Last year Sloop Group were invited to be part of the COOLture Conversations project as part of Hull City of Culture. It was a wonderful oppourtunity for the group to work with a Gamelan that they had previously met on a trip to the National Centre for Early Music in York. As well as working with the enchanting instruments of the Gamelan, the group had two sessions with the poet Cassandra Parkin, to create a poem that would become the starting point for their own orginal composition using the Gamelan. The whole project culminated in a public peformance at Hull City Hall. You can find a copy of the poem the group created attached to this post.
The two music leaders of Sloop Group, Tom Sherman and Tom Hill, both wrote their reflections of how the project went.
During this Project young people worked with a text artist to devise a poem as well as Musicians from University of York and Gamelan Instruments to compose an original piece of music to accompany the poem. Both of these were new to members of the Sloop group (half of which had not played a Gamelan before) and gave them new exciting opportunities in which to develop their musical and lyrical skills. As well this participants had chance to perform as part of a Hull City of Culture performance along side other groups playing instruments from other cultures such as Japanese Taiko Drums and Traditional Asian Instruments which gave them an enriching opportunity to experience types of music they may not have heard before.
Composing music using the Gamelan has suited the young people we work with very well. I think that part of the reason for this comes down to the accessible nature of the instruments. The fact that the whole Gamelan is in one key means that any melodic patterns or riffs are guaranteed to fit together harmonically, like Lego bricks. This enables the compositional process to run smoothly, and also means that individual musical ideas that were created independently of each other can be combined in a plethora of different ways, presenting a whole range of creative possibilities to the group.
Writing music to fit a poem has been a different approach for us. Typically when working with words, the text and music are created together as part of the same creative process. However for this project, the group created a poem first, and then a week later began to compose music to fit the poem. I think that the music they created was very effective and worked very well, but I did feel at times that creative options were limited by the need to follow the poem. Perhaps we could have taken a more flexible approach to working with the poem, being more free with the structure and maybe exploring the sonority of individual words. Having said that, I think that what the group created in two days is very impressive.
Another new experience for the group has been to write a poem about themselves. Usually our artistic inspiration is external, or comes from a set theme- we write music inspired by a story, or about a fictional character or situation. However the poem that the group created as part of this project was about the young people personally and how the world sees them. I think that it has been beneficial for the young people to connect with themselves creatively in this way, and the most valuable part was the creative process itself- the discussion and sharing of ideas that lead to the poem is perhaps more important than the actual text. I think that being aware of the intrinsic value of the creative process when writing something personal will inform our future projects as a group.