Ensemble Studies at the University of Manchester MUSC20610/20

Course Introduction

Welcome to ensemble studies at the University of Manchester! This page contains some introductory information about the content, delivery, and assessment of our Jazz Ensemble option (2020-2021). Please read the following information carefully.

Teaching and learning

Over the course of this semester you will expand upon skills already established in your solo performance studies by confronting performance contexts involving collaboration with other musicians and developing the skills of an ensemble player. You will learn about music from other cultures through performance and develop your critical self-awareness when working in a collaborative performance context.

You will attend weekly workshops in which you will learn to perform in, what is commonly referred to as 'a little big band', and will gain experience in repertoire, arrangement, rehearsal processes and improvisation. You will develop an understanding of phrasing and articulation that are appropriate to jazz performance.

To sharpen our ensembles skills we will study some of Ari Hoenig's rhythm training exercises which I had the opportunity to study with him in 2011-2012. We will begin practicing these exercises on a simple blues melody by Thelonious Monk ('Blue Monk'), with the view to apply these exercises to our repertoire.

Upon successful completion of the module you will:

  • Demonstrate an increased understanding of how Afro Latin jazz repertoire works and the contexts in which it is performed.
  • Agree on an interpretation with other performers, and apply understanding of music in order to realise that interpretation.
  • Show an enhanced ability to understand and apply analytical skills to music, and convey that understanding to other musicians.
  • Engage with other musicians in meaningful dialogue about music and its interpretation.
  • Demonstrate enhanced performance abilities.
  • Respond to and collaborate with other musicians in performance.
  • Demonstrate enhanced skills in problem-solving, interpersonal communication, rehearsal techniques and the practical application of analytical and interpretative insights.
  • Build on your confidence and interpersonal skills to work effectively in groups, showing skills relating to teamwork, negotiation, decision-making and leadership.
  • For more details visit the dedicated blackboard page for this course unit.

Our focus this semester will be on the interaction between jazz and music from the Latin Americas of significant or mainly African ancestry, what is generally understood as Afro Latin jazz. In so doing, we will explore popular songs of the previous century in contemporary settings. Music by Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Mongon Santamaria is transformed by Michael Philip Mossman’s inventive arrangements. The music is in a characteristically African 12/8 rhythm, sometimes phrased in 4, others in 3. Kaper’s popular song ‘On Green Dolphin Street’ composed for the homonymous film in 1944 and made famous by Miles Davis’s 1959 rendition in the best-selling album of all times, Kind of Blue, is transformed by Mike Tomaro into a 2-3 clave.

We will be joined virtually by Puerto Rican percussionist Carlos Maldonado. Carlos works with the grammy awarded Arturo O'Farill and the Afro Latin jazz orchestra as well as with Papo Vasquez's Mighty Pirate Troubadours. Carlos studied with Mossman at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens University, New York, and is a highly experienced performer.

Percussionist Carlo Maldonado

Whilst we will not be given the opportunity to perform in the Cosmo Rodewald Theatre as originally planned we will instead record, produce, and release a video performance on the department's YouTube channel on Wednesday 28 April. For this recording you will also be joined by Carlos Maldonado and Alexander Gagatsis.

Your studies will culminate in an assessed performance. We will examine both your performance as an ensemble, as well as your individual contributions to the group. You will choose your two best performances which you will upload to Blackboard 28 April.

You may wish to record your parts by using a digital audio workstation such as Reaper for which Professor David Berezan has prepared a very useful tutorial video. You will film your performances with your phones and synchronise audio and video. We have ordered and sent you microphones to facilitate recording at home.

Please note that assessment will take into account your performance across the course rather than relying solely on a final exam. You should therefore be aware of the need for consistent preparation, dedication and performance at all classes throughout the semester.

The poster from our last performance at Band on the Wall (1 December 2019)

You will find all the scores and information necessary on dropbox, by following the link here.

Example: the dropbox folder containing your parts.
Click on the title of the composition to find the corresponding parts

You may want to watch & listen to some performances by our guest speaker (I was sat in the front row in the first one)!


Created with an image by muzik-agaciniz - "your music tree music world music"