Summer School Overview: Noah Fairbrother
Sound and Music summer school is a week long residential for young people from across the UK
to enjoy a week of learning, fun and composition. You have to apply for a place, love composing
and want to throw yourself in.
When I arrived at the Summer School, I was really excited and maybe a bit nervous. I didn’t know
a single person and Covid meant I had to say goodbye to my parents at the door! A nice chap
showed me to my room though so I was made to feel welcome at the very start. I put my bags
and suitcase in my room and, along with 14 other boys, was taken downstairs to the dining hall.
Here we received our timetables for the week; the timetable was jam packed, which only made
me more excited to start. My first day at the Summer School confirmed to me that it was going to
be an amazing week. I was put into the cross-cultural composition group in bubble two (due to COVID restrictions there was two bubbles) and immediately made friends with the entire group. The tutors were all amazing, and made everyone feel welcome.
The two subsequent key tutor sessions consisted of introductions from the tutors and an introduction to what the group was all about. That night there was a quiz; I thoroughly enjoyed the quiz as we were put
with a variety a people from the two other groups which meant we made friends with more people from our bubble. When I got back to my room I realised I hadn’t even had time to unpack and I hadn’t really thought about home — I knew then it was going to be a great week.
The second day started, as did all days of the week, with breakfast and an assembly. Then we went to our key tutor sessions. However, Monday was slightly different to the other days as each group would have a 70 minute taster session of the other groups. This meant that in the sessions directly before and directly after lunch, I had a taster of film and jazz. I enjoyed both of theses sessions, and it was interesting to get a insight into what routes the other two groups were taking. After this, it was back to the final key tutor session of the day; this time we learnt more about the musicians that would
be coming in on Wednesday. Each musician had prepared a video that explained their instrument
and who they are. Despite not being able to watch all of each musicians video, I managed to gain
an insight into their instruments which ultimately helped me compose for them. In the final key
tutor session of the day, we were asked to compose a short piece for the clarinet. I really enjoyed
doing this — and although we got back to our rooms quite late I was eager to do a bit more work
Tuesday brought more stability and over the next three days we the timetable was exactly the
same. It was packed with composing — a chance to really immerse ourselves in music making.
Tuesday, for me, was a learning day; as it was the first time we would meet with the wonderful
musicians. Our group had three musicians: Kuljit, playing the tabla drums, Jordan, playing the
clarinet and Joe, playing the marimba. The start of the day saw Joe arrive. After introductions, Joe
got us to do our first exercise, we would pick a time signature and a range of notes, and then
create a rhythm. The rhythm could be any rhythm we wanted. Then, finally, we would simply
assign notes to the rhythm. This simple but effective task meant only 30 minutes after seeing Joe,
we had our first part for marimba written. Joe came next, and he played our clarinet bars that we
had composed the night before, and talked about ways of improving them, as well as other
techniques on the clarinet. Then finally, Kuljit talked about the tabla drums and introduced us to
his own tabla notation. I was really inspired by all three musicians. Not only was it clear that they
had a love for their instrument and music — they also wanted to share that love and it was
infectious. I have never hear of table drums but they were very cool and I went to my room with
all sorts of ideas swimming in my head.
Wednesday morning saw the continuation of Kuljit’s introduction as he talked more in depth about
his tabla notation and the different sounds that the tabla can make. I was very surprised at the
range of sounds the tabla can produce, as well as the amount of tablas that he has, all tuned to
different pitches, perfect for a variety of pieces. The second key tutor session on Wednesday saw
the introduction of our brief for our composition. Our task was to compose a piece, no longer than
three minutes, for the three instruments, tabla, clarinet and marimba. Key tutor sessions three,
four and five were all heavily focussed on us starting our compositions. First we needed a plan,
and as soon as that had been signed off by Alison or Lucie, we cracked on with our piece. It was
really helpful for the plan to be signed off – I’ve never been over good at the planning – always
wanting to jump right in but I learned a new appreciation for its importance!
Thursday quickly became the most stressful day. We now had a deadline that we had to adhere
to; lunchtime on Friday when we had to be all finished. Thursday was definitely a heads-down
type of day, with everyone working flat out. There were some breaks however, as Alison, Lucie
and Kavy set up some activities for us to do outside. After participating in these, everyone felt
energised, and these sessions helped everyone (me especially) to recuperate. The fresh-air and
time away from the screen helped me to be able to produce better work. And by now we were
such a tight group we loved spending time together — and our run was shared on Twitter!
Friday was recording day for us. My recording session was recording session two, in which, the
musicians would play my piece for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing my piece being
played by the skilled musicians. It was way more emotional and real than listening to in via a
computer. Real, live music is important — it connects and moves people and this was a good
and personal reminder of that. I didn’t have any edits to make so my piece was complete. That
night, there were three concerts. I enjoyed them all, and they made me look forward even more to
mine being played.
Saturday came and the morning was spent clearing rooms and packing suitcases. After this, the
remaining concerts happened. I was really happy with how mine turned out. There was lots of
support in the room and I know my parents would be watching too. It was a brilliant end to a
brilliant week. I’d made music and friends. Sound and Music summer school is a great thing.