Composición improvisada en grupos – nuevas experiencias

En enero – febrero 2016 estoy en la residencia de artistas de la fundacion Lugar a Dudas, en Cali, Colombia.

Durante mi estancia tengo la oportunidad de dar talleres en la Universidad del Valle y el Instituto Departemental de Bellas Artes.

En este video se puede ver estudiantes de música de la Universidad del Valle participando en un taller de composición improvisada en grupo.

Antes del taller di una introducción al marco conceptual:

Marco conceptual del taller de composición improvisada

(Hazle clic al imagen para ver en mas grande)

En mi experiencia hay una tendencia en mis talleres que la gente se divierten mucho. No obstante tengo esta pequeña inquietud que los participantes van a quedarse con eso – el entretenimiento, nada mas.

Con este marco conceptual mi esperanza fue que se den cuenta de lo serio que es ‘jugar’, y cuales son las relaciones con la vida ‘real’ y sus representaciones.

Inspirado por el filosofo francés Paul Ricour, el papel presenta en forma de diagrama la relación entre el campo practico, o la ‘vida real’ con todos sus acciones e interacciones, el orden paradigmático, en qué almacenamos nuestra conocimiento de cuales son las posibles combinaciones de las acciones y el orden syntagmático, qué tiene que ver con las representaciones actuales, es decir las obras de arte, las telenovelas, los narativos, composiciones etc., es decir formas de combinar lo potencial del orden paradigmático en algún tipo de composición que puede influenciar el campo practico de alguna forma, positiva o negativa.

Ver la introducción al marco conceptual:


President of Totemization

Today: Workshop with 18 young people from DIS – Danish Institute for Studies Abroad.

On the menu:

  1. Building the collective through: gesture imitation, gesture merging, jibberish, jibberish emotionalized, emotionalizing the space by attributing an emotional state to each corner.
  2. Totemizing the collective. Dividing the group into 6 “tribes”, with “totems” borrowed from our natural biotope, ie elements from free commercial postcards, such as “queen”, “beer”, “car”, “art run”, etc.
  3. Building immaterial instruments. Each “tribe” created an “instrument”, only using what was at hand, with the constraint of using the principle of either an idiophone, membranophone, aerophone, chordophone, electrophone, none-of-the-above-ophone.
  4.  With the sound from the “instruments” recorded, and after a break, we proceeded to performing collective improvisations, a “chorus” using microphones to form the “instrumental” sounds with their voices, “dancers” conducting the chorus by moving in the emotional space. etc.

Here are the resulting collective improvisations:

Building sound collectives – a workshop concept


So, we want to work with sound as a means of building a culturally sustainable collective, and we want to do it in an open, intuitive, sufficiently challenging, though comfortable way. This workshop is designed for groups of adults and young adults. It is aiming at providing the group with tools and methods for building the collective through non-verbal means.

The workshop is intended to be a supplement to contexts where people are working with new ways of living, towards economical, ecological and social sustainability. This might be in connection with conferences, festivals, theme days in education, or seminars in organisations.


Basic info
Name Building Sound Collectives
Duration 1 – 2 hours
Target group Young adults and adults
How many? 12 – 20
Where is it relevant? In organisations, in education, at festivals and events with a focus on sustainability
Location A larger room with free floor space. If outdoors, in a quiet, private place.
Equipment used Computer, audio interface 8 in 8 out. Four microphones. Four (homemade) instruments with (contact) mics. Four smartphones. Wifi. A “magic square” 3×3 meter on the floor marked with adhesive tape. A pair of loudspeakers.
Aims 1) to find the groups “common core gesture”; 2) to develop new gestural expressions from the core gesture 3) to find our way to imitate gesture through sound 4) to create a collective electroacoustic composition
Learning keywords Collaboration, non-verbal communication, other-centeredness, gestural and sound imitation, sharing ideas, improvisation, collective creativity.
The workings

Expressing ourselves in sound is one of our most efficient modalities to reach out to each other, and to try to understand each other’s worlds.  But there is no sound without movement. This is true on a fundamentally physical level. It is also true on what we could call a meta level. When we are  expressing emotional content, we are imitating physical movement with our voices.

