Today was my second time as a creative writing facilitator with Chillibreeze in Bangalore, at the Doodles and Scribbles Creative Writing Workshop, 2011. The theme of my workshop was using music to stimulate creative writing. The workshop was aimed at children in the 10-15 year age bracket. I selected a variety of musical pieces — Mozart, Vivaldi, Jazz, Hindi film song, and pop — and asked the kids to write in response to the music. What did the music make them feel and see? What words did they associate with each particular piece? Could they craft a story line based on the music and with the help of some topic-prompts? This idea was totally experimental — I hadn’t tried anything like this before and approached the workshop with some fear and trepidation. What if the workshop totally bombed and no one could think of anything to write after listening to the music? What if the children just stared at me in confusion? Was the concept too abstract for a 10-year-old to grasp?
My fears flew out of the room as soon as we embarked on the first exercise: listening and responding to “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Most of the participants associated it with bright colors, like orange, gold and green/yellow; with celebration; and with a formal setting, like a ballroom. They all got the basic idea that music can correspond with moods and emotions, and were able to connect with the emotion behind a piece such as the Four Seasons. I had similar results when I played a Hindi film song (“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire), Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusic,” and “Taare Jameen Par,” from the film of the same name. Some were even creative enough to associate Mozart’s lively piece with a green salad and a Latin Jazz piece with road-side festivals. When asked to create stories, they produced imaginative pieces about Irish castles shrouded in mist, Kings and Queens in royal gardens, imaginary “time shifters,” metaphorical kidnappings, chasing after thieves, stolen birds, talking dolphins, and Tom and Jerry in outer space.
The final activity was a group activity asking the children to listen to Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” and write about a character with superhuman powers who had the power to make the world a better place. They invented imaginary supermen and women such as Captain Triple R, Ecogirl, Dr. Bandage Mesmer, and Plumbogreeno, who is a plumber with magical powers to to save water, bring dead plants back to life, and end global warming. Their imaginations were on fire as some of them even drew pictures of their invented superhero to illustrate their narratives. This is the part of the workshop I personally liked because it gave them an opportunity to interact with others in their groups and collaborate on a piece of writing. Although the individual writing activity was popular with the kids, there’s nothing like group work to make a room come live with the sounds of many voices in animated conversation with one another. There was a spirit of freedom and abandon in the air that allowed their creative sides untrammeled access to the world of the imagination, all inspired by the sounds of music.