Tang Readers Chorus began with a bang at Liz Macy's Gamelan class this past Monday. With just 90 minutes together, Liz was kind enough to give us all a taste of "kecak"
(a Balinese group chant) by throwing us right in for a few rounds (it's a work out for sure). I assured them that compared to kecak, Readers Chorus would be a breeze! The class consisted of 25 students with tons of energy, all of whom were open and willing to give Readers Chorus a try.
After the frenetic warm up with our brief foray into 'kecak' we brought the pace down with a Readers Chorus counting/attuning warm up-
Standing in a circle, one person in the group counts everyone in, setting their own desire pace with "1, 2, 3" after the "3" this person chooses a number that the group will count up to. For example, if they choose the number "7", the person starts the group off by saying, at a steady and chosen pace, "1, 2, 3, 7."
After they have announced the last number, the group begins to immediately, at the same steady pace, count from "1" up to the last designated number, IN SILENCE. When they reach the final number, that final number is said out loud. Hopefully you will all get there at the same time. The kicker? People may NOT keep time by bopping their heads up and down or tapping their feet.
Try a few times in a circle facing each other, then try a few times in circle but with everyone's back to each other.
We then went right into Kate Kendall's (CalArts) "Butte/Mesa"
piece. I have learned very quickly this week that this is a wonderful piece to begin a Readers Chorus as it gets people reading right away while also being aware of the possibilities of a drawn score that takes on the form of the subject matter. The group of 25 was split into two and after running the piece several times over it dawned upon me that the coming and going of the text and volume sounded like wind blowing through the desert. Everyone looked at me a little oddly when I mentioned this, but that's definitely what I felt. For some students the shape of the score and the rhythm of the rounds reminded them very much of EDM music. We're hoping a new piece will come from this connection!
Next we went right into "Readers Rajio Taiso/ Readers Radio Calisthenics"
by yours truly (Haruko Tanaka) and everyone took to it right away. Rather than going into "Japanese George Clooney takes American Ken Watanabe to get sushi" it made sense to go into its prequel, which is structured as a warm up- Japanese words that are commonly found in English, read in structured sequences. I think we can definitely run this piece.
With just 20 minutes remaining, I felt that perhaps I was pushing my luck, but went ahead and asked if we could run "Whitney Houston," a brand new piece written by their fellow student Rob Brown
('17) who had beamed in the score from Hangzhou, China, where he is currently working very hard on a semester abroad. The group took to the piece like lightening. Rob, who had previously taken Liz Macy's gamelan class had composed the piece with "kecak" in mind. Below is a recording of our reading after just a few minutes of reading --