Development of Expressive Conducting Technique: Harmonic Rhythm and Chant, Add Laban and Body Mapping
Dr. James Jordan presented an exciting workshop yesterday about body-mapping and conducting. He was such a compelling and engaging speaker and I can say that my perception of my body-map has definitely been enlightened. Prior to this session, my conducting professor Dr. Derrick Fox had us watch a portion of his DVD, Anatomy of Conducting, so I was a little bit familiar with Dr. Jordan’s conducting approach.
“The choir will perceive what you perceive.” Dr. Jordan explained that awareness of your own body will inform how best to shape your conducting gesture in order for the choir to respond. He also warned us against copying other conductors' gestures because they have different bodies than you.
As conductors, we must remember that sound is fluid, and that sound is a horizontal event, not a vertical event. In order to convey this, we have to know how our joints work in our arms we conduct with.
How many joints do we have in our arms? Many people will conclude with 3 joints: your wrist, your elbow, and your shoulder. But actually, we have 4! Your shoulder being the third joint is a false preconception. Your third joint is actually in your armpit! To the right is a picture of the skeletal structure of your arm Dr. Jordan provided.
Dr. Jordan suggests, “Use a water bottle. Stick it up your armpit!” That way, you can feel the joint and how it works with your arm. The fourth joint is in between your clavicle and sternum (right in the center between your two shoulders) – place a finger there and move your arm, and you can feel that joint move! Knowing where your joints are is crucial for any conductor in order to fully understand their own body and how to shape their gestures to best inform their ensemble.
Dr. Jordan then moved into Laban Effort/Shape that shows flow, weight, time, and space in your gesture. It is a very interesting methodology that I would love to research more into. In order to use this expressive language of your body, the harmonic rhythm of a piece can inform you on how to shape a phrase. Dr. Jordan used Mendelssohn’s “Verleih’ Uns Frieden” as an example. Most people would analyze the first phrase as 4 bars + 4 bars, but by analyzing the harmonic rhythm, it makes sense to interpret it as 6 bars + 2 bars. I will upload a snippet of his session explaining this concept--check back soon!
Here is a helpful bibliography list that you might want to check out. There are some very interesting and informative resources on this list!
-Sunhwa Reiner (Junior and ICACDA President-Elect)
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