Xylofonorkestern (The Xylophone Orchestra)
”Why are we here? To do what we can’t!”, we chant – failing, and failing well, are part of our process. We walk around, forwards and backwards, in and out of step. We sit in a long row and try to clap rhythms until our cheeks and thighs are red. Comments are made: ”This is too hard, it will never work!” Yet I am sure that what we are trying to do is not one bit hard. What is hard is finding the key to how we learn – the process of learning. And this is different for each individual. We should focus on talents, not on problems! When you are conscious of your particular talents, you can work towards things you haven’t yet mastered. You must start with what you already have! So for a number of what seem to be days without ends we sit, stand, walk and clap until the entire body becomes an instrument – while the light slowly returns and the mucky snow melts away on the pavements outside.
Some, of course, quit these often merry but nevertheless demanding exercises – which seem to lack a goal and look like they will never end – but others start to enjoy the process itself and, in particular, the moments when the body opens channels to the mind and all information gushes forth, lights are lit, signals flash and the eyes shout out ”I CAN!”
Why xylophone? Because the xylophone is physically close to its player, yet neutral with regard to the person. Hit a xylophone in the right way and it sounds the same for every player. You just need your two hands. Our first instrument is a long pentatonic wooden xylophone with room for three people on each side. This is where our work with polyrhythmic figures starts to develop, and suddenly our co-ordination exercises turn into music – which leads to a creative explosion in the group. In the summer, we take our xylophone out into nature, sit facing one another in the sun, listen and play. I start to toy with the thought that this is not pedagogics but music – whatever that is!
In the next step, each player gets a xylophone of their own. Instead of sitting in three pairs facing each other, six xylophonists now sit in a row facing an imaginary future audience. Not having a fellow player opposite that you can ”lean on” is a new challenge: from now on, you must stand on your own two feet! This develops the ability to stick to your own part and cross-rhythms whilst relating to your fellow players in a puzzle, like the pattern in a honeycomb.
The Xylophone Orchestra has performed at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, played many concerts in Stockholm and neighbouring municipalities via the Stockholm county music authority and held open rehearsals – followed by performances – with the dance group ”På Egna Ben” (On Our Own Legs) at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. We have played at the Stockholm Water Festival and at many other music festivals.
We release the album Stora Blå (Big Blue) at a concert at Las Vega on november 8, 2014
Don’t miss the slide show at the top of this page, click MORE IMAGES
Different roles, which often overlap each other, are crystallised in the group. The role of the bass xylophones is not merely to provide a foundation of various bass lines; they also have a melodic function, yet here among the pentatonic bass xylophones we have perhaps the foremost rhythmic talents – Santiago and Caroline, who really make the whole ship roll!
Towards the end of ”Desireless/Speechless”, Tomas freely plays complicated rhythmic lines on the bass xylophone whilst singing a melody above which only coincides with the bass line in a few places: totally brilliant and unimagi- nable!
Jennie Lind was a fully-fledged singer when I came to ”Stora Blå”. Now she is also a xylophonist and the orchestra’s pianist – hear Jennie’s piano and Caroline’s vibraphone improvise towards the end of ”Känguru” (Kangaroo) and at the start of ”Happiness”.
Manfred has a gift for rhythm and melody, but his greatest contribution is perhaps his continual inventiveness, which has given many important details in this xylophone puzzle. One important ingredient in the orchestra’s music is the sounds that do not come from wood. This is where Emiel contributes significantly to the rich sound of the orchestra with his sensitive ability to listen and to fastidiously play gongs, cymbals and other metal instruments.
The purely rhythmical percussion role is shared by Daniel on hi-hat and snare drum and Anders on cajón, bells and ceramic drums; both bring enthusiasm and know-how.
Thanks to Auris AB, Innovative Percussion and Nytida’s day centre Stora Blå kultur – and not least Anders Jalméus, Stora Blå’s leader.