These books are getting some great attention!
We were so excited to read these reviews of our books from the Isabel McNeill Carley Orff Essentials Collection, we wanted to give you the opportunity to read the reviews in their entirety. Thanks for the permission to reproduce, Orff Canada and American Recorder.
Making it Up As You Go: Selected Essays, Writing About Music, Improvisation and Teaching
Review in Orff Canada’s Ostinato by Catherine West
This collection of twenty-one essays from the pen of one of our most thoughtful pioneers is a landmark publication. Anne M. Carley, the compiler and editor of this collection, characterizes it as a “long valentine to Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, particularly.” Anne has drawn on published and unpublished writings her mother completed over a period of thirty years. A passionate believer in the Orff Approach, IMC (as she is referred to here) articulates her respect for the compositional excellence represented in the Music for Children Volumes, her strength of belief in Orff process (as opposed to product) and an energetic dedication to “the supreme importance of improvisation.” Isabel Carlel was a member of the first-ever yearlong intensive training course at the Orff Institute in Salzburg in 1963-64; after that she returned to the USA to become a leader in the North American Orff movement for the next forty years. Many of these essays first appeared in The Orff Echo or Ostinato.
The book is divided into three sections: Origins, Practicum and Exhortations, with some useful reference material in a Resource section at the end. The first section covers basics of the history of Orff Schulwerk, including a very welcome essay about Gunild Keetman. She explains that most of the instrumental pieces in the volumes were Keetman’s work, while most of the vocal pieces were Orff’s; she lists and describes the important contribution of the “little grey books” ( no longer in grey in their latest incarnation) which contain such a wealth of additional material by Keetman. IMC notes that Orff never taught a child in his life; Keetman was the pedagogue. Further she says that Keetman’s writing on movement in Elementaria: First Acquaintance with Orff-Schulwerk “remains the only adequate guide to musical movement training in relation to the Orff Approach that I have ever seen.”
IMC draws attention to the use of many pentatonics in the Schulwerk, including those centred on tones other than doh or lah. She was an advocate for the use of American folk songs featuring many modal, and unusual pentatonic tone sets; she points out that this melodic variety was not available to Orff and Keetman in their native Bavarian musical culture, so the North American teacher actually has a richer heritage to draw on in this respect.
A concept that she labels and explores with persuasive conviction is what she calls the “gapped major scale.” This is her term for a pentatonic melody with strong harmonic implications of chord change (the most obvious example being the occurrence of re on an accented beat in a doh pentatonic melody). By contrast, the truly pentatonic melody has no theoretical gaps or harmonic implications, and can be accompanied by a drone. This is a key concept familiar to all who have taken Level One Orff and I like this very useful addition to our vocabulary for discussing it.
The essays in the “Practicum” section of the book provide the basic where and why of complementary orchestration, improvisation, hand drum, recorder and more, along with global advice about how to maintain a balanced program. In the “Exhortations” section I particularly enjoyed the essay on “Ersatz Orff (And How to Avoid It).” She provides an excellent list of things to look for in Orff publications, including a warning that, “there are all too many smarty texts in current use, which betray a lack of respect for the children for whom they are intended…there is no excuse for short-changing the children we teach-particularly in an approach based on the sensitive use of speech.”
Altogether this is a collection to savour, to dip into and read in bits and pieces, or from cover to cover. It clarifies important, perhaps sometimes overlooked, understandings from the dawn of the development of Orff pedagogy and inspires belief in the model, and its ongoing relevance.
Recorder Improvisation and Technique Books One, Two and Three
Reviewed in Orff Canada’s Ostinato by Kim Kendrick
The first edition of Isabel McNeill Carley’s Recorder Improvisation and Technique books came with an endorsement from the great pedagogue, Gunild Keetman, co-collaborator with Carl Orff of the Orff-Schulwerk. Ms. Keetman says, “Your recorder books are excellent……completely in the spirit of the Schulwerk.” I humbly and heartily agree with this ringing endorsement of a wonderful series of resource books for teaching recorder in the Orff classroom, and was pleased to see it included in the fourth and latest edition of the series.
Anyone who has worked with Ms. McNeill Carley’s book, The Magic Circle: Activity and Singing Games for Young Childrenwill recognise the clear, well developed teaching activities beautifully set out in a way that makes them accessible to both experienced and inexperienced teachers. All of the Schulwerk teaching elements are present in all three books. In Book One, all of the well-developed lesson plans have headings like “Echo” and “Improvise.” It is very clear that she is a master teacher, with a deep knowledge and understanding of the work of Keetman and Orff, particularly the five volumes, Music for Children, that provide the basic canon for Orff teachers. The ideas for improvisation are varied and realistic for classroom use. For example, in Lesson 2, several rhythm patterns are provided, and the instruction is for the children to play one of these on the new note, G, whilst the teacher improvises against it (teachers, take note: practice your own recorder skills. There are many opportunities for you to model good playing technique!). Every lesson provides ideas and suggestions for integrating recorder with other media: singing, playing pitched and non-pitched instruments (ostinati). There is a flexibility around literacy which will provide a freedom for both teachers and students to follow the maxim of Carl Orff – “Experience precedes cognition,” and which allows for the possibility of lots of real and rich music making opportunities from the very first class.
