Minidoro 2 Lesson

MINIDORO II presents three distinct ways of extending the MINIDORO I project :
A: by using different modes to create extended and rounded minimalist compositions;
B: by developing non-repetitive musical material (melody) to fit with the minimalist textures work already developed;
C: by introducing the concept of “phasing”.

With careful and creative blending of all of these elements, stimulating and challenging pieces should evolve in group work using a variety of instruments or in individual work, where students have access to a computer, sequencer and MIDI tone-input. Before starting make sure you have set up the MIDI file in your sequencer (see preparatory notes)

A: Using different modes

1. Explain the fact that MINIDORO I was based in the Dorian mode, i.e. that although the class was using “white-notes” only (like C major), the music was anchored by the bass, in particular, to the note D (not C).
2. Explain the eight medieval church modes (information sheets in non-editable PDF format – MEDIEVAL MODES or in editable html format with sound).
3. Spend time experimenting with the whole class in the style of MINIDORO I, but now use the Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes and transposing the “goal notes” to E & B, F & C and G & D respectively.
4. Ask the class questions:

  • whether different modes have different characters?
  • do the notes which lie a semitone away from a “goal note” (i.e. C-B or E-F) present different musical challenges compared to the other notes?
  • what might be done to best exploit the semitone challenge?
  • if a class or group improvisation were to change mode in mid-flow how could this be indicated without everybody losing their place?
  • how would the class or group know when the piece finishes?

5. After following up these questions with appropriate practice, set the class or groups to work on an extended composition which includes changes of mode. Record each performance. Discuss and evaluate.

B: Creating melody

1. Return to the cycled MIDI file of MINIDORO. Play and, as teacher, improvise an extended “white note” melody. At the beginning of most cycles you will find D & A again to be the most appropriate notes. In fact, you will probably find that you are linking together a series of MINIDORO I – type improvisations with no, or only very little, repetition. Note that by using notes of much longer duration than eighths and quarters, you can make the melody stand apart from the repeated patterns of the MIDI file.

2. Ask the students:

  • how your melody differed from the MINIDORO I improvisations they have already created?
  • how your melody showed similarities to the MINIDORO I improvisations they have already created?
  • what musical ideas they would bring to a melody which you did not?

3. In the light of their answers, the class or groups should aim to improvise with or without the MIDI file (Some tracks might be better muted). To develop listening skills it is a good idea to divide groups into two halves: one to play the repetitive patterns, the other to take it in turns improvising melodies.

4. Record, play, discuss and evaluate the results.

5. If you have already worked at MINIDORO II-A and are able to use different modes, integrate the work of these two sub-projects together. Record, play, discuss and evaluate the results.

C: Phasing

Phasing is a term coined by the composer Steve Reich for a technique in minimalist music where, through minute changes to the repeated patterns, the patterns get out-of-phase with each other. However, as time and repetition proceed the misplaced synchronization (whether in rhythm or pitch) gradually corrects itself. For example, if the looping of the top track of the MIDI file were reduced from 8 to 7 quarters /beats in duration, while the other tracks remained looped at 8 quarters duration, the top track would come in earlier and earlier on each repetition of the file. However, after 8 repetitions it would synchronize with the others again for one cycle before getting out-of-phase again.

To practise this technique return to MINIDORO I (Activity 5).  Then:

1. Practise counting less or more than 2,3,4 (e.g 2,3 or 2,3,4,5,6,7 etc.) after the “yeah”-note which finishes the improvised Dorian patterns which start/end on D and/or A. This is best done as a large group activity to build confidence.

2. Play the MIDI file and repeat this exercise so as to get the class used to the phasing and to build concentration.

3. Divide the class into two or three groups and see if they can all hold patterns of different duration against those of the MIDI file. Record.

4. Play recording and discuss:

  • when did all the patterns come together?
  • at what interval did they come together?
  • how successful was the end result?
  • how would you go about creating a piece with a clear structure using this technique?
  • is it possible to merge this technique with the other techniques learned in MINIDORO II, i.e. using different modes and creating melodies over the repeating patterns?

5. Listen to some to the works of Steve Reich which use phasing technique. Discuss and evaluate them. (See project further materials and follow-up for list of pieces and recordings.)

6. Composition exercise in groups (or individuals at MIDI-computers) to produce extended compositions.

7. Record, play, discuss evaluate pieces