Timbre is a musical element which describes the quality of a sound.
You could describe a sound in terms of pitch / intensity / duration / whether or not it had a repeated pattern but also in terms of its timbre (clanking / rasping / chiming / thudding / buzzing / metallic etc. sound). Interestingly, this musical element can be simultaneously easy and difficult to articulate with words depending on one’s vocabulary and life experience.
We use lots of onomatopoeic words (zoom, bang, whoosh, hiss, etc… words whose sound matches the sound of they describe) to describe sounds found in everyday life. So it can be just a little step to apply these words to music.
This summer, Rhythm Circle’s Musical Holiday Club ended with a workshop on Timbre. We explored sounds which you could make using the human body (no rude sounds allowed!). Cue lots of foot stomping/ clapping / finger and tongue clicking / hair swishing. What made a ‘tap’ different to a ‘boom’? How could you make whispery sounds without using your voice?
Vocal sounds were great fun and led into a discussion about how a face might look when producing a particular sound. It was great spelling practice for the students to write down their lists of sounds.
In the RC workshop, two different groups of students used Rebecca Rochelle’s poem ‘Fireworks’ to create a musical soundscape. The poem consisted of words which described the sound of fireworks. The students explored and demonstrated ways to create sounds which matched each word. We discovered that ‘zoom’ seemed to inspire movement, and everyone unanimously agreed that ‘whizz’ was the hardest one to demonstrate.
If you have a young child and want top-quality musical experiences for them, then let me introduce you to B’Opera.
Rhythm Circle was invited to the press preview of their latest production Alice and the Library Tree . So…. son and spouse in tow, I went along last Saturday 8 June 2019 to Sutton Library where the event was being held . after-hours.
I had not come across B’Opera
before and was deeply curious about their work on a couple of levels. Firstly, as
a mum to a rumbunctious 3 year old I was keen to find good quality music / theatre
experiences which were produced by people who understood how to work with very
young children. There is a distinct lack of top-rate musical/theatrical/art
experiences by actual music/theatre/art specialists who understand how to
deliver the best possible experience to very young children. Secondly, as a
professional musician, I wanted to see what other people in my industry were actually
doing to fill this niche.
Well…. I loved the whole
production, from choice of music (Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner amongst others) to length of show
(perfect length for a restless toddler), inventive costumes and set (loved the Zimmer frame tortoise, and
the tree). It was a bespoke mini-opera for little ones and the
whole experience was simply wonderful!
As a mum:
My 3 year old son really enjoyed it. He was really tired due to the late hour (it finished at 6pm when he usually has dinner and bedtime) but he just kept on being caught up in the show. The children were invited to join in at various points throughout the show, but could opt-out if they didn’t feel like it. Now this is a REALLY important thing for my deeply-suspicious son. He watched the sing-along from the safety of Daddy’s arms, regretted not joining in, and straightaway jumped in the next time the audience were invited to participate. There were themes and ideas which he could follow, emotions he could identify with, and each segment was perfectly timed in terms of length. The whole family had a great time and I would definitely look out and go for the next B’Opera show.
As a musician:
It was so satisfying to see a musical production that was specially created for very young children. We had real musicians performing, and as a trained musician I am happy to vouch for the quality of prep and performance. B’Opera prepared the whole thing as they would normally have done for an opera onstage. Serious musical expertise was on display here, folks! This was bespoke art with a capital B. It all looked so simple, but the musical score could not have been put together by anyone other than seriously experienced musicians with good taste and artistry. The songs could not have been sung by anyone other than experienced singers with good technique, great communication, and stage presence. Not forgetting all the supporting people who made the magic happened, like costume and set designers (apologies to anyone at B’Opera whom I missed out)