It is interesting and provocative that Ms. McNeill Carley begins with the notes C’ and A, rather than the usual BAG. Lesson 2 introduces G, and then Lessons 4 through 6 bring in low E, high and low D, and then low C. Thus, the class is now working with the C+ pentatonic scale, and using both hands. This is Part One of the book. Parts ll and lll introduce the notes needed for G and F pentatonic, and in this way RIT works very closely with the layout of the first three volumes of Music for Children. Whether by design or by happenstance, this progression of notes has resulted in a large vocabulary of musical material, with folk music from around the world. Book One will be extremely useful to teachers of Grades Four and Five recorder programmes.
Book Two continues in the same masterful way, introducing the alto recorder. This is an excellent resource for experienced teachers of the upper grades, 6, 7 and 8. The repertoire continues with folk music, largely English language, and also brings in a fine selection of composed music written for recorders. Part l of Book Two begins by reviewing the familiar pentatonic scales, but introducing the F fingerings of the alto recorder. Parts ll, lll and lV are deal with hexatonic, and diatonic scales, then we move on to shifting chords and paraphony. There are plenty of lovely ideas for student improvisation, and the emphasis on doing first, then, applying literacy is still evident. Students are encouraged to move back and forth between soprano and alto fingerings, at their own pace, of course. They are also challenged to build a repertoire of songs, in both fingerings, that they can play by memory. Integration of two or more other Orff media is included in every lesson.
Book Three is sub-titled “Advanced – Composing, Arranging, Analysis,” and it is advanced! This would be an excellent resource for Grades 7 and 8, and even secondary school programmes, and will be very inspiring for knowledgeable and experienced Schulwerk teachers. The modes, introduced in Book Two, are further explored. Functional harmony is introduced, as are the natural, melodic and harmonic scales. Lesson 3 includes a discussion about musical style in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with opportunities for students to experiment with ornamentation and variation. Lesson 11 is about making descants, and Lesson 12 features “improvisation for Movement,” and “accompanying movement”!
All three books have some of the most concise, well-organised and helpful indexes I have ever seen. The lessons referenced include the focus of the lesson, what is introduced, which recorder voices are used and the titles of the music. All three books include language directed at both the Teacher and the Student(s). Each of the new edition books has an expanded reference and resource section at the back, and Book One includes a lovely Appreciation written by Ms. McNeill Carley’s daughter, Anne, who was the force behind this edition. I sincerely thank her that she has brought this about.
I was so impressed with this work. I highly recommend Book One to anyone with at least Level One Orff who is teaching the junior grades. I think that teachers who have Levels Two and Three will be most comfortable with the second and third books, and this is a great reason for you to get to a Levels course soon, to acquire these Levels!
Recorder Improvisation and Technique (2011) books
Reviewed in the American Recorder Society’s American Recorder by Leslie Timmons
Published as part of the new Isabel McNeill Carley Orflf Essentials Collection,” these three volumes are long-awaited new editions of invaluable material for music educators who teach recorder. Especially useful for the classroom, but equally appropriate for private instruction, they provide the framework for a curriculum designed to develop comprehensive musicianship. As one reviewer commented on a previous edition, “Isabel Carley has given us a guide to musicianship. The recorder is only the means.”
New to these editions is a larger format with updated layout and improved typesetting of musical examples. The expanded table of contents specifies new material introduced and tides of repertoire for each lesson. Supplemental information is provided in user-friendly chart form: fingering schema, percussion abbreviations, hand signs, pentatonic scales and modes.
Book One, now in its fourth edition, comprises 11 short lessons from the original publication. It systematically introduces fingerings from the C pentatonic scale, continually reinforcing new skills as it expands to F and G pentatonics. A step-by-step process introduces bask recorder skills in a highly interactive context of singing, moving, responding to Kodaly hand signs, echo play, and accompanying on pitched and non-pitched percussion.
Improvisation is a key component of the instruction; Carley’s suggested exercises—presented in clear, incremental steps—make this model accessible for teachers regardless of previous experience. Repertoire is either newly composed or drawn from folk sources.
Book Two, third edition, builds directly on skills introduced in Book One, also introducing the alto recorder and F fingerings. On both soprano and alto recorder, 13 lessons review pentatonic keys, then explore the diatonic modes, and finally briefly introduce improvisation over chord changes. Musical content in this volume may take a leap beyond the scope of many classrooms, but it provides a wealth of material in a structured pedagogy for developing recorder technique.
Recorder technique, presumed to be highly developed by now, is no longer the purpose in Book Three, second edition; players must switch easily between C and F fingerings. The original three books were intended to augment the Orff-Schulwerk sequence of instruction and materials. The third volume, although specific to recorder, is equally applicable to the musical development of any vocalist or instrumentalist.
In 12 lessons, Carley deftly guides the player through scales, melodic ornamentation, decoration of the third, canons, chord changes, descant creation and free improvisation. She includes many fine musical examples, but the focus is the emphasis on improvisation leading to composition in the forms that parallel the history of Western music.
Carley (1918-2011) was already an accomplished educator and published composer when she was drawn to the child-centered, creative teaching philosophy of Carl Orff in the early 1960s.These volumes contain a wealth of practical pedagogy for learning and teaching recorder—a reflection of her incomparable musicianship and extensive work with children and adults in ensemble settings. These new editions enable access to this unique approach to developing recorder technique through improvisation.