• Alistair Smith

TOC - A Composition Crash Course


This Monday was the first rehearsal of a new term for a group that is now a regular core of people; a group that continues to grow in confidence and character as Jenni continually pushes us forward into new territory. This first week was no exception as Jenni led us in a compositional crash course, a rapid generation of idea, structure and arrangement. We split off into trios, each a mini ensemble for the realisation of each member's miniature opus. In a mere 15 minutes we had to explain, arrange and structure a piece based on text about a favorite or treasured place. As each seed of idea and concept was expressed, the process immediately became equally collaborative and ideas were freely shared and received. With very limited time, decisions had to made quickly, arrangements tried out and the structure set before moving on to the next person. The pieces were then to be performed, 8 of them in all, to the rest of the group.

The performances were all richly diverse in approach, style and character. Some grew in unfolding, evolving processes, or ebbed and flowed in undulating intensities. Others were more architectural in character, comprising pillars of set material, framing and containing more free-flowing fluidity. For my group, I felt that the performances were better than the rehearsals, no mean feat after such a rapid and demanding task. To me, this illuminated the experience that we have all gained by being a part of TOC.

Improvising ideas and performing ad hoc, on the spot is instilling a skill of being able to think on ones feet and to "perform" material that has not been through the usual process of rehearsal and refinement. You get a feel for what works and what appeals doing this kind of work and, when you’re working on this leading edge of the creative process, you intuitively develop the understanding that how you do something is just as important as what you do. After all, who wouldn't rather see a heart felt, impassioned performance over a technically perfect one, albeit a little dry?!

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