Field trip to Wik

A mere hour’s drive south of us, there’s another one-year music course at the Wiks folkhögskola. Theirs is more of a world-music program, with plenty of percussionists and nary a nyckelharpa in sight. But every year our two classes get a day-long opportunity to meet up and work together in small groups and see what kinds of collaboration emerge. The concept is inspired: cross-genre exposure, meeting new musicians, visiting another folk school, getting practice with creating arrangements in advance and with others, mini performances. The execution, however, seemed to retain a few wrinkles.

On our end, we paired up a couple weeks in advance, and then each pair chose a corresponding group of 3 Wik students based solely on their names and instruments. Andrea and I elected to work together, since we don’t do that so often here. We picked the group with a bass clarinet, which also happened to be the only one that was sure not to involve a drum set. Our entire class worked hard at advance prep, made a special point of sending them mp3s ahead of time (two from each ESI group) so the Wik students could learn the melodies, worked out other parts and arrangement ideas — in short, treated the whole thing like an active assignment.

We received no prep materials in exchange — and when we arrived, only one of our three collaborators showed any signs of having listened to our mp3s at all. (I gather that other groups met with more active partners.) So we used a lot of time teaching melodies, which seemed like a poor use of resources. Also I was disappointed that working with a “piano” player meant, in our case, that we were shunted to the overflow parking (the library rather than one of the music rooms) with a keyboard-shaped object, when there were real pianos in most of the other rooms.

All of these handicaps notwithstanding, it was a pleasant day with genial folks. I thought we managed to get some interesting work done and create some creditable music together, albeit not necessarily during the designated performance time at the end of the afternoon.

The one tune our Wik group brought was a sort of Swedish-Balkan tune. They didn’t know what it was, had recently gotten it in a class chapter about Balkan music and thought maybe their teacher had made it. Since two of the three parts sounded awfully familiar (except for the Swedish lyrics about eating crayfish, and choosing what I thought was the harmony line as the melody), I ran it by some friends back home and came back with a concurring diagnosis: Macedonian, often just danced as a lesnoto. That tune has probably not seen too many nyckelharpas before. :)

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