven't signed the "Convention on the Rights of the Child".
I would just put some personal experiences straight from my last years' classes (2011-2012, 2010-2011)

Case A. The weak otherness.

The bell has rung and i walk in the sunshining school´s aula, with children around. At some moment Vasilis and Stefanos, two A graders come to me, both crying. I ask them what happened.
-Mrs, you know,Stefanos called me "an Albanian", complained honesty the child!
-Just because you pushed me while we were playing, answered bothered the other one.

Both the two boys have a very good attitude in the class, i am reflecting. Especially Vasilis, is very careful and collaborative in my music lessons. He is the first kid to his family. Stefanos, too, but a little bit more "sensitive". It seems that he grows up like "the smaller", because sometimes his sister (D grade) comes to ask if everything is alright. I am lowering my legs to come closer, focusing firstly on Stefano, while Vasilis is hearing.
-Stefane,you know, Albania is the country where Vasilis comes from. Do you know this country?
-Well,  this is very important for him, so if you call him "Albanian" because you got hurted, he doesn't like it. It sounds like something bad for him. You understand me?
-... (shaking positively his head).
- Are you friends with him?
-Yes, we already are friends, mrs Sofia!...
-Vasili, do you agree? You are friends with Stefano?
-Yes! We play together!
-Ok, that's it! If you continue being friends, then one day he will invite you to see his country. Would you like  this to happen, Stefane?
-Do you have any special origin like Vasili?
- We are from a village in Peloponneso!
-Do you love your village?
-Yes, much!
-You see? Vasilis, too, loves his country. Like you! It's the same! Do you feel happy now?
-Vasili, are you ok, too?
-Then now go play again like before! Ok? See you next Monday in class!

The boys left to continue their games much satisfied. They both felt recognised, they both felt respectable. Creating and providing for them this approving atmosphere, i also utilized the moment for giving them some intercultural food for thought.

 In this age, most of the kids don't understand this "ethnicity" use as a bad characterization. It is the adults' world that interfere into their emotional cosmos. So, i guessed right. Nothing serious had happened, just a small power test between them, into their way of exploring themselves socially.

But i was much worried about Vasilis, and other kids like him, too. Already at his 6, he had the experience of feeling "different", or that "something goes wrong" with him.  In what extent this will remain? How much is it possible to be a forgotten incident for him? This depends on his personality, on his family´s attitude, the cultural surrounding, and the teachers' responsibility, of course.

Case B. We are all trans-immigrants, now.

At the same school, there is a beautiful boy with black hair , shining eyes, and clever mind, Nicolas. You cannot teach in this B Grade class, without notice this unique creature. He always moves around, helping the others, always smiling and showing willingness, always feeling "present to the present of the class". His general teacher really admires him, telling me always some stories of him, especially his achievements on Mathematics.

One day while playing at the class some music games, Nicolas looked around him and said "I am leaving for Australia!". And me, immediately reacting on impulse i answered " Wow! This is a real destination! Great!". Nicolas smiled, but in his face i could see his doubts and insecurity.

Later his teacher told me that actually he is from Iraq, and that it's true. In general they are thinking to change country. Nicolas grows up in a big family, where all of them work or search for job, while he is the smaller one. So, this is a real conversation that he must have heard back home. We can all imagine similar situations among economical immigrants.

Until the end of the school year, he had said his announcement a couple of times, like he wanted to check the others' reaction, like he wanted to check himself, too. All the times i showed supportiveness, although i could read his heart: Deeply he felt like no need to change, like he had found his "balance". This year, i really can´t know what happened to Nicolas. But the interesting thing is that it´s me who changed country. And this was a rare child that taught and reminded me so many things.

Case C. The view of the "other".

Three years ago i was researching on "musical improvisation as an educational tool" in multicultural environments.For this purpose i was visiting a mulitultural school of Athens, mostly with pupils from Asia and Africa, as a participant observator at the music classes. Many wonderful moments i experienced at this school, moments having mainly to do with the exploration of ethnic diversities.

This was a very happy school. Children were enjoying each moment of the day, they were trying hard with their bilingual and bicultural life, and also they had developed naturally a curiosity for the otherness. No Greek pupils were studying there at that time.

One day i was talking with a very sensitive teacher on intercultural education issues, Katerina. I was participant observator at her classes music lessons, too, very much interested at her B grade children. She told me about a unique experience with one of her Philippines pupils.
Christmas vacations were coming, and they were discussing all together about their leisure time. All the children were ready to departure for foreign, distant countries, most of them for the first time in their life. Then the boy asked:
-You, Mrs Katerina, where are you going for Christmas?
-Me? Nowhere. My home is here, i stay in Athens
-Ohhh...poor Greek people. Won't go anywhere, said the boy.

For those who think immigrants are the less benefited this boy turned the reality, showing the alternative side. Katerina got surprised positively, and took an important lesson. I answered to her story with mine, from her class too, adding to her message.

