For the students of the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), school life isn’t really the same as it is for us. For one thing, they don’t get summers off. And, for another, instead of poring over science textbooks or calculating the value of ‘x’, they fret more about hitting the right notes while singing or correcting their piano playing technique. Their curriculum doesn’t just include practical learning; they study theory as well - under the guidance of trained musicologists and composers knowledgeable in both Eastern and Western music. But once in a while, to further hone their artistic and musical sensibilities, they are given a dose of international music through collaborations with international stars.
That is why the Stooges Brass Band, straight from New Orleans, Louisiana, found itself performing for a group of NAPA students in a small on-campus studio. And man, do they know how to put on a show. The Stooges’ style is a bit removed from what is known as traditional jazz, and is more - according to them - “new-age” jazz. They have remained innovative in their approach to the genre, adding elements of funk and hip-hop to their own music. The eight-piece band was consistently interactive with the eager music students, riling them up during songs, and imparting all the advice that they had to offer to them. It was more than just a good show - it was a learning experience. Even if you weren’t a student, but were still musically inclined like me, there was still a lot of information to take in about their instruments, their passion, and their musical culture.
The entire workshop was engaging and enlightening. The students listened with rapt attention as the front man talked about playing in the funeral marches before a burial, and how the same tune was played afterwards in a more upbeat manner for another crowd.
The band members even took out some time to explain and demonstrate the function and importance of each instrument in the music group. They were extremely eloquent and thorough with their explanations. Their passion was obvious in the way they aimed to clarify each point they were trying to make, and even when one of them went off on a wordy, passionate tangent the audience still had something to learn from it. At the end of the workshop, the students were allowed to ask the band members questions, and they made full use of the opportunity. The students took an active interest in what they had to say, as well as their take on the process of making music. Most of the band members had a lot of useful advice for the aspiring musicians, who stored away all the information for future practical use.
Culture generally tends to have a profound impact on the way we perceive music, as well as what musical preferences we develop throughout life. Our musical recognition, understanding, and memory, as well as the emotional influences of melody, are all greatly affected by our culture, and what is familiar to us. Even as infants we recognise and retain musical information that is known to us, and this is the way preferences are developed. This can eventually become a limiting factor, especially for a student learning to write and make music.
Learning the methods and taking into consideration the style of a band like the Stooges Brass Band, a lot of different ideas can be brought into the process of writing music. Listening to and studying music from all over the world exposes one to the millions of different ways sound can be manipulated to make melodies. In this case, for example, a student aiming to make his or her own music can even attempt to collaborate a personal musical style with an adaptation of the Stooges Brass Band’s methods and come out with something completely new. The presence and influence of musicians and composers of intriguingly differing methods, concepts and perceptions can lead to helping these music students in broadening their horizons during the process of making music.