Qantara Berklee is an ensemble that blends Arab, jazz, Western classical, and Latin American music to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography. Qantara means arch in Arabic, and this ensemble provides students an entryway to these musical cultures. Students in this ensemble will develop their instrumental, aural, and improvisational skills in this unique context at the same time as understanding how to fuse different modes, rhythms, and compositional concepts to create a cross-cultural ensemble.
The South American Contemporary Music Ensemble focuses on the performance of modern arrangements of music from different South American countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and others. This course emphasizes stylistic integrity, as well as melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic accuracy. Students use advanced analytical tools by learning how to recognize traditional elements in folkloric music from different regions in South America. Using unique creative processes, the students adapt these traditional elements into modern arrangements of the same tunes, or new compositions inspired from these folkloric elements.
This ensemble will perform contemporary compositions and standard repertoire from the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia. Emphasis is on improvisation, communication within the ensemble, developing a groove (including tunes in asymmetrical meters), and exploring the musical resources of the Middle East. Since the music is primarily modal, this ensemble offers students to an opportunity to explore dynamics, instrumental timbre, embellishment, and phrasing free from the constraints of complex harmony. Repertoire is chosen each semester, based on students' preference, from the work of artists such as: Fairuz, Abdel Wahab, Natacha Atlas, Laço Tayfa, Simon Shaheen, Charbel Rouhana, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and many others.
A large ensemble modeled after afro-pop bands of West Africa but fused with American influences. Styles include afro-beat, soukous, and derivative American styles. The music includes covers, original compositions, and improvisations by the ensemble. The first half of the semester is organized in a workshop format. The second half is used to learn repertoire. Emphasis will be given to stylistic integrity, as well as melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic accuracy.
The Celtic Music ensemble will study and perform the music of broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk musical traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. In this course, students will participate in weekly, supervised rehearsals. Students will gain experience in discussion, researching, and performance of specific styles. Emphasis will be given to stylistic integrity, musicality, individual interpretation, as well as melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic accuracy.
This ensemble focuses on exploring open improvisation and the arrangement of Italian music. The source material will range from traditional folk music to classical arias, to popular songs, and through jazz interpretation. Students will be required to arrange one piece of music, approved by the teacher, specifically for the ensemble, to be performed at the end of semester recital.
In this ensemble, students learn and perform traditional Greek music from all of the regions of Greece: the many Greek islands (including Crete), mainland Greece (Thrace, Macedonia, Epiros, Thessaly, and Peloponnesus) and the country of Cyprus. Students learn music from Asia Minor, currently Turkey, where Greeks lived since 2000 B.C. until the 1923 religion-based population exchange forced over a million Greeks to move from Turkey to Greece (likewise, 355,000 Turks were forced to move to Greece). This includes folk music of the Black Sea (pontiaka), urban Greek refugee music from Smyrna or Izmir from the early 1920’s (Smyrneika) and more. Students play rebetika, often called the Greek blues: urban music originating in early 1900s in Piraeus, Athens and then influenced in the 1920s by the incoming Greeks from Asia Minor. The meters of Greek music range from 5/8 to 16/8. Greek music also includes improvisation (taximi) that is based on a system of modes (dromoi/makamlar); students explore this as well. There is one performance at Berklee per semester and possibly others both at Berklee and in the Boston area.
The Cirque du Soleil Ensemble is an advanced instrumental and vocal ensemble designed for students to study the original music of the many Cirque du Soleil productions. In this series of supervised rehearsals, students gain the professional experience of performing the music live, combined with pre-recorded Ableton Live tracks of different Cirque du Soleil compositions. Reading the original charts, improvising and playing from memory are all included in the hour-long concert of the music studied at the end of the semester. This course emphasizes the precise performance of parts, intonation, improvisation, and playing musically in a small group. In addition, each instrumentalist and vocalist prepares for and receives a mock-audition for entry into a Cirque du Soleil production using original Cirque du Soleil parts and accompanying Ableton Live tracks. Preference for entry into this ensemble is given to multi-instrumentalists.
The Reggae Dub Ensemble is an interesting and energetic ensemble that focuses on performing songs of popular reggae artists. Songs are selected from across genres, but are taught using reggae dub styling, including one drop, ska, and dance hall reggae. The Reggae Dub Ensemble can be as large as 15 pieces. For example, instrumentation could include: three guitars, organ/keys, bass, drums, percussion, three to four horns (optional) and three to four vocalists (optional). Song are discussed and selected on the first day of class. Students are coached on performing and taught the nuances of this genre.
The Caribbean Music ensemble introduces students to a variety of Caribbean styles, including soca, calypso, zouk, merengue, bachata, cumbia, reggaeton, salsa, and other music from across the Caribbean diaspora. This course prepares students for a performance experience. Songs may be selected from across genres, and are taught methodically through listening, analysis, interpretation, and improvisation. Song are discussed and selected on the first day of class. Students are coached on performing and learn the nuances of this genres based on its particular roots in regional African music by country.
An advanced performance ensemble geared towards experimenting with different musical styles, traditional and contemporary, from North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean, including Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish, Algerian, Bulgarian, and Gypsy traditional styles (e.g. muwashshah, sama'i, kopanitsa). Listening will include traditional artists (e.g. Fairuz, Umm Kulthum, Sayed Darwish, Selim Sesler), as well as fusion artists who have successfully blended these traditional styles with more contemporary sounds and concepts (e.g. Simon Shaheen, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Bustan Abraham, Erkan Oğur, Hüsnü Şenlendirici, The NY Gypsy All-Stars, Laço Tayfa). Students will be exposed to a diverse repertoire, with a focus on odd meters and traditional rhythmic cycles (7/8, 10/8, etc.), as well as traditional Arabic modes and their place in contemporary composition and improvisation.
In this class we will experiment with microtonal arrangements of Western classical, Middle Eastern and other non-Western and jazz/fusion compositions. Joe Maneri's 72 equal temperament octave notation system will be explained. We will start with a selection from the following compositions: Eclipse (Mingus); Madoka Blue (Fiuczynski); Carrillo quarter tone string quartets; Hába quarter tone ‚études; Turkish, Arabic, and Chinese melodies; Beethoven fragments; MoonRing (3/4 tone diminished mode); and Apprehension (Fiuczynski). Students will have a working knowledge of notation, Western classical microtonal history, intonation, and ways of soloing and comping in a microtonal chord scale context. We will also experiment with dance hall, drum 'n' bass, reggaeton, merengueton, house, 2-step, 32nd note hi-hat grooves, hip-hop, go-go, clipped and bounce beats, and new experimental beats created by students.