'Ha', as in 'happy'

Composer Aran Browning on his first meeting with the Strathendrick Singers for the Adopt a Composer project

So I have recently been selected as the Adopt a Composer Scottish Pairing for 2016-17, working with the Strathendrick Singers on creating a new work. The project really resonates with me – creating relevant and community focused work connects to my interest in concepts of everyday life, nostalgia and personal experiences while thinking about approachability and accessibility allows me to continue challenging my writing, building upon recent work for inclusive audiences and performers – and I am interested to see how the creative process develops.

It has been thoroughly exciting and intriguing so far, with two insightful trips down to London – one to discover who I was being paired with and another to share, discuss and learn from fellow composers skills, experiences, activities and techniques of working in group settings, generating material and playing with sound.

I also went along to the Strathendrick Singers weekly rehearsal last week, giving a brief introduction about myself and the project and enjoyed listening (and singing!) in Balfron Church as well as chatting with choir members in the coffee/cake interval – they were a really welcoming and friendly group who I’m looking forward to getting to know, share experiences and create music with more in the coming weeks and months.

During the recent composer skills day we were all asked to give a 15 minute workshop starting/developing music material and I thought I would take the opportunity to try out and explore something relevant to the Strathendrick Singers, which I could then modify and develop.

The impetus behind my 15 mins came from seeing the choir practicing emphasising and pronouncing consonants/vowels such as accentuating the F (Ph) sound from Flow. I started by giving two examples to the group – ha as in happy and ks as in tracks, and then halved the group and gave one syllable to each side to say when they heard one (they could choose someone on the other team to focus on) of the other side say theirs. 

After this I asked everyone to choose a syllable that they liked the sound of and also write the word it came from on paper I handed round – the resulting syllables were then shared with the rest of the group with each person explaining why and then the group joining in to echo the sound.  Next, I split the room into small groups (3/4s) and gave each some time to create something using their syllables, perhaps combining, layering or alternating their sounds to form a short ‘piece’ – these were then performed, shared and discussed. Through this, the hope would be to create new material (potentially from related, personal or local/community words/topics) and to explore sounds together.

I’ll be continuing to blog about the Adopt a Composer experience throughout the process with thoughts, ideas, musical material and experiences, particularly after a first proper workshop towards the end of the month.