Animate and the musicians of the future

Animate Orchestra summer 2013For many Higher Education Institutions, the summer is a time for quiet campuses and holidays. At Trinity Laban however, when we said farewell to our term-time students, we welcomed many more learners into our summer schools. Our leading programme, Animate Orchestra is one of the summer programmes and returned to South London with two local courses held for young musicians living in Greenwich and Lewisham during the holiday. Both courses took place at Trinity Laban’s Dance Faculty, in the Laban Building, which was taken over en mass by more than 60 excited young people and their instruments, all ready for a week’s creative music making. Animate Orchestra, a partnership project between Trinity Laban, the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) and local music services, employs LPO musicians and music service staff, as well as a lead animateur, who all work with the young musicians to help them create their own music. The ‘theme’ for these two summer courses (chosen by the young people) was James Bond Music, in particular that of John Barry – and both groups began by spending time listening to, and then discussing, the various techniques Barry used in his compositions.

The Lewisham course saw the children split up into various mixed ensemble groups, whilst the music technology students got to grips with some very cool ‘Bond-style’ gadgets, making musical instruments from seemingly innocuous household objects. The technologists (agents Q, Y, E and I) produced some fantastic new sounds using Makey Makey’s – an invention kit which turns everyday objects into sound touch pads. LPO flautist Katie Bicknell and trumpeter Rob Willson assisted the wind and brass sections with their compositional ideas, whilst project leader Jason Rowland spent time with the rhythm section working to get that classic ‘Bond sound’ just right. The result when the different groups brought their ideas together was fantastic.

The Greenwich course – which took place later in the week – saw the young musicians explore the ‘special effects’ side of film soundscapes, including the use of Foley effects (the art of mimicking footsteps or rustling clothes) and background sound effects (imitating atmospheric sounds such as rain and wind). A few of the children then had the chance to create their own effects using specially placed microphones and amplifiers. One young musician had the idea of filling a mic’d bucket with gravel and using a heavy wooden plank to strike it with varying force and speed. This allowed the player to create a wide range of different footstep sounds (approaching with caution, running quickly, tiptoeing) which brought to the piece several different layers of tension. Several other children were then asked to create their own storyboards and came up with some truly amazing ideas – including one which involved Bond making a Houdini-like escape from a fantasy circus (pinned to a burning spinning wheel and surrounded by crazed elephants no less!). Creating music for these inventive stories was the responsibility the young people themselves, and with guidance from their tutors they came up with a brilliant final piece. The addition of the Foley effects during the performance was greeted by the audience with much enthusiasm and applause.

After four days’ creative music making the Animate summer courses came once more to a very successful end, and as the young musicians packed up their instruments the phrase ‘when is the next course?’ was heard repeatedly during final registration. Thankfully, however, there isn’t long to wait. Whilst the end of summer brings an end to the holidays, so too does it bring the approach of the new school year and the next Animate course – and to that we say, ‘bring on the autumn and the October half term!’

To find out more about Animate Orchestra and its courses, visit

Thank you to our Learning and Participation (Music) team for contributing this entry to our Learning blog.

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