Evoke a Theme for Your Musical Activity with Words

a seascape

The Power of Words

Using words to set a scene or a journey theme as part of your musical activity can help everyone come together with their thoughts and creative imagination. It’s a way of helping to make everyone feel involved in one common goal. You could pre-plan a theme or offer a choice of themes by holding a discussion with your group before the activity. Gather together an array of percussion which make lots of different sounds.  When delivering co-creative sessions, we work with themes in two ways – by setting a scene around a theme or describing a journey through a theme. 

Setting a scene around a theme. 

Through this activity, most of the dialogue is before you start playing. You would describe the scene, help people to relax and suggest closing their eyes. Build a picture in their mind of where they are, the sounds they can hear, how it smells and feels – try to use all the senses in your scenes. You could choose a relaxing piece of music to play behind the activity. Then, as you all start to play your percussion you can suggest a certain aspect of the scene and encourage people to play their percussion to describe it. Encourage everyone and praise individuals who are describing, with their piece of percussion, the aspect particularly well. This scene is all about imagining being in one special place together and tuning into what’s around them. 

a meadow of flowers

Here is an example of a scene and a list of suggested aspects. Relaxing in a summer meadow: The warm sun on your face, the sound of the ascending skylark above, the smell of the crop, a bee buzzing nearby, the pop and fizz of opening and pouring lemonade. If you’re going to use farm machinery to add another layer of sound, make sure it’s way back in the distance! 

Journey through a theme.  

With this activity you are going to talk more throughout, as you verbalise walking through the imaginary scene. There is a beginning a middle and an end to this journey. You can still explain where you are and where you’re going but it’s more about discovering on the move. It doesn’t have to be you all moving along it could be about the journey of something else. They both work well. As you are all playing (with or without backing music) you describe the journey as you go. It helps to start quietly, build up to a climax and then gently fade down to the end. It gives a satisfying shape and texture to the experience. 

a river

Here is an example of a scene and a list of suggested aspects. The journey of a river from source to sea: The gentle bubbling of the spring as the river starts its journey, the smell of fresh water in the mountain air, the sound of a crow arguing with another bird in the distance, a woodpecker nearby (cue the woodblock!), the creaking of the trees, the smell of moss, the sound of a waterfall, the cows in a field as the river passes by, the roar of the rapids and the calm and smooth flowing sound as the river gets wide and sweeps through the landscape, finishing with the crashing waves as the river meets the sea. 

These are just suggestions and I’m sure you and your fellow jammers can come up with all sorts of scenes to play with. There are no limits when you’re all using your imagination. Happy jamming! 

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