Transforming Communities

Menuhin’s legacy : Collaboration and Improvisation in Music Outreach

Yehudi Menuhin believed that music and art could provide the basis to build stronger relationships between different people and cultures, and even help build peace between nations. It is rarely acknowledged, but Menuhin was one of the first high-profile musicians to experiment across different musical genres. He had a long association with Ravi Shankar, releasing several recordings with him, starting with West Meets East in 1967. He also collaborated with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, with whom he released the album Jalousie in 1973.

It was on this basis, that Live Music Now wished to celebrate this aspect of Menuhin’s legacy by bringing together musicians from different genres within the LMN scheme. Improvisation was always the basis for Menuhin’s own cross-genre collaborations, and so we asked internationally renowned jazz saxophonist and composer Tim Garland to lead a workshop for our musicians. It was supported by the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation and Help Musicians UK.

On Monday 14 March 2016, at the 1901 Arts Club in London, we assembled a unique ensemble of musicians, including classical pianists, flute and clarinet players, together with folk musicians, jazz musicians, and a percussionist. Most had never met before.

Tim presented an approach to improvisation and composition that started with an exploration of musical language, including different modes, and how these relate to underlying harmonies; as well as how to approach rhythm without being wedded to the four in a bar time signature prevalent in most Western music.

By the end of the day, the group had created several new pieces of music, and all were comfortable improvising around the different structures we had created. More subtly perhaps, the experience of such honest and exploratory collaboration had created a sense of trust amongst the group members, and the basis for new forms of musical identity to emerge.

Musicians said the skills they learned will have an impact on their regular LMN work in care homes, hospitals and schools. In particular, the confidence to improvise with other people as a basis for collaboration is very powerful, whether they are accomplished musicians from different genres, or vulnerable adults and children with little musical experience.

For more information on LMN’s Menuhin Centenary celebration, click here.

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