I had the pleasure of giving a workshop on organ improvisation for students of the Belgrade Music Academy. We achieved a lot on 5 days. The closing students’ concert was an important try-out, displaying lots of ideas, creative energy and skills.

 

We worked in mixed groups with both organ and composition students. A good match: knowledge of the organ’s possibilities was combined with ability to think in structures.

[the following sound examples are from exercises with students during workshop]

Different level of skills is not necessarily a problem: Sometimes we involved 4 musicians playing together at the organ. This can make you conscious of different musical roles, creating an interesting and complex polyphony.

Beogr_studex1.mp3

Simple exercises also help to explore the effect of silence, how simple can you be, how little do you actually need to do in order to create interesting music.

Beogr_studex2.mp3

Let's try to separate the two brain halves: playing and decision-making. One person the player, the other the boss. Don’t evaluate the musical result while playing - be in your idea.

Beogr_studex3.mp3

I enjoyed very much working with the two groups of four students. Atmosphere was friendly and cooperative. The only problem occured when on the final day we had to agree on the structure of the concert. Team work situation is intimate and challenging: you expose yourself, we need to establish an atmosphere of confidence. Discussing and improvising, it's the same thing: we can’t always agree, but we have to accept the other’s right to her/his own position. Collective improvisation is: to give space, listen, choose to go along or choose to intrude. Music, life, politics.

Beogr_studex4.mp3

Both workshops and concerts took place in St.Anton’s church, a most inspiring surrounding for contemplation and for new music. A circular building drawn by famous Slovenian architect Jožef Plečnik in the 1930's. The Franciscan brotherhood represented by Father Filip took very well care of us.

I gave a solo concert in the middle of the week. The shape of the church with its circular galleries gave me the idea to marke this space acoustically. Four of the students helped me with dropping ping-pong balls on the floor of the very high top gallery, the musical impulse for the start of my improvisation.

[the following examples are from my solo concert on Wed. Oct 13:]

Beogr_NHAex1.mp3
Beogr_NHAex2.mp3
Beogr_NHAex3.mp3
Beogr_NHAex4.mp3
Beogr_NHAex5.mp3

I have to say that the organ deserves better care, and I hope that there will be financial means to appoint a responsible organist and to do necessary restauration. The instrument from Slovenian builder Jenko has good material, and should not be allowed to deteriorate .

I would like to thank the Belgrade Music Academy for the invitation, especially dean Dubravka Jovicic for hospitality and interesting conversations. And, thanks to the students for a good time and for very good work! Also I have to thank the Norwegian Ministery of foreign affairs that supported my travel, represented by Norwegian Ambassador that was present at the student concert.

Finally, thanks to my friend Rastko Popovic who initiated it all, and who made my stay perfect including exploration of the fortress and of the sausage and cheese shops!