Music Improv Games?
September 3, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Any good ways to have inclusive fun with a group of 15 or so musicians of widely varying ability (who don't all know each other)?

This is part of a college orientation. Folks signed up for the "music" activity and all we know is that 15 new students are gonna show up, some with instruments. I pitched it as "musical noise" and an "anarchestra," so I think they know it'll be loose. What now? I'm hoping for something like Eno oblique strategies meets campfire songs... help?
posted by mundy to Education (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You guys could take turns soloing in a familiar musical environment, such as This Land is Your Land. Easy melody, three basic chords (C G D), and anybody who doesn't feel comfortable enough to solo the melody with their instrument can just say pass.

It's a good way to introduce veterans of well-ordered high school bands to a less structured musical environment.
posted by The Confessor at 6:50 AM on September 3, 2006

Just play. Really!

Some of the best musical fun I've ever had -- as someone with very, very limited playing ability -- was just sitting and noodling with some folks who were capable musicians. It didn't matter if I could keep up, it didn't matter that I didn't know chords or how to play a song. Last time this came to pass I easily blew two hours just goofing off.

"Anarchestra" sounds like much more fun than trying to get everyone to play something specific, especially if there's a huge disparity in abilities. Jamming like that can be quite boring and painful for a non-participant to listen to, but it's a pretty entertaining to be a part of.
posted by majick at 8:06 AM on September 3, 2006

Are you familiar with game pieces? They'rere somewhere between games and musical compositions and were written for exactly this sort of situation. John Zorn wrote many of them:

Zorn has also written several "game pieces", in which performers are allowed to improvise while following certain structural rules. These works are in the main named after sports, and include Pool, Archery, and Lacrosse, as well as Cobra.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

More on Zorn's game pieces.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:47 AM on September 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you're sort of reinventing the Scratch Orchestra , so maybe you could follow them in using graphical notation a la Cage, Feldman &c.: everyone brings along some form of visual prompt for music making, whether that's a sheet of graph paper with some squares coloured in at random, or an old magazine, and you all go for it. Maybe swapping 'scores' before you play would be a good idea too.

Another idea: I had a great time at an event where everyone was invited to bring an instrument and play, as long as they only played instruments they didn't know how to play (er, if you see what I mean). It was a bit stilted at first, but someone gave a little three year old boy a recorder, and all hell broke loose...
posted by jack_mo at 8:59 AM on September 3, 2006

Seconding game pieces.
posted by box at 3:19 PM on September 3, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I had about an hour to spare as I posted the question, but these are great ideas. I tried "This Land Is Your Land" with decent results; they were all abt 18 and were mostly too self-conscious or too concerned with demonstrating "chops" to embrace the skronk. Got some decent results from the kazoo section though.
posted by mundy at 7:07 AM on September 4, 2006

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