Orchestra Revisited

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound.  He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful.” Benjamin Zander


This is a classic Viola Spolin exercise, the interesting observations come when you add a twist to the exercise.  To begin, a leader is chosen for the group who becomes the Conductor.  The main group is broken into sections.  Perhaps each group is given a vowel or a pitch.  When the conductor points to a certain group they collectively make their sound.  The conductor then begins to combine groups and finds body language to communicate their desire for changes in volume, pace, or rhythm.  The Conductor “conducts” the group.


The next time through, one can start by giving a sound and a movement, possibly that expresses how one is feeling that day, or what one feels about a recent event.  Here is a chance to express feelings or sensations without using words.  A theme, specific location, or event can also be chosen, such as,

  • what might be the sounds be present at a busy intersection (e.g., car horns or engines, people walking, walk signals, aircraft, wind),
  • or a political rally,
  • or an accident,
  • or a town market in the summer?

How do these sounds evoke emotion?  Are we aware of the impact of these sounds have on us when we are in these spaces?  There is an abundance of soundscape samples for various locations online.  Try having the group create a soundscape of a particular location and then listen to a recording.  How does one’s perception differ from the recorded version?

Suggested Uses
  • Opening up to the sense of hearing
  • Exploring how locations and events are shaped by space
  • Analyzing what we hear and what we choose to ignore