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Ten Pieces - Connect It
In the Alps there is a tradition of adding 'body music' to a dance.

Ten Pieces - Connect It

Which is your favourite of the BBC Ten Pieces? We have a KS2 Music quiz on each of the ten composers, along with a quiz on the specific pieces too! This one is about Connect It by the modern Scottish composer, Anna Meredith.

Anna Meredith's Connect It breaks new ground in music-making. It uses the human body as a percussion instrument, and a host of rhythmic movements and sounds pass from one performer to another. The effect is known as a canon. This is when two or more instruments or voices make the same music, but begin at staggered times - you may have sung a canon piece at school, perhaps London's Burning.

Meredith is not the first composer to have tried different techniques in her work. Let's look at her piece in itself, and in the context of some others!

Music without instruments (or conventional singing voices) may seem an impossibility; but which of the following have been offered to the musical public in earlier generations?
Mendelssohn's Songs without Words ['how come?]
Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra ['wot, no soloist?']
Satie's Three Pieces in the form of a Pear ['what does a pear sound liike?']
All of these
The Mendelssohn pieces consist of the pianist accompanying himself or herself while also playing tunes of a song-like character; Bartok gives different passages to each member of the orchestra to feature, with no overall soloist; Satie was making fun of pompous musical titles (like 'Prelude in the Form of a Minuet', or whatever) and proposed some 'pear-shaped' pieces. There are other apparent but serious absurdities as you will see / hear ...
Apart from the format of its title, what is remarkable about John Cage's work 4' 33"?
It consists entirely of silence
It can be performed without instruments
It can be performed by any number or configuration of musicians (choir, string quartet, symphony orchestra)
All of the above
The 'piece' dates from 1952, when music was in a jittery experimental phase (possibly partly from the exhaustion of World War 2 and its nervous aftermath of the Cold War, which threatened to become WW3). There is an out-of-print score (Peters Edition) in which each of the three movements is simply marked 'Tacet' ('no sound to be made'). It may be regarded as a famous example of 'conceptual art'. Wikipedia mentions Alphonse Allais' Funeral March ... for a Deaf Man (1897) consisting of 24 silent bars, among other works in this vein
Ernst Toch, in the 1920s, wrote a Geographical Fugue for 4 voices: what is musically surprising about that work?
It is silent
It uses spoken voices and actual words, in rhythm, but there is no demarcation of pitch (and hence no 'tune' dimension to the piece)
The singers have to be in different, acoustically remote locations to perform it (so they can't hear one another)
The precise locations of all the singers have to be established on a map
The piece follows all the usual formal requirements of a fugue (as developed by Bach and others: a more complex cousin to the canon), such as the repeats and interweaving of parts, but there is no given pitch for the syllables. Speed and volume are indicated, but no 'notes' as such in this 'spoken music'. The original was in German though the international placenames are clearly recognisable
In the Alps there is a tradition of adding 'body music' to a dance ~ not 'just' tap- or clog-dancing. What is this called?
Literally, this involves the slapping of the soles of the shoes. It now has followings further afield, including clubs in the USA apparently! Percussive techniques are not limited to striking or stamping the soles; slapping of the Lederhosen is another characteristic. The typical Schuhplattler is in steady 3-time as evolved from the Laendler ('country dance') (Ans.1) ~ which in more urban and urbane circumstances evolved into the waltz (as in Strauss's Vienna)
Which of the following is/are reasonably famous as music in which the singer/s perform to 'open vowels', creating a clear vocal tone but without the encumbrance of actual words?
Rachmaninov's Vocalise
The women's fade-out chorus at the end of the final movement of Holst's Planets Suite
Debussy's Nocturne No.3, Sirenes
All of the above
... And that's without mentioning jazzers' 'scat', nor the melisma where operatic singers 'do their own thing' away from any lyrics, nor the ululation of (usually, female) mourners at funerals in various parts of the world
In what form does an audience typically signal its approval of the sounds just made by musicians?
The other uglier, but collectively powerful, sounds may also be heard. Woe betide the performer, however, who elicits a deliberately slow hand-clap ...
In the passage between about 0:30 and 1:00+ of the Meredith piece, how might we best describe the use of the voices?
All vowels and no consonants (like the Vocalise mentioned earlier)
All consonants and no vowels
The voices are silent, while other percussive noises are made using hands and/or feet
The voices are humming on a monotone
A quick listen should confirm this; it certainly isn't singing as such, more like 'untuned percussion' such as a brushed drum
If you heard the soundtrack between about 1:00 and just before 1:30, what might the sounds perhaps most likely remind you of in the real world?
A short ride in a fast machine
A steam train
1 or more people cleaning a large institutional floor with squeezy mops
A shoal of fish
Open your ears, close your eyes ... and this listener, at least, all too easily envisaged a gang ~ or chorus ~ of hospital cleaners chanting under their breath as they swabbed down a vast ward or operating theatre. Maybe the connotation was entirely different for you (e.g. the pneumatics of a machine, or perhaps a bus door endlessly being opened and closed). It certainly makes one think about the meaning of sound!
Despite the lack of conventional pitch, which of the following standard features of 'mainstream music' is/are clearly present in this work?
Pulse, with variation and syncopation
All of the above
There is a basic 4-in-a-bar pulse across which other rhythms cut (Ans.1); use of sounds of contrasting kinds and from different directions (particularly towards the end) (Ans.2), and considerable variation in volume from the quietest whisper to the loudest available bursts of percussive sound
Other composers have written numerous musical jokes and novelties, not least 'Papa' Haydn ('father' of the symphony and string quartet, among much else). Which of the following is NOT such a genuine work by him?
The oratorio Belshazzar's Feast in which the chorus shouts (rather than actually singing) the word telling us the king is 'slain'
The 'Joke' String Quartet in Eb., Op.33 no.2, with its sudden pauses to catch out people who might be talking instead of listening
The Surprise Symphony in which, after a quiet passage in the slow movement, a sudden full-orchestra chord would awaken anyone in the audience that might have dozed off
The Farewell Symphony in whose last movement the players leave the stage one by one, until only two violinists remain
Belshazzar is the work of the C20th British composer (Sir) William Walton. Walton had also set to music a series of poems by Edith Sitwell called Facade for male and female solo speakers (not singers), the point being that while the words made evocative sounds, they carried no clear normal meaning when taken as a whole. This work too seems therefore to lie somewhere further back along a similar creative continuum to what now brings us the Meredith piece. Do try listening to at least some of it; even these days it is a strange and remarkable work!
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC - KS2: Anna Meredith - Connect It

Author:  Ian Miles

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