Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra: Making words into patterns

There are two orchestras associated with Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, the Main Orchestra and the Training Orchestra (TO); both of whom are working alongside composer Ben See on the Adopt a Composer scheme. We caught up with double bass player, James of the TO, to hear how the piece is being put together. 

In a few sectionals, we spent some time helping with the new piece that Ben is composing for us. There were many stages to the process, and it started with us thinking of a verb. After that we made that verb into one single line, of any length or shape that represented that word.

Moving back to our basses, we had a few minutes to create a simple tune representing that word. I chose the word “drying”, so my line was waving downwards.

My tune was a glissando down one of my strings with occasional jumps back up the bass. Other bass players came up with some spiky, staggered melodies, and some more complex ideas. 

The second time that Ben came to a sectional, he had written our ideas on paper. So we started experimenting on which ones sounded good together and which ones less so. After figuring that out, we started improvising over the top of these tunes one by one. After Ben had recorded them all, we came up with the idea of using percussion. 

I very much enjoyed doing these workshops, because it was really interesting to see what the other basses came up with. We also worked well as a group, because we came up with ideas to improve each other’s melodies making them as interesting as possible.

It will be exciting to see the next instalment, and to see if any of our melodies are added into the piece! 

Find out how the composer is getting on.

Read Ben See's blog