Lockdown has certainly spurred composers and musicians to get creative with the limitations at hand and it’s been inspiring to learn of the different responses to challenging times.
Jane Stanley tells us about two projects which she has been developing, both of which have a strong online focus: Composer Mum and #5NoteGestures.
“Composer Mum is the name of my new YouTube channel. I’ve posted my first two videos on it already. My aim with this channel is to document my progress in developing and testing out resources to foster composition skills in young children. I’ve been keen to explore this since having my own two children who are now 3 years and 1 year of age. My ultimate goal is to create a more formal resource (possibly a book), but in the meantime I’m enthusiastic about sharing the ideas I’m having with other parents and carers who may be looking for ideas for music-based activities to try out with their own children.
Listening is such a huge part of being a composer, and so my first video is all about how I’ve been trying to introduce contemporary classical repertoire to my children in the form of a bedtime playlist. My next video (which I’ll dive straight into once I’ve finished my upcoming commission for Glasgow School of Art choir) will be themed around soundwalking (again, an activity which is all about priming ears and minds for listening).
Following that, I plan to explore the many ideas I’ve been having for fun hands-on activities that in some way provide young children with experiences of “being” a composer, including improvising, experimenting with subtle approaches to sound production using objects around the house, creating novel personalised notation systems, and even getting into concepts like form and gesture.
If you’re interested to follow me on this journey, then please do subscribe to my Composer Mum Youtube channel.
Something I tried earlier on during the lockdown was a social media campaign which I named #5NoteGestures. This was intended to be a way for composers to express solidarity with each other, at a time when perhaps our “normal” working patterns have been disrupted, or we feel creatively blocked or in some other way prevented from making optimal progress on more substantial projects. And speaking for myself, that sense of achievement from being able to craft and share even the smallest compositional idea can be a fantastic mood booster!
The idea behind #5NoteGestures is for composers at all career stages (including students and professionals) to post an image or even a video featuring a short musical phrase, something akin to a musical signature which they have composed, using 5 pitches. If you are interested to contribute, I posted some guidelines on Twitter – just follow the #5NoteGestures hashtag.
I should point out that I haven’t pursued either of these projects on the basis of having “extra” free time as a result of the current lockdown – far from it! For me it’s been hugely challenging having my two young children in the house full-time during what would normally be a working day. Both my partner and I have continued to work throughout the lockdown, but this involves a lot of juggling and prioritising. Up until now my Twitter account was seriously neglected, and I certainly never imagined I’d post videos on YouTube. But I think this has been a way for me to “get out of the house” in a virtual way, to interact somehow with people beyond my family bubble.
Composer Mum is the first step in what could become a much larger project, and is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now, but I’ve surprised myself with how enthusiastically I’ve taken to the medium”.