Aldeburgh Young Musicians - Article by Maryasha Keiles Year 12

The following article was written by our talented Year 12 student Maryasha Keiles. The picture of Maryasha is with her electric bass in the Britten Pears Studio, named after Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, founders of Britten Pears Arts.

Aldeburgh Young Musicians (AYM) is a progressive artist development programme for musicians aged 10-18, based at Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk. Part of the national network of Centres for Advanced Training, Aldeburgh Young Musicians facilitates the musical development of over 50 young people, unlocking their potential through a range of residential courses and additional activities. Snape Maltings is an arts complex on the banks of the river Alde, in former agricultural buildings surrounded by reed beds, where composer Benjamin Britten founded a music centre in the 1960’s.

I joined AYM in 2020, and for the first year, I only did online sessions due to Covid. Throughout the year I take part in a set number of weekend and 5-day courses. This was my third face-to-face 5-day course, and we studied Arabic music. Our tutors were guitarist Paul Griffiths from Guildhall Music School, Saied Silbak, an oud player from Palestine and flautist Katie McDonald.

Each tutor introduced themselves and explained where they studied, and their qualifications and experience as professional musicians. We learned that the oud is the ‘grandfather’ of the modern guitar as it had been adopted by France and came to be known as the ‘lute’. We started by learning a piece from classical Arabic repertoire, ‘Lamabada’, which is in 10/8 and uses an Arabic scale, called a maqam. We were given many opportunities throughout the week to write our own pieces using maqams and complex time signatures, some of which we performed at the open session at the end of the week.

Our theme of the week was ‘borders’, which I thought was very pertinent considering the conflicts between Israel and Palestine, and Ukraine and Russia. It was also interesting to hear other AYM’s views on this theme, as many interpreted it as referring to interpersonal, mental or emotional borders, or borders in nature. We were tasked with writing our own piece based on this idea, and my group decided to take a ‘trip around the world’ with ours, by musically hinting at different cultures throughout our piece, without pastiching them. For example, we used an Eb pentatonic scale to signify Asia, and wanted a sparse soundscape for Antarctica, so we used singing wineglasses to create this effect. Our aim was to show the unity between different countries and cultures by keeping the same meditative atmosphere throughout the whole piece. Other groups took the idea of borders to be more musically literal, for example one group chose the arbitrary note of C and two musicians approached it from above and two from below. This symbolised how many people on both sides of physical borders are suffering the same, and the borders do nothing to aid them.

Throughout the week, Saied taught us a piece he had written called ‘2112’, which was in the 12/8 time signature. The first section was split up into two parts, a rhythm of seven followed by a rhythm of five. This was then inversed and followed by two twelve-beat-long rhythms. It was very challenging to play and was based on the principle of politeness in Arabic culture, of putting other people’s needs before your own, which meant that each rhythm had to have its own time to go first. For all our pieces, I had to invent my own bass line, which is a great skill to develop since I will be expected to do this as a professional musician. I was also asked to play in other people’s group projects as well, so I ended up playing a lot.

Another important skill needed at AYM is singing. Although it’s not necessary to be a fantastic singer, we do many singing exercises, and are expected to be able to sing in harmony easily. We also need to be able to pick up phrases quickly on our instruments as the rehearsals move fast. At AYM we also get many opportunities to work on our stage presence as we do numerous performances. This can include being an engaging performer and also speaking in front of people. I really enjoy AYM as it combines many different art forms. For example, at this course, we had the chance to write poetry and create visual art on the theme of borders. Together with the musical ideas we created, this was shared in the open session at the end of the week, attended by family, friends and members of the public.

I strongly recommend any young person who is interested in music, and aged between 10 and 18, to find out about one of the Centres for Advanced Training in the UK* It is such a rewarding experience and you can really see yourself progress as a musician.

*Financial help is available:

by Maryasha Keiles, Year 12




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