I discovered this wonderful video clip from a 1985 documentary following the vocal group ‘Fascinating Aida’.
It reminded me of the King Singers equally amusing video about the history of Music:
And then the even more amusing:
I don’t see it as a problem to make something amusing of something serious; the Kings’ Singers performance shows, in a very sophisticated way, some important stylistic trends (as perhaps the Pentatonic Evolution of Music attempts to do too) through making these characteristics humorous as they well may be to the uninitiated classical music listener. Being willing to poke fun at something perceived by the uninitiated as ‘serious music’ does a great deal to welcome them into a musical world/work/object that carries a great deal of elitism; this is ‘serious’ music and it requires ‘serious understanding’. It doesn’t really. Some of it is rather ridiculous.
I love working on graphic scores with Year 8, and will always use the above clip. They laugh. I like the fact they laugh as I am not trying to say this is ‘serious art’ (as much as the canon will make out) but that it asks questions about the nature of what music *is* and what it *can be*. They perceive that question and enjoy perceiving it as the performance makes them question their perception of ‘serious music’.
With Year 10 as they embark on composition I want them to feel free to create; not have the burden of ‘serious music’ on their shoulders stifling their creative energies. I show them plenty of music that we can discuss to yet again if the serious veil and encourage the questioning of what music is and what composing can be. Zubin Kanga’s performance of Molitor’s Tango (I was lucky enough to see this live and review it here) shows that composing is more than the control of sound but also the control of time and the choreography of that sound and time. They immediately understand the title and amidst some laughs too. These laughs quickly subside as the pupils revel in the idea that they are free to create whatever sounds they want and we can quickly get to discussing why some sounds work better than others, in certain contexts.
The third movement of Berio’s Sinfonia, in my mind, is some serious fun. Berio masterfully combines a vast collage of ‘masterpieces’.