Further thoughts on Hummingbird Collaborative Twitter Symphony (#TwitSym) to fund inner-city music education

Image Credit: Arlene Ness Art

hummingbird twitter symphony

Hummingbird Twitter Symphony

Since there seems to be growing interest for Hummingbird Twitter Symphony, a symphony written by thousands to benefit thousands...

...I am putting all my ideas down for your viewing and comments.

You're probably asking "How is it possible to coordinate a symphony written by thousands." "The logistics are phenomenal. It would descend into chaos."

That's where you come in.

First a little background: A year ago I wanted to make an album of solo clarinet pieces with any profits going to improve music education in my local school system in Columbus Ohio.

Then I recently learned about El Sistima USA. El Sistema USA is based on the wildly successful venture in Venezuela to rescue thousands of children from crime poisoned and poor communities through musical learning, musical expression and connection to each other.

From El Sistema USA's website:

The El Sistema phenomenon is exploding in the U.S. and beyond! Organizations and schools around the country are eager to become part of the El Sistema movement and understand how they can build their music programs based on the El Sistema model. Programs inspired by Venezuela’s music miracle already exist in many U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, LA, New York, Pasadena and San Antonio. El Sistema USA discovers new efforts and impassioned individuals who want to join the national movement almost daily.

As El Sistema USA continues to develop, one of its primary goals will be to serve as a national umbrella, networking and advocacy organization for programs modeled on El Sistema.

Other thoughts have also been stirring in my mind in the past few months.

As a veteran blogger and social media lover, I see the Internet has changed not only how people form communities, but how people consume music, shifting focus away from private to public, from exclusive to inclusive. The arts in general are having to move from passive experience to active or participatory interaction with audiences.

Social Media is a powerful tool for collaboration. Virtually instant communication enables a "wave" of interest to quickly develop for a topic or event.

Social Media is also perfect for charitable fund raising, since many communities can benefit simultaneously, growing in buzz to heal those who need it.

The Hummingbird Twitter Symphony idea came into being as a way to demonstrate the power of the arts to implement change for those who need it most.

Although this project will mostly benefit programs in the US, my hope is to engage composers form around the world to inspire worldwide programs of music education to benefit children.

El Sistema programs could be funded where-ever local fund-raising supports it, either through performances of Twitter Symphony Hummingbird, or other local events.

The logistics are complex for sure. Questions that come to mind are "Who will organize the publicity, coordinate performances, market the event, centralize funds raised?", "Does El Sistema support it?" These are questions I have some ideas how to answer, but would rather invite open suggestions from marketers, publicity agents, fund-rasiers, charities and anyone who want to donate time.

The goal is to involve as many as possible and to spread the work around as much as possible.

I would use Kickstarter to begin raising money for the project. I admit, the non-musical organizing is definitely TBA, but I can offer the collaborative artistic concept.

Below are some basic ideas for musical concept, structure, instrumentation, lyrics and most of all, how to connect a veritable panoply of creative ideas into a meaningful whole!

Structural Concept - A collaborative symphony in five parts:

  1. Chaconne- Innocence
  2. Fugue- Community
  3. Choral w Solo Voice- Lullaby
  4. Rock Song (with orchestra)- Anthem
  5. Theme and Variations -Games

The method of actual composition will be completely democratic. However, in order to give the symphony a cohesive structure I propose the following:

1 Chaconne- Innocence- will be based on the Chickadee Call. Beginning in 5/2 and going where ever each composer wishes to take it. 15 minutes +- Here's the sample of that call-

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2 Fugue- Community- will be an Allegro "relay" based on 3 themes (submitted and democratically chosen); "sacrifice" "patience" and "faith" , each of which or all may be developed into a 32 bar or some semblance. Each composer contributing would pick up where the last composer let off. Relay order of composer will be picked by random lottery, to include some chance elements. 10 minutes +-

3 Choral w Solo Voice- Lullaby- will be just that. The instrumentation will be for concert band (with optional strings), and will feature local Youth Orchestra/Band groups. Submissions for lyrics and a SINGLE melody will be chosen democratically and developed cooperatively by several willing composers. 10 minutes +-

4 Rock Song (with orchestra)- Anthem- will feature a star rock band (my hope is that Wilco will be interested!) This movement will also have some orchestral and/or Gospel Choir (or any chorus) accompaniment. 10 minutes+-

5 Rondo and Variations- Games- Based on the Scherzo themes (all of them) of the Mozart Clarinet concerto K 622 3rd movement, it will be in 6/8 Rondo, with each return to rondo as a harmonic variation (new composer) on the first theme in 6/8. This movement could feature open jazz sections inspired by the scherzo themes.

The orchestration will be modest sized - early romantic orchestra (as defined HERE) to allow performances by smaller orchestras (like my own Columbus Symphony).

Musical submissions will be compiled and voted on by the public. The voting results will not be used as exclusionary, but will help to influence and narrow the choices if the work becomes too long. Who knows it may end up really short!

I propose one person be elected "chief" technical coordinator (coordinating the logistics of instrumentation, transitions, order of joining of parts, etc). This person would of course require ample knowledge and experience in orchestration and harmonic or stylistic continuity.

Submissions from composers (or anyone wishing to submit a musical idea) would best be submitted as MIDI files to be voted on and/or added to the mix by the Chief Coordinator.

Let me know if you have any other ideas or suggestions as to how to organize it. I NEED YOU.

Performances of the premiere could be secured in an on-going basis. (My hope is that many communities and orchestras will be interested!)

All ticket proceeds would go to benefit a valid children's music education program. My hope is that El Sistema programs will be funded in dozens of cities around the world.

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