See what I did there?
While much of improvisation is finding the ability to tap into your musical source (whether you perceive that to be inside of you or somehow out in the Universe), there comes a point when we start to wonder how we can sustain a musical idea, how we can create a musical experience for our witnesses that lasts for a few minutes and has some kind of sense to it.
There are any number of ways. One is to employ repetition, acknowledging our basic human capacity to recognize patterns, and the comfort that this recognition creates. And repetition can be enriched by variation, to give a phrase a subtly different character upon its repetition—like a question, followed by a matched answer (though there are many other models you could follow). Then one could employ a contrast, acknowledging our basic human attraction to novelty, followed by a return (or recapitulation) that repeats an earlier idea, perhaps now imbued with extra depth in light of the contrasting idea that preceeded it.
Thus, the AABA form. Yes, it’s a formula, you could look at it that way. Or, it’s an effective way for musically saying something in a way that human beings naturally respond to. Let’s explore “form”—ways of organizing musical material over time. Let’s start here.
Your Prompt: Explore AABA form. Sing something, of whatever length (‘A’); then, sing it again, somewhat the same but perhaps varied in some way (‘A’). Then, sing something different (‘B’). Finally, sing something a lot like what you sang at the beginning (‘A’), perhaps slightly modified so as to signal that it is now an ending. Repeat as desired.
It’s good to have options. Here are ways to perhaps make the prompt a bit easier, or ways to go a bit further with it.
Option A: “I Have A Map” – While our improvisational work together has made us sensitive to following the impulses of the moment, take some of that heat off by going into your improvisation with the intention to make your phrases a set length. If you measure musical time in “bars” or “measures” as is common, perhaps 2 or 4 measures (or 8, if your attention-span game is on-point). You’re likely to find that this creates a nicely symmetrical experience that’s easy to keep track of, both for you and your listener. (If you’re not satisfied with the length of your piece, sing it twice! And maybe do a different ‘B’ the second time.)
Option B: Fractals – Do an AABA within an AABA—using perhaps shorter-than-usual phrases, make a piece in which your [AABA] is itself a kind of A, which gets repeated, and then a new set of four phrases (would that be [CCDC]?) serves as a kind of B, after which you’ll return to your first set of phrases. To go all the way to your edge, nest this as deeply as you’re able to keep track of. A form within a form within a form within a…
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing your AABA song.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, December 21, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about 2 to 5 minutes, or however long you need to sing your song.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece—and how it felt.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-AABA]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-AABA” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “Prompt 47: Song Forms – AABA.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org. You can join the SSS at https://soundcloud.com/groups/society-for-spontaneous-singing
Thank you, sweet singers!