A distinct musical approach

Inviting British composer Peter Wiegold, whose main theory is challenging traditional forms of instruction, to be a guest lecturer at the university may seem to counter the whole concept of academia.

However, for Wiegold, the two methods are comparable, not opposites.

The renowned musician visited Laurier on Saturday for the music faculty choir’s performance of his work Perfume in the Desert, organized by the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community (LcMc).

He also gave two workshops where he taught his unique method of making music.

“His value to us is his ability to balance the structure, the precision of music-making with creative opinion,” explains director of LcMc Lee Willingham, who asked Wiegold to give the workshops.

Wiegold is a world-renowned British composer who has developed his own method of music-making.

Differing from the traditional form of the composer’s absolute authority and the 60s freedom of complete democratic composition, Wiegold chooses to combine both methods in his technique, called “Third Way” theory.

The process is based on the expansion, or completion, of the composer’s “partial-score” with the musicians’ imagination.

Wiegold chooses to develop approximately 95 per cent of a score at the outset, leaving the rest to improvisation.

As a self-taught musician who later joined musical academia, Wiegold has always questioned the way music is made.

“There was always this question in my mind, why are we doing it this way? Where’s the individuality in the performance?” Wiegold explained.

For Wiegold, musical freedom necessitates a certain amount of trust between the composer and the musicians.

One must know his or her orchestra and believe their improvisation will properly fuse with the composed work.

Indeed, when the workshop turned into a training session, Laurier musicians were able to practice Third Way music-making with its theorist.

Wiegold followed his three-step instructing procedure.

As he moved from rigid structure to loose improvisation, telling the musicians to “do this,” “do something like this,” and “do what you like,” the room filled with beautifully abstract music.

A truly organic progression, the sounds were varied, each musician adding their own energy.

Willingham noted that despite initial struggles in this method, “Eventually the musical conversation starts to make sense.”

The musical conversation applies to the audience as well as the orchestra.

“On a simple level, it means listening to them,” he said.

Wiegold noted that he likes to include the audience in the performance by asking them what piece they want to hear and getting a sense of their moods.

Wiegold also appreciates the transcendental capacity of his Third Way.

“What’s nice about this process is you can do it anywhere because it is a basic way of doing music,” he explained.

Wiegold describes his method as not about trying to establish a perfect theory or changing music; he is simply looking for a strategy based on finding new ways to look at traditional relationships.

This strategy encourages evoking sound, instead of forcing it, and allowing the musicians to “catch” knowledge through the process, instead of being directly taught it.