Therefore, we want to start with gesture. We want to explore gesture as something that members of the group are already using as a means of expression in their everyday lives. And we want to experiment with ways of imitating our gestures through sound.

The workshop comprises six parts.

  1. Our first aim is to search for what I would call a common core gestural phrase
    • In pairs. A comes with a gesture. Any gesture. B imitates it and adds a variation. A imitates B’s variation and add another variation.
    • Each pair present one gestural phrase that they liked. The rest of the group imitates.
    • Now everyone moves around in space. Each participant performs the gestural phrase they have selected, and when seeing another participant he/she will try to merge to two gestures.
    • All gestural phrases will eventually merge into one.
    • This is group’s core gestural phrase
  2. Gesture jam.
    • In this part we will improvise in different ways with gesture based on the core gestural phrase. Imitating with other body parts; varying the size of the movements; making supplementary gestures, filling out the “blank spaces”.
    • This way, we develop a common new gestural grammar, and a living library of movements for the group.
  3. Sound on top. This is where we work with imitating gesture through sound
    • in pairs. A performs a gestural phrase from the ‘library’. B imitates with sound.
    • In the whole group, the pairs give samples of their work, showing a gestural phrase and the corresponding sound phrase.  The group imitates the sound phrase, with sound
  4. Sound from the bottom
    • The group records one sound from each of the four homemade instruments. This might be done in a break by some of the participants.
  5. Collective electroacoustic improvisation
    • The group is divided into three groups of four: a gesture group, a voice group, and a remote control group.
    • The gesture group will move around inside and out of the square, using gestures from the collectives’ library.
    • Each member of the sound group will imitate one of the gesture performers with their voices. Each of the four sound group members has a microphone, and their phrases form the previously recorded sounds from the homemade instruments, live.
    • Each of the four members of the remote control group use a smartphone to follow the movements in the magic square of one gesture person.
    • During this improvisation,  in the loudspeakers we will hear the sound of the four homemade instruments
      • formed by the voices of the sound group (intensity and pitch)
      • moving in soundspace according to the position (left – right, back – front) of the sound group members in the magic square
  6. The collective improvisation is recorded. After the collective impro, everyone listen to the recording.
    • New impros can be made. New experiments tried out. New sounds from the homemade instruments used.
    • For each new impro, people switch roles. Ideally, everyone tries all the different roles once.


If there are enough people, a possible variation is to have a group of “musicians” adding new sounds from the homemade instruments, according to the movements of the gesture group.

See an example of a street performance using a similar approach, in Cali, Colombia, here.

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Telling a story through sound – a workshop concept for 0 – 3 grade

It’s a dilemma when working with sound as a means of expression, how to use the visual . It will almost always be a rather risky marriage – the visual being a very dominant partner, that tend to take control of the agenda. AT THE SAME TIME , we can use the visual as a lever to get the aural , – which is very hard to hold on to ! , – into the game.

I was invited by the Vallensbæk Children’s Culture Week, in sept 2013 to give workshops with and about sound. To the occasion, I developed a concept,  “Tell the story through sound” where I use digital and analogue tools and methods to give children who are not familiar with musical instruments the opportunity to express themselves through sound.

I used my own software, Fonokolab. With this tool, you can record a sound and it will be stored as a loop that you can manipulate with your voice. The computer analyses the tone and volume of your voice and translates it into a ‘riff’, that will control the sample rate  – similar to when you change the speed of an old record player – and the volume of the previously recorded loop. You can control the riff’s panning and overall volume using a smartphone connected via wifi. Up to 6 riffs/players can be active at a time (more would be technically possible, but methodologically confusing).

On top of that, I have added live animation, using a software called Animata. The theme for the Culture Week was “The forest and the city”, so the imagery I used was a forest and its animals.