One other day we were playing a game with a music train, that was travelling around the world, and each child had to make a stop at his origin's country. There was a small girl from Seychelles, "Miracle". It obviously took me and their music teacher more time than her, to find her island at the classes' world map. Miracle was shouting "there, there", while we were still searching.Those children, learn to orient themselves inside the whole world´s map already since they are born!

I reflect sometimes, how many different paths i have experienced so far now, and how different my professional life as a music teacher is, sometimes, if i take my musicology studies as the starting point. But of course, when working with children, and young people, music is sometimes the subject and some other times the occasion of doing things together.
We are not machines that produce musicology knowledge, and this is not the point. What happens inside the classes is and should be much more interactive, and most of all a unique experience of reconstructing knowledge - any type of knowledge- together with them, or because of them. Each school year for me, is a different journey around music practices (like composing, arranging, improvisating, singing),  music philosophies behind them, arts, inspiration...  because the starting point is different, the closing point, also, and the process much more.
Now think all this with new kids and classes every time. Some colleagues are quite nervous "what i do with this class", "what i do now with the other one etc", but this is not the meaning for me. There is not only the "what i do", but also the "how i do". And it is not even "I", but also "we". We should try more this "we", that many colleagues even are being afraid of, because they don't know how to do it. After all, children are not white boards that one has to fill them with theoretic material. They are persons with (music) thoughts, (music) feeling and taste,(music) ideas, and this is something we must work more on. My favourite quotation, for example, on how we can start music improvisation with them is the one that follows:

"The best method of make them improvise, is much likely to the swimming pool class. You throw them to the deep, and then you work on this"!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orchestrating Nature: Notes on an artistic and scientific shift from music to soundscape

(photo: a detail of Edinburgh as walking up to Arthur's Seat )

Annea Lockwood is a composer born in New Zealand, studied in Europe, currently living in USA.
Having been attentant of the famous Darmstadt summer courses on modern music, and flirting naturally with the avant-garde artists of the 60's in USA: sound poets, visual artists, choreographers, composers like Philip Glass, builded her own music world by leading her imagination- and the world that followed her- to new paths of music creation. Or we could better say, sound creation?

There was a period for the avant-garde composers, where they searched for new sources of inspiration, questioning about the future of the post-war western art music. Some of them thought it's going to be the end of west music. Some others were shifting gradually from music to sound. Urban and natural sounds proved to be their new field for experimentation, their new material for compositions. Lockwood´s one of them. Among her most adventurous and charmy works, are her implement of the "river projects". The Soundmap of Hudson River (1982), The Soundmap of the Danube (2005), and, lately, a Soundmap of the Housatonic River (2010), remain at the top of my listening experiences. Focusing on the "River" cases, Lockwood used as much as she could from the "oral culture" of a river and what can surround it: She records everything: birds and animals, water on the surface, under the surface, close to a waterfall. Later, those recordings become embodied to compositions, or can stand as independent sound installations, located to specific museums.

At her programme note on her last "Soundmap of the Housatonic River" we read: "A Soundmap of the Housatonic River is a four-channel sound installation, it is an aural tracing of the river from its sources to Berkshires, Massachusetts, to Long Island Sound, Connecticut. Each recorded site is located on a wall map with a number. Beside the map is the corresponding number, followed by the time at which that site can be heard, the place name, and where the recording was made. The installation was commissioned by the Housatonic River Museum, a project in development in Berkshire County, Massachusetts"Moreover, the composer also is getting interested in life narratives, of persons whose life is connected with the rivers in various ways. At her "Soundmap of the Danube", among the tracks to the available disc pack, we listen to farmers, boat captains, pansion owners, fishermen etc, each of them having a unique story to confess from his\her life experiences with the river.*

What sounds even more interesting, is this parallel evolution of science. In terms of researching on music creation, Anthoropology, too, has turned its interest to the ethnography of sound. Sound, is for the ethnographer a connecting material of social relationships, and functions as a field where socially constructed emotions are being articulated. Sounds do make sense, as they are not simply tonal structures of music, but also participate to the building of natural and social systems. Additionally, an explosion of interest around Acoustic Ecology has lead to an increasement of related meetings, conferences and experience exchange among the ones who wish to get engaged musically with urban and nature soundscapes.

Following this latest scientific tensions, but in a more "everyday life" sense, composers, friends of nature, educators, acoustic ecologists and many others organize "soundwalkings" where one can participate. During a soundwalk one focuses on sounds or noises, while walking silent. One of the pioneers of those aural actions  is the composer Hildegard Westerkamp. Anyway Westerkamp is a huge interesting subject by her own, but so far, you can read some description of the experience from her
you can just take an (aural) impression of one of her soundwalk projects
or listen how she uses the recorded material to her compositions

*more info about Annea Lockwood