Last week, composer and community musician, Matilda Brown, laid out how she introduced Figurenotes and the idea of matching to her music groups. If you missed it, you can read about it in last week’s blog post. In part 2 of the series, Matilda tells us about Figurenotes from a composer’s perspective. 

Part 2 – A Composer’s Perspective

Fun with colour, fun with shapes, mosaic patterns…a tune to make

I find it very simple to compose with Figurenotes. I not only write tunes with pupils, but I also use Figurenotes for my own compositions. It’s good to use different methods of writing, it keeps you fresh and makes you hear things differently – and colours make it fun!! I remember the comedy writer and director (Father Ted, IT Crowd, Black Books) Graham Lineham saying to make the writing process fun by using colour and big pieces of paper – to kid yourself you are having fun, because the idea of writing something from scratch can be very daunting and tedious.

Sometimes this is what I feel when writing in standard black and white notation. Figurenotes makes it easier for me to make sketches and short tunes that can be developed later. It can get “serious” sometimes working with standard notation and it can make you write things you think you should be writing rather than what you really want to write. It can over-complicate an initial fun and exploratory process.

Pupils, with a number of ways to learn, can work with Figurenotes immediately. It makes composing fun, simple, and rewarding straight away. For example: Choosing 3 colours, any 3 colours, playing them back, moving them around until you like what you hear is fun and creative. As facilitator, it’s then up to you to create the next platform in which the pupils can develop their tunes. Introducing rhythm and how the spacing of Figurenotes works, how to make notes longer and shorter, how arrows can give you even more options for notes, and how chords can fit with tunes.

You not only need to be able to help the pupils find their tune, but you need to be able to “hear” what the pupil is composing. That is what makes a good facilitator – waiting long enough until you know what they are trying to achieve and then helping them move forwards, whether that is deciding which key or mode fits their tune, or finding chords that might work well as an accompaniment.

If you find too much freedom with the pupils a little daunting for yourself as facilitator, you can give the pupils a specific palette to work from (e.g. the notes that fit the mode or scale of a song or piece of music you have already created in a group, or the tonic note to start and end the tune if necessary) Then it is simply a matter of building and developing the tune or chords from there.

It’s just like how many composers work; adding or taking away until you have the tune you desire. You must work intuitively with the pupils and observe all their choices when composing with them.

If the composer/pupil likes to work in a more theoretical and considered way right from the outset, through processed composition perhaps, Figurenotes allows you to do this too. You can choose colours first and create patterns from the colours before you even hear them.

But most of all, keep it fun!

Next week, Matilda will be showing us how she develops creativity and composition skills in her pupils at Hampden Primary School. You can see the rest of our guest blogs on our Figurenews page.


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