New Europe, old songs
The package, Bohemia to the Balkans, explores examples of instrumental and vocal material from Eastern Europe as a basis for developing composing, performing and listening skills.
The work is divided into four projects, each taking as its starting point a single melody from Slovakia, Bohemia or Macedonia. These tunes, with their unfamiliar rhythms and scales, provide a stimulating basis for a series of improvisations and investigations.
Each project includes an Explorations and Experiments section with ideas for using the scales and time signatures to compose new melodies and arrangements, as well as building on elements of the material using echo and repetition techniques. A What Next? section invites extension of these activities as well as research into the music of other regions and the work of major composers who have absorbed folk influences in their compositions.
The books include an appendix with more Eastern European tunes, which are played on the accompanying CD by The Carnival Band. These five musicians, including the author Andrew Watts, play a rich mix of acoustic and electric instruments: bagpipes, double bass, Hammond organ, mandolin and percussion.
Where tunes are performed in their entirety, the playing is exciting, and strongly encourages further exploration. Elsewhere, individual tracks are used to present this music in very elemental forms, whether as ostinatos or backing tracks. These can be used as demonstrations or as foundations for building further musical material during performance.
Bohemia to the Balkans is full of good things, mostly unfamiliar though all attractive. The music will be new to many young musicians and the opportunities for inventive responses to such lovely traditional material make this a very appealing pack.