I drew 4 animals. Here you can see the bits and pieces of fox, that I …

Fox in tatters

… put back together in Animata , with vertices, joints , bones , and whatever it’s called :

… and the resulting live animated fox:

Fox animated via smartphone, with mouth movements controlled by sound

Foxy !

These are the stages of the workshop:

  1. “We are going to tell a story through sound!”, I told the kids.
  2. Soundpainting. The kids conducted each other making forest sounds with their bodies/mouths. We recorded the “forest created through sound”
  3. We listened to the recording, and while it was playing, the forest gradually “came to live” on the screen.

    The forest conjured by the kid’s sound scenography

  4. “What about the animals?”, I asked. “If we sit still, they will come”, I promised, and using a smartphone, I remote controlled the appearance of  an animal on the screen.
  5. “The fox wants to play with us, but he doesn’t have a voice!” So we recorded some sound using things available in the room. A dustpan dragged over the floor made a perfect voice for the fox.
  6. “Now the fox has a voice, but he needs something to say!” The fox is a very sly ‘person’, so he will probably say: “So many kids, I can play with! I wonder how they taaaste!” And I performed this phrase in the microphone, and the dustpan sound immediately imitated the melody/volume of my voice (causing a little anxiety in some of the kids!)
  7. After repeating the same procedure for the other 3 animals, we were now ready to make a collective composition. This includes “the magical square”, where your movements back/forth and sideways are translated into movements in sound – panning and volume – as well as image – the animal moves the way you move. This is being controlled via smartphone, either by the participant herself or by a helper on the side.

My prior experience with Fonokolab has been with adults, setting up workshops in the street, improvised, inviting passers by. At the stage where they are supposed to do a collective composition I have usually asked the participants to decide a form, or you might say choreography, themselves. This includes decisions about who moves how and when and for how long.

In preparing the concept for the Children’s Culture Week, I thought that this way would not work with young kids, so I came up with the concept of the “Timeline”.

The Timeline is a line on the floor, where one kid, “Time”, walks as slowly as possible until the other end of the line. Along the line, a number of kids are standing at different distances, waiting for “Time” to pass by.

“Time” moves along the timeline, here meeting the first “event”

Is everyone ready? And do you know your tasks? Then we start the forest sound scenography, and “Time” starts walking slowly.

When “Time” comes to the first kid on the line she walks to the magical square and moves around, being the fox. Now the fox’ sound will be heard, adding to the forest sounds. “Time” comes to the second kid, who enters the square, playing he is the crow. Etc. When “Time” reaches the square, he spreads his arms, gently directing the “animals” to the base line, and “Time” stops, as does the recording.

Now it is time to say goodnight to the animals, disappearing one at a time from the screen, and the forest. And the kids will lay down and listen to the “story told in sound”. The visual kinesthetic and  narrative elements which have sofar served as scaffold for telling the story in sound has been removed, and now it is time to focus only on sound.

See examples from the workshop in this video (whatch in Youtube with English subtitles):


sQRikebeam bor fow

Ich bin auch ein Fahrrad, -or- Bikescream for QRow

-or- traffic jam session

Recommendation: Watch the video clip while listening to the sound:

The participants made sounds with the bikestruments and formed them with their voices through the Anthropomorfer. When working with the sounds via smartphones, how could we do with only very little space? I hadn’t prepared a silver concept for that part. Somehow someone came up with the idea to follow the passing cars, bikes and people with the sounds. So each participant chose one feature, for instance “everything yellow”, and each time a yellow car, bike og hat passed by, he/she would ‘follow’ the moving object with the sound, panning from left to right or vice versa. In this way, a new aspect was introduced in the the-street-as-an-instrument-concept: SILENCE!! Since there were not yellow things passing by all the time the participant following yellow things had to keep silent in the pauses. But since each participant followed his/her specific feature, – bike helmets, taxis, blondes, etc., a great variety of movements and velocities naturally came to the improvisations, thus creating variation and new mixes/collisions. QRaaaaa QRaaaa!

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