Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The ill-tempered orchestra

You've probably heard of the well-tempered klavier (the pianoforte) but not the ill-tempered orchestra.

This is a musical instrument formed entirely by human voices. The concept has its origins in "the gripe orchestra", an Improv routine that invites people to let go of their angst as a performance facilitated/orchestrated by the team leader. It's designed to let off steam.

The ill-tempered orchestra raises complaining to new artistic heights....with the perfect synchronization and artistic flair expected of the Boston Philharmonic.

Each table of participants is assigned a kind of complaining. Nigglers. Moaners. Whingers. Wailers. Grizzlers. Whiners. Grumblers. Each sounds like the music created by playing a violin, bass, bassoon, trumpet or trombone.

Each table of participants crafts the libretto for their instrument. The words are recorded and projected onto a large screen, so the assembled orchestra can read the score. Words like "nobody loves me", "It's not fair", "I don't want to", "I don't feel well", "It hurts me here."

The tympani section, the naysayers, set the beat...with their "No. No. No", or "Never, Never, Never" and each group extemporizes, chiming in whenever their instrument seems appropriate.

The result is amazing music, everyone falls about laughing, and strangely all our cares just simply fall away.


1. Craft the words for an orchestral complaint based on your assigned "musical instrument". e.g. grizzlers, whingers, wailers, moaners etc.
2. Come to the front of the room, stay in your groups, and play/create/perform a musical work. Start with the Naysayers (tympani). Synchronized/harmonize your performance with the other "instruments".

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