Catch up: Hugh Nankivell, BSO Associate

In the last couple of weeks I have led three BSO Associate projects with three very different groups of people.  I was working in Bridport on a multi-national youth project called The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) and spent the whole of one day with a group of motivated musical teenagers (‘Remix’) and their carers. I began the Torbay Family Orchestra (and we renamed ourselves the UFO – Unidentified Family Orchestra) at Torre Abbey and I also started a band at a local school in Torquay – open to all year 9’s – and 22 turned up and we had an hour making new music together.

For all of these settings the main aim was to make new music together. I did not arrive with a set of repertoire pieces that we would play (which is the usual starting point for most orchestras), or even a set of fixed warm-up games and exercises. Instead I arrive with a list of potential starting points, a head full of games and exercises that I have used before and could use again, a history of experience in working in this way and a willingness to ‘play’ music and to see where this leads. I arrive without any preconceived notion of where we might end up at the end of the sessions. (As an example – at the UFO session I arrived with a sheet with twelve potential starting points on it – some discussions, others games, others musical structures – and we used only three of them in the three hours, and one of those ideas took us on a journey for 90 minutes and another was a two minute discussion!)

This approach does have a structure, which I increasngly use and is tri-partite.

1) Provocation
2) Exploration
3) Sharing

It begins with a provocation. What might this provocation be? A question, a rhythm, an idea, an instrument, a way of playing, a title? We then explore ideas that emerge from this provocation in many different ways through playing and experimenting, listening and laughing. I might be constantly required to guide these explorations, or the groups might prefer to go off researching and burrowing without me. Finally we share the work that has emerged, and we celebrate ourselves for having made it.

In each setting we made music very quickly and successfully and this surprised all of the groups. It motivated them to want to continue and return and develop their ideas, skills and musical playing. It seems to me that this workshop approach to making music, whereby the leader arrives with a starting point and an open mind and follows what emerges, must be the way forward. The journey I have begun with each of these groups is similar and the BSO Associate model allows me this space and opportunity and for this I am very grateful and excited to see where it goes.


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