Monday, July 7, 2008

First Full Day of Workshops

Well I got up and headed to Mickey D’s again and came away wondering if one can buy a cup of plain black coffee in Austria. I ended up with this frothy milk and powdered chocolate on top. I even said “Kaffe schwarz” to no avail. A fellow participant from here in Salzburg assured me that it is quite common. I just haven’t found it yet.

Nonetheless, after getting a caffeine hit I headed to class. Verena Maschat started us off with a variety movement activities and improvisations growing out of the singing of canons. She taught the various ways movement for rounds and canons could be structured. We improvised movements and made up texts to existing music in our own languages.

Four language groups are represented in group B, my group: native English speakers, German language speakers, Greeks and Turks. Oddly, these groups were kept together presumably for the language comfort of the participants. I find it sort of a shame because I think mixing up people more would make for a more rewarding experience for all. I hope that as the week progresses interchange among all of the participants will be encouraged.

Verena is an excellent teacher. She has a slight but noticeable tendency to point out when things are wrong that is different from what I have known. It’s not a problem, it’s just different. I found myself wondering if it is cultural.

The second class for group B was with Andrea Ostertag. She taught us Bulgarian folk dances in mixed meters. She is ebullient and a bit oblivious to the problems that this sort of thing can have for those of us for whom the rhythms are not part of our cultural background. Interestingly the Turks and Greeks seemed to have a better time of it. The German and English groups danced with a heavy accent. If we danced the sequence 20 times I might have gotten everything right once.

It all reminded me a bit of a Phyllis Weikart workshop I took in Boston years ago. She found the group for the most part to be pretty good and she started to do really hard stuff. I learned then and there what it must be like for kids in my classes when things move too fast, when the educational experience is outside of Vygotsky’s proximal zone. But having gone through that, the class with Andrea seemed comparatively like a cinch. I guess it is just experience and as they say “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you really want.” And lord knows I need all of the movement experience I can get in order to expand my comfort zone!

It was notable to observe the friction that mention of the word Macedonia caused for the Greek contingent in the discussion of influences on Bulgarian dance. A Turkish woman was a little put out by the mention of a certain mountain chain as being along the Greece-Bulgaria border. Evidently it extends into European Turkey as well. It is so interesting to see these issues that you only read about in the United States being played out up close and personal.

The afternoon classes were electives and group B split up. First I attended a workshop with Gerhard Reiter called “Rhythm Training and Percussion Techniques for the Classroom”. The guy is a brilliant drummer and demonstrated about eight different stylistic variants on the “clave rhythm” including Greek, Turkish, Arabic, African, Spanish and Caribbean. He led us though exercises with voice and body percussion that allowed us to create analogous musical experiences without instruments.

When I went upstairs to Soili Perkio’s workshop in room 27, I discovered where they hide all of the Orff instruments at the Orff Institut. But we didn’t use them. Soili is a delightful woman, very sweet, with a twinkle in her eye. She gave a perfect demonstration of the craft of delivering an Orff lesson with hardly any teacher talk. At the same time she structured lessons with voice, dance and body percussion ostinati that would create active learning experiences for children, allowing them discover important musical concepts for themselves.

During lunch I explored the library and dug into the foreign volumes, including France, Bolivia, Gemany and the Netherlands. I also got to go through the American volumes supplements as well as some for the original German volumes. Something I was very curious about was the Hall-Walter Canadian Volumes. The pentatonic volume explores chat and children’s rhymes more thoroughly than the Murray volumes, but I’m not sure of the value beyond that yet because there is considerable overlap of the materials. I’ll go back for more analysis, especially of the other two volumes.

So a full day of Orff classes and nobody touched a xylophone. It was a refreshing eye opener, and truly all that I could wish the experience to be. At night we did an hour and a half of folk dancing and singing, but not as grueling as the morning session – we even did some English/American stuff, similar to some of the stuff from Vermont barn dances.

Overall the experience might be like what a fourth level could be – challenging materials to push our musical envelopes and grow our musicianship, combined with superb modeling.

Incidentally – if anybody’s reading all of stuff I’m writing, give me a little encouragement with a comment.


Jeanie said...


I'm living vicariously through your Salzburg posts! It sounds fascinating. Keep them coming, if you're not too exhausted by your week of classes!

Jeanie H. (from Sarah Richardson's "From Classroom to Stage" class at UK)

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, I came in on a whim, seeking to avoid "real work." I love your titles, not to mention the content, which is giving me an appetite for even more travel. No wonder my son Jesse loves Germany -- the pics are gorgeous. I'm also so interested to hear about Orff stuff, as I have only the slightest bit of acquaintance with it. Thanks!!! -- Ann Stanton

Anonymous said...

I am reading this... neat posts. When do they let you touch orff instruments.