Dimensional Exercises

This item is not in the library — it is a part of: Dimension.

In this scenario-based activity you will explore four basic dimensions in basic configurations that may be represented with three graphs:







Your task will be to focus on the selected aspect of music from out of: pitch, duration, volume, and (maybe) timbre. There are many options for details and timing — these are up to the group or the facilitator. The biggest difference is naturally between groups of improvisers and participants new to open music.

For inexperienced players, the tasks are usually hard enough as presented. This group might even need a gesture from the facilitator at some point to finish the performance, maybe even conducting the changes, depending on participants' skill.

(As for) Improvisers: you should not only follow the basic rule given at every stage, but also keep as quite constant all the parameters that are not assigned in your task. Play each stage as a medium-length piece, and please start with Stage 1 (skip Stage 0).

Stage 0 - Pitch


For this introductory stage, make sure that everyone is familiar with basic definitions. The first task will be graph (A) as pitch, done vocally.

Start singing with a low-pitched voice, slide up to your top range, and then down back again. Try to stay together with other players.

This is a quick performance, segue it to Stage 1 that should be a longer piece done either instrumentally or for voice.

Stage 1 — Volume


Treat the graph (A) as showing the volume of the piece in time. In other words, realize this structure:

Start quietly — crescendo — diminuendo — end quietly

Stage 2 — Duration


In your improvisation, use sounds and pauses that are gradually longer and longer (on average).

You now realized the Duration task as for your own part. Now, let's explore some emergent properties of Duration.

Stage 3 — Duration II (for more than 5 players)


Consider how the change in Duration of single sounds and pauses translates to the general Density of notes in time (they are opposite to each other). Now, try a different task, but with the aim of making the overall effect similar to the result in Stage 2 (use similar improvisational approaches).

Play with short notes at first, then at some point switch to a clearly larger Durations. Time the moment of your transition carefully.

Stage 4 — Timbre (optional)


There are some accessibility considerations with Timbre. You will be working on the spectrum of "clean — dirty" sounds which may require some skill or some care towards your health during the performance.

Go from dirty sounds to clean ones.

For non-improvisers, one of the easiest ways to do it vocally is to start with "sh" and "r", and go towards open "oh" and "ah".

Stage 5 — Pitch+Duration


After controlling single parameters, let's now try final stages with combinations. This one should be easy, and often results in a comical effect:

Start with sounds that are high and short and go towards sounds that are long and low-pitched.

Stage 6 — Timbre+Volume

A bit harder:

Start loud and clear, end quiet and dirty

Stage 7 — Volume+Duration



Start with long and loud sounds, end with short and quiet.

In case the last stages were difficult for you, that is because the basic dimensions associate in different ways with the aspect of Intensity. If you're so inclined, you may now continue with different combinations, but the "Dimensional Exercises" activity… has ended.

Origins of this exercise are unknown, it was developed by Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen for workshop usage, here in the form with further changes adjusted to wiki's definitions and aims.

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