So what is it all about? This is what I picked up from today. (Apologies in advance if there are any inaccuracies – I will need some Dalcroze experts to read through and put me straight)
Apparently Dalcroze was a musician and a prolific composer. He developed his method of teaching in response to his experiences to teaching musicians at a conservatoire. He noticed that students concentrated on virtuosity at the expense of interpretation. He was concerned that they were unable to internalise sound and that they had lots of “rhythmic issues” with their playing. He wanted the musicians to get the music into their bodies, to learn through movement. He started from concept that all music starts with movement. He wanted the musicians to be moved and not just emotionally but physically. Tables and chairs were moved out of the way and shoes, socks and even corsets were removed.
The Dalcroze method has 3 elements which are referred to in totality as “Eurythmics”
1. Rhythmics – this involves exploring every single element/aspect of music through movement. This includes pulse, notation, texture, dynamics, metre, phrasing and everything else you can think of
2. Aural training – similar to Kodaly principals but with students physically representing intervals, stepping out melodies, feeling difference between chords before naming them
3. Improvisation – starting with the body before you get to sound.
There is overlap between each of these branches. As a result of using this method the learners body becomes more coordinated, listening skills are refined, inhibitions are removed, different areas of the body are identified and controlled, muscle memory is used to explore rhythms. students get used to working as individuals, in partnership and in large ensembles.
Having worked with musicians Dalcroze realised that rather than just using his method to correct problems in established musicians it would be better to establish his principles as the base for good musical education for all children.
I’m not going to outline the whole day but the following are some activities that I want to remember in order to use appropriately with some of my classes.
1. Numbering distinct areas of the body. Calling out the number and asking students to move that part of the body in a conversation with a partner.
2. Driving your partner as a car
Using gentle signals to drive partner and responding as the car to those signals involved precision and concentration!
2. Clapping a semi breve whilst keeping our arms in motion so we could feel and develop muscle memory of how long a semi breve lasts in an musical rather than mathematical way.
3. Simple stop start signals using 2 different sounds. This showed the need to actually LISTEN rather than predict simple stop go pattern. This apparently simple exercise showed me I was responding in a rather Pavlovian way of predicting instead of really listening.
4. Using balls to bounce a beat, roll a beat and respond to change in metre.
After lunch we did a great improvisation session which started with movements, which were then vocalised. The session could have gone in any number of directions but we decided to turn our vocalisations into musical sound on the assortment of musical instruments that participants had brought along. What I especially liked about the improv session was how tightly constrained we were. By locking down several elements it meant we could really push the boundaries & be creative.
Our tutor described different ways of using bean bags for helping kids feel 3/4 time whilst crossing the midline using the rhythms
The final session was aural training. I was particularly excited because our tutor demonstrated lots of different stress free ways to help our students find their singing voice. Physically throwing imaginary snowballs, to swinging while singing ee and using our bodies to be fireworks were all brilliant tactics I plan to use. We were reminded that children need to hear their own voices and blocking one ear while singing is a simple way to do this.