Some think of it as a warm up, some a starter activity, some do it out of habit. The class sit in a circle and somebody claps a rhythm, usually filling four beats. Most likely this rhythm is copied by the whole class. Then round the circle with each participant inventing a new rhythm pattern for all to imitate. I call it ‘tutti-solo’. It’s how a lot of musical practices work. As you know, with habit the class can get really smart with the rhythms they invent and fours beats can become eight, polyrhythmic textures created and so on. But why clapping? Why not vocalizing?
The tutti-solo idea brought into the classroom for pedagogical purpose might satisfy any or all of the following:
1. Internalizing structure
2. Developing aural memory
3. Nurturing invention
4. Building a taxonomy of rhythmic and melodic patterns
5. Creating ensemble
And all in a playful communal atmosphere where the need for each
participant ‘voice’ to be heard is balanced with membership of the class ensemble and contribution to the whole.
But add a musical backing to this where idiom and style infuse the music making and interesting things may happen. Being imaginative in the choices made about this stylistic stimulant will count for a lot. This could be mind-expanding, even thoroughly educative.
But all this has a history. Scrape away at the palimpsest of music education and there it is, but now embedded in all of those classic pedagogies that linger on the margins insisting that the aural does its work in making a thinking-feeling musical mind.