Sample Project: Collaborative Community Art

Robust In-Class Exercise Outline by Molly Feldman

My in-class exercise will focus on the idea of "collaborative community art" that Sing for Hope's Community Arts program fosters. It is also based on the idea of the Pop-Up Pianos initiative, in which Sing for Hope places 88 pianos in public spaces throughout New York City to bring art directly to the community. My location of choice for this experience would be one of the outdoor blackboards by the Science Center. If that is not possible, then our normal classroom would work (or anywhere else with a blackboard that we can make music). I would obtain access to instruments hopefully from the Music Department (I will talk to Tom). If not, I will improvise instruments or potentially utilize the Gamelan set. The first step of my exercise would be to write instructions for my classmates on the board, as well as create an "impressions" space. I would then also place the instruments in a circle/semi-circle in front of the blackboard. The rest of the experience is "lead" by the instructions and my own actions noted therein. The instructions would be as follows:

FOR THE DURATION OF THE EXERCISE, PLEASE DO NOT TALK.

  1. Please come and sit down in front of an instrument.
  2. Please read these instructions fully.
  3. After you hear a beat of the drum, explore the instrument itself and its parts for 3 minutes. You will hear a beat of the drum from Molly when this period is over.
  4. Starting with Molly and working clockwise, we will do an improvisational exercise. When it is your turn (either after 16 counts or when you feel you should come in), create a beat/pattern/melody on your instrument that you feel fits into the piece. This will continue until everyone is part of the music and then starting with Molly everyone will drop out one-by-one until we have reclaimed silence again.
  5. Please go to the board under the space marked "impressions" and write what you thought about the experience. You can write words, phrases, or whole thoughts. 
  6. The exercise ends when the last person takes their set after writing their impressions on the board.

Alternatively, I could place a hand out with these instructions at each of the instruments. The actual execution of the exercise would be through following these steps. If there is time at the end, I would also like to have a brief discussion about the "impressions" that we all wrote together on the board. I have chosen this set-up because I would like everyone to approach music through new and organic ways. Without an explanation of how to play an instrument, people may have a very original idea of how it should be played that differs from the standard. I feel as though new and organic music was part of the goal of Pop-Up Pianos and I would like us all the experience that. I also think that the location in front of the Science Center would cause the class to step back because of the "oddity" of instruments in that space, another theme that is also seen in Pop-Up Pianos. Ultimately, 10 people playing music together in a circle is collaborative music. I have done a somewhat similar exercise with students in the past and it is always very interesting to observe what type of piece a group composes together.