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Educational Resources

Lisa Illean:

arcing, stilling, bending, gathering

MotherTongue, MotherLand by Sunny Kim (lead artist, vocals, percussion), with Mindy Meng Wang (guzheng, vocals), Gelareh Pour (kamancheh, qeychak, vocals), Aviva Endean (clarinets, vocals).
portrait of musician Lisa Illean on light background looking to the right of camera

Lisa Illean

Image: courtesy of the artist

Written by
Rosie Pentreath
Published on
13th April 2023

In the kit for this piece, we’re going to get straight into the creative fun stuff, as a way to introduce some of the more complex ideas.

Let’s get creative!

Creative Activity 1 – Play a Whacky Game

Here’s a fun musical game you can play with the whole class. We’re using the free Theremin app here, but you can use any app or instrument that lets you “slide” sound, or even your voices!

Creative Activity 2 – Tuning into Quartets

Here’s the wonderful Genevieve Lacey, Artistic Director of Finding Our Voice, to tell us a little bit about Lisa Illean’s arcing, stilling, bending, gathering.

  • How does the idea of musicians tuning fit with the game we played in Activity 1?
  • Were you good at matching your friends’ pitches?

Let’s have a listen to a few moments from Lisa Illean’s arcing, stilling, bending, gathering.

  • What do you notice about the tuning between instruments?
  • What do you notice about the arrangement of all of the players?

You may have noticed that the string players were playing in groups of 4: quartets.

Quartet Performance Configuration on Stage

Get into a group with three friends.

Try playing the game that we played in Activity 1.

What other kind of interaction can you try?

Perhaps you can copy one another’s ideas, like this:

Prepare a short performance as a quartet, in this way.

Creative Activity 3 – Small and Subtle Changes

Perform your quartet ideas to another quartet (group of 4). Then, listen to their performance. Perhaps you can listen to a third quartet’s performance?

Here’s the composer Lisa Illean talking about how she developed her piece arcing, stilling, bending, gathering.

Lisa said: “I began with just a few bars ... the entire piece grew out of small and subtle changes to that ...”

Prepare a new, joint performance with small and subtle changes to the material you’ve already made. Think about:

  • How can you extend the ideas you already have? Can you teach them to the other quartet?
  • How can you use ideas from the other quartet in yours?
  • Can you make short ideas longer?
  • How will you organise the players in space to present your performance?

Present your piece with both quartets, or with three quartets, like in Lisa’s piece, to the rest of your class.

Presentation of Learning

As suggested above, two or three quartets should join together to prepare a performance with shared ideas. They should think about how they will organise players in space e.g. in a line along the stage, like in arcing, stilling, bending, gathering, or in a circle, or spread out antiphonally.

Performances can be given in-class, or to other school communities.

Australian Curriculum Mapped Outcomes

Year 7 and 8 Music

Investigate the ways that composers and/or performers use the elements of music and/or compositional devices in music composed across cultures, times, places and/or other contexts.

Studying the repertoire of Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning, Paragraph 7, and Lisa Illean’s arcing, stilling, bending, gathering by experimenting with pitch and the copying of pitched gestures and tunings. Could be extended by listening to music of diverse cultures that use non-even-tempered tunings, for instance Balinese gamelan or Persian dastgah.

Interpret music in a variety of forms and/or styles, manipulating elements of music and employing relevant vocal/instrumental techniques.

The study of the repertoire mentioned above can be explored by employing vocal/instrumental techniques that can be performed by any voice or instrument that allows smooth glissandi from pitch to pitch/micro-tuning (such as the Theremin app suggested and used in the examples, or others such as non-fretted string instruments, slide whistles, and so on).

Reference: View here

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and create, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Low view of Australian Outback landscape with red dirt texture heavily feature and dry grassy hill in the distant background