Sunday, October 25, 2015

Soundpainting with Walter Thompson (Lecture Review)

I've never been a fan of the requirement to take MUS100 (Concert Class) but on October 6th, 2015, a change in the schedule was made and Walter Thompson came to give a lecture on soundpainting. Soundpainting is an art form Thompson created as a response to traditional composing and conducting. The conductor composes on the spot and the orchestra performs based on the gestures of the conductor. There are over 1,200 gestures in soundpainting and while that may seem overwhelming, they are simple and intuitive enough that memorizing them is easy.

I'm glad that a music lecture tied in so well with our Sound and Image class because it really ties class together. The improvisation of conducting and the orchestra and audience getting involved made it more of performance art than traditional music. It may also be considered avant-garde because of how unconventional it is.

Thompson spoke about how there are numerous countries all over the world that have adapted soundpainting into their repertoire. There also aren't any language barriers in soundpainting because the gestures are universal and it is similar to basic sign language. Thompson asked the audience to come up on stage if they had an instrument and he gave a demonstration on how soundpainting worked. I was surprised that the orchestra remembered 20 different signs and paid enough attention to be synchronized.

Soundpainting breaks down the walls of traditional music because nothing is written down and everyone has their attention on the conductor. The conductor and orchestra are also really the only ones who understand the signs so an uninitiated audience may think the conductor is overly expressive and the music is just bizarre. Walter Thompson also stresses the importance of fun over accuracy. If one laughs or plays the wrong part, keep going and don't stifle any outbursts. It's spontaneity that Thompson finds most fascinating.

Thompson also got the audience involved with some signs and the fourth wall was broken when the audience and orchestra battled back and forth, playing off each other  and creating some really interesting sound experiences. I found the lecture and demonstration absolutely enthralling and really enjoyed how different the whole thing was. My ideas of music performance were shattered and this new improvised way of composing and playing really opened my eyes to a new world of sound art.

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