are outlines of some of our favorite workshops and lecture recitals.
our improvisation workshops we help people connect with the musical instincts
we all have within. Even those who only contribute a few notes delight
in weaving them into the musical fabric, while those with musical training
rediscover the essence of chamber music: intense listening, cooperation,
We lead composition workshops of various lengths for groups of about four to six people of all ages and skill levels. Below is our plan for a series of four two-hour sessions for children composing for the first time.
First Session: Intervals express moods
[Between sessions, we listen to the tapes and write down the pieces as much as possible.]
Second Session: Unity and variety, repetition and variation
Third Session: Ending
Fourth Session: Review
We have given workshops on this subject for both children and adults, in groups ranging in size from ten to forty. Below is a lesson plan for two-hour workshop for ten adult music teachers.
Theme: Baroque style is
We introduce ourselves by playing a Marini sonata.
To experience the differences between Baroque and Renaissance aesthetics: participants compare photographs of the Michelangelo and Bernini statues of David, then pose as each, noting the differences.
Investigate the beginnings of opera in Florence, 1600: the scientific reinvention of music using new techniques to enthrall, amaze, and overwhelm the listener. Discuss and illustrate musical “intensification” techniques:
Participants look at Rubens’s painting of Daniel in the Lions’ Den, then pose as Daniel beseeching heaven for aid. Play opening of Marini sonata again, have participants sing musical gestures (esclamatione, intonatio, trills) with words “Ahi me,” etc., while posing as Daniel.
We introduce recitative, figured bass.
We introduce sequences, read literary equivalents from the period.
Participants look at photographs of Bernini’s St. Theresa in Ecstasy and pose as Theresa and the angel piercing her with a divine arrow. We play Bach’s Sonata in E minor for violin and continuo slow movement.
Read “Infirmata Vulnerata,” an anonymous literary equivalent; note very intense, Baroque convergence of sexual and religious ecstasy.
Discuss “pathapoeia” and appoggiature: rhetorical devices capable of expressing intense and mixed feelings, sighs of sweetness and pain. Sing upper and lower appoggiature and chains of appoggiature, identify them in the Bach movement. We play the Bach again.
To review, participants compose a short “opera” using Baroque rhetoric, both in musical and physical gestures.
This is an hour-long lecture recital suitable for college music students and adult music lovers that explores similarities in the musical styles of Brahms, the most conservative of the Romantic composers, and Webern, whose music still sounds avant-garde today. Comparing the two refreshes one’s hearing of Brahms and brings out the incredible expressivity of Webern. The following is an outline of the lecture, with a few excerpts from the sources we quote.
Bernard Holland wrote “Minimalism is a musical art that says very few things over a long periods of time. This is in opposition to music that takes a long time to say many things (Mahler), music that says very little in normal amounts of time (Saint-Saëns), of music that says a great deal in practically no time at all (Webern).” (New York Times, 8/10/07) We explore this last kind of music in this lecture.
We play excerpts from Webern’s Four Pieces for Violin and Piano and Brahms’s Sonata in A Major.
We read responses to Brahms’s and Webern’s music focusing on the compression of their musical styles by their contemporaries Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Arnold Schoenberg.
Herzogenberg writes of “an enormous genius” springing out of “a tiny box;” Schoeberg of “a novel in a sigh, a joy in a breath.”
We make comparisons with literary style and visual art, reading from Oliver Strunk and E. B. White’s Elements of Style (“Every word must tell”) and showing paintings by Joseph Beuys and Joan Miró.
We analyze the first of the Webern pieces and the first theme of the first movement of the Brahms, showing how cells or motives encapsulate feelings and the cells or motives are then used to create textures permeated with lyricism.
We outline the historical development from Classical style to Romantic “total thematicism” to atonal “athematicism,” which nonetheless relied upon melodic cells or motives to tie works together.
We explore how the settings in which these pieces were first experienced made possible the compression of their style.
We end with suggestions for performers derived from Webern’s own performances and Brahms’s letters to conductor Hans von Bülow to help audiences grasp their music despite their stylistic compression and changes in performance environment and reception.
“Thank you so much for a wonderful moment of music! You are both so talented and so skilled in bringing the "less skilled" into your world in creative and fun ways. You're both wonderful. Thank you!" – Jane
“It was inspiring, not only for the music, but to see what people are capable of when they experience a supportive environment.” -Dorothy
“It was like a burst of energy, transformations. I had a sense of total freedom and abandonment of self. Lost all sense of self-conciousness.” – Lorraine
“Inhibitions be damned. The music brought people together.” -Leon
"That symphony was terrific. I liked how you took everybody's ideas. Thank you for coming to our school. I like how you were so calm about everything. You are very nice." --Orion
"It was a pleasure to have you at our school. I liked the way you played your own compsitions. Most people don't do that. In most concerts at our school even the most unusual ones, they don't have us compose our own pieces. It was fun to have our ideas and some of yours put together." -- Lily M.
"Thank you for playing a piece that you made up, and for letting us make up one like yours. It was fantastic!!!" --Natasha B.
from our 2002 Music Workshop at Camphill Village, Copake, NY, and our 2003
and 2004 Music Workshops at Saint Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sunset
Park, Brooklyn, funded by Chamber Music America's Residency Partnership
Program, supported by the JPMorgan Chase Residency Re-grant Program, The
Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and the Chamber Music America Residency Endowment
contact us for information on creating an improvisation workshop for your
call 347-799-2668 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2018 The Orfeo Duo