These past two weeks I had the opportunity to be Professor of Clarinet at the Hartwick Summer Music Festival. A festival for high school students, the camp is a two week program of performances, methods classes, and masterclasses along with the normal fun-times of camp life like frisbee, baseball games, and hiking.
Pictured is Viola Yip's graphic score that I presented in a masterclass on reading graphic notation. Rather than jump into the abstract, I had the campers analyze the graphics of traditional notation in order to connect sheet music to the graphic world of rules and interpretation. Why do we not consider traditional notation a graphic score? With this opening question, the goal was to connect the thought and activity of reading graphic abstract scores into reading traditional notation - an effort against being a passive musician, merely sitting back and not interacting with the music.
From there, the discussion was great and the students had many awesome questions about what they were seeing in the scores and what they we listened to - including Projections II by Morton Feldman. I then had them all perform Viola's piece in groups, yielding many different interpretations and great listening experiences. The creativity in these performers, as I find with many high school students, is phenomenal because they are so open to different ways of thinking.
After the class, I am even more motivated to create an educational outreach program about graphic scores for various grade levels - to both understand the mechanics of musical notation but also rekindle creative forces in students who may be stifled by the rigid structure of traditional musical practice. Classical music is very open to graphic decoding, just as Brian Ferneyhough gives us complex problems to read, and John Cage gives us the openness through almost formal contracts. I'll be developing this over the next couple of weeks to go in tandem with a graphic score concert with Wooden Cities, where we will perform old and new works of non-traditional notation, including Viola's piece and many others. I'll end with a question, however, to get feedback about what would be interesting to see in such an outreach.
What would you do for an educational outreach on graphic scores? What would you like to see young musicians learning about this kind of music?