Introduction and Initial Exercise
There is evidence for the position of a conductor of a musical ensemble from ancient times. The evidence ranges from simple descriptions of someone who was in charge of the music to descriptions of how they lead the musicians. A description of hand signs called Cheironomy (chironomy) is described in discussions of the music of Pharaonic Egypt, the Vedic Chants of ancient India, ancient Jewish, Byzantine and Roman chants. It is described as indicating the melodic contours of the music with gestures of the hands. In large festivals the ancient Greeks would have a conductor who would sit on a raised platform and stamp his foot on which he wore a large wooden sandal with a cutout resembling a castanet. Other techniques described or depicted include snapping fingers, clapping hands, clapping oyster shells and bones and even using a rolled up piece of paper or a directing stick.
1. Pick a song in common time you can teach to the class by rote. Make it a unison song and it can be a song that is familiar or not but if it is unfamiliar make it a simple song. Children's songs work best.
2. You will teach it to the class without the aid of an instrument or notated music.
3. Once you teach them the song your job will be to lead them in singing the song in any means you choose. The only rule is that you may not sing with them and you may not count to start them. Use any kind of hand / arm gesture you feel works. We have not learned any patterns so I don't expect to see anything. The point is that you feel what it is like to lead a group. You will then join the class for the next conductor to take their place.
4. You will return to the podium for the final step. Now you will alter a basic musical component of the song. You will start the piece and get faster and or slower or softer and or louder. The point is that you will feel what it is like to alter the sound the group makes.
1. Was the ensemble able to follow your non-verbal musical instruction?
2. Did the start together and stop together?
3. On the second run through, were you able to affect change in the performance of the music?