This week we’ll work with an arbitrary way to generate an initial musical idea. We’ll start with a “found phrase” (and we’ll help you find one), and ask you to decide what rhythm it falls into for you. From there, we’ll take out the words, add whatever melody calls to us, and articulate in our own personal improv language. But fear not: this is not an exercise in pedantry. Whatever musical idea results from this little contrivance is just your starting point; from there, follow it as loosely or closely as you like, on whatever path it sets you on.
For example, earlier today I was at a website for work, and the heading read “Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services.” That’s a bit much, so I focused on “modernizing extension” until it fell into a rhythm in my mouth: “ONE-and two-and three, ONE two [rest], ONE-and two-and three, ONE two [rest].” From there, I can imagine a little melody, and articulate it with my typical “LA da dey dey dume, BUM baaaah [breathe], LA da dey dey dume, BUM baaaah [breathe].” And it makes a nice little motif, and I’m off to the races, so to speak.
Now you try!
Your Prompt: Go to Google News, or these pangrams, or your favorite news source. Find a news headline or a pangram sentence that contains a phrase that appeals to you. Following the example above, find your way to speak it in rhythm that feels natural. Then take out the words, and add in any melody and syllables that appeal to you. Voilà! You have your initial musical idea. Now sing, and see whether your motif leads you toward pleasant new territories.
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.
Auto-Tune the News – for an easier stretch, let’s skip the step where we take out the words and replace them with our personal improv language. The words of your headline become the words of your song, and now you’re singing about whatever the news story is about. You can sing words directly from the news article, or make them up yourself—whatever tickles your fancy.
Option B: Opposite Day – for a deeper stretch, let’s use the mood of the news article as a guide to the mood of your piece… but give your piece the opposite mood of the article. Keep the improv syllables, but if the news is about hope, sing despair. If it’s about war, sing peace. If it’s about kittens, sing puppies. As nuanced and rich as you can make it, but see how clearly you can convey this mood. We want to hear it!
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 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, February 22, 2016.
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-headline]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-headline” 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 56: Headline Rhythm.” 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!