To close the first day of this year’s Sound and Music Summer School, the students received an insightful jazz improvisation session from British jazz multi-instrumentalist, Orphy Robinson. Orphy kicked off the evening by getting each student to produce a completely spontaneous vocal sound on the spot! As a collective, the results were quite profound (make sure to check out the link to see exactly what I mean!

Once the students were comfortable with the spontaneity of the task, Orphy got them to consider dynamics and pitch in more detail. If he slowly pointed upward, the students would produce elongated, quiet and high pitched sounds. If he rapidly pointed downward, they would produce sudden, loud, low pitched sounds.

As the session progressed, it was evident that Orphy had taught the students to consider other ways of composing and improvising other than simply writing with on manuscript paper. After they’d been warmed up with their voices, the students carried out the same exercise but using their instruments. This progressed into Orphy selecting multiple students to solo at random, sometimes instructing them to listen out for what the other was playing and find a tonal common ground.

The students were then separated into groups and made their way to different rooms in the school to work collaboratively on their improvisational techniques. The groups then returned and performed their pieces as a collective! I was unsure of how this was going to turn out; instead of an expected cacophony, the hall was filled to the brim with pleasant harmony. The enormity of the sound was overwhelming, and the students were clearly in awe of their composition.