Saturday, December 31, 2016

How to a Make Body Sensory Dance Sack

What is a a Dance Sack?

Dance Sacks enhance spatial awareness through resistance and awareness of surroundings both inside and outside the sack.  Their use encourages creative, uninhibited movement because each person is fully covered, shifting emphasis away from the body to the shapes that the sack can make. Each pillowcase-like sack is constructed from four-way stretch Lycra. Once inside, users find themselves in a private domain that begs for kinesthetic exploration. As they move their shapes become amorphous and art-like. Because the Lyrca is translucent they can see the shapes being created around them.

Other Names:
Dance Sock, Body Sox, Body Pod, Sensory Sock, Body Sack, Dance Sox, Silly Sack

  • Reduce inhibition about movement
  • Create private space for movement
  • Can be used for props for theatrical movement
  • Enhance body awareness 
  • Provide resistance and space awareness
  • Provides resistance and enclosure that is calming for hyperactive children. 

The dance sack should be the height of the individual using it, or a little shorter. If you are 5'6" tall, a bag of the same height would be perfect, giving room to stretch your arms and legs. A sack that is considerably larger than the user is not ideal since they can trip on it or get tangled up in the extra material. For example, if you are 4' tall, a bag 4'6" tall will be a little on the large size but work, but if the bag is 5'6" it's too big. The material is stretchy, so if you are making several for a class, you can generalize with your sizing, aiming on the short side.

  • Small (ages 3-5): 40" tall x 27" wide
  • Med (ages 6-8): 47" tall x 27" wide
  • Large (ages 9-13): 56" tall x 28" wide
  • XL (ages 14+): 66" tall x 28" wide


  • 4-way stretch lycra (buy the length of material you need for the height of the sack you will be making)
  • Sewing machine that can zig-zag or stitch specifically for stretch materials
  • Ballpoint needle (talk to the clerk at the fabric store to be sure you're getting the right needle for your machine and the fabric you'll be using)
  • Thread (Standard polyester thread is fine since it has a little stretch. Don't use cotton thread.)
  • Scissors
  • Large surface area for cutting

These have an opening in the bottom. When you pull it on, you bring your feet inside and the bag stretches to stay on. You can alternatively step into the bag and keep the opening at the top to allow your head to stick out if you prefer.

(I'll be adding photos soon to make this more clear...these instructions are for those with a bit of sewing experience)

  • Note: Don't iron-open the seams! Lycra will melt. 
  • Fold fabric in half so that you have the height you want x2 and cut (you will sew on only three sides, with the folded over side not needing any sewing. 
  • Treat the folded edge as the top of the dance sack.
  • If making a small sack, trim one side so that you have a folded over piece in one of the sizes listed above (it doesn't hurt to have an inch or two extra or less since the material stretches). 
  • Decide which is the outside of your fabric. 
  • Fold your fabric rectangle in half length ways, right sides together.
  • Pin the edges together. 
  • Use a Ballpoint needle and a zig-zag stitch on your machine. 
  • Sew along each side and about 6" in on each edge of the bottom, leaving an opening in the bottom of the bag large enough to step into/pull over one's head. 
  • It doesn't hurt to sew each hem twice over, especially at the opening. 
  • Turn right-side out, get inside, and have fun! 

Follow the instructions for the material you purchase. You should be able to wash and dry them in your washer and dryer. Don't iron lycra. It will melt.

Helpful Links:
30 Tips for Sewing Knits
Body Sock DIY Guide with opening on side rather than bottom

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bassoon and Contrabassoon on the Mississippi Arts Hour

I had a great time recording this interview for public radio! I play bassoon live in the studio, and discuss phrasing structure and breathing in Bach. We talk about acoustics, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and also the work I do as a visual artist. We also aired two tracks from the new album "May the Ladies Treat You Kindly" on which I play bassoon, contrabassoon on "Nora Dunblane" and sing back-up on "Old Man".


Click here to listen

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Symphony Orchestras in Mississippi

Here are all of the Symphony Orchestras in Mississippi including professional, community, college and youth ensembles. Zoom in and click on the map location to see the description and a link to their website.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Happy This Christmas

I really enjoyed recording with these great musicians this past summer. In the video, you'll see a photo of me playing contrabassoon, even though this particular recording only includes my bassoon playing. That photo snuck in there because we were also recording for another full album that will be coming out the summer of 2016. I love love love the song I play contrabassoon on, and I look forward to sharing it with you next year!  Until then, I hope that you are Happy This Christmas.

"Happy This Christmas": Tommy McClymont and The Panacea Jamband. Written by Tommy McClymont & Don Jacobs. Produced by Don Jacobs and Tommy McClymont. Recorded at Purple Creek Studios in Jackson, Mississippi.  Ol’ Yellow Bus Music, Published on Nov 15, 2015.
o Tommy McClymont: vocals, tenor ukulele, handclaps
o Don Jacobs: vocals, bells, handclaps
o Elaine Maisel, bassoon
o Ty Maisel: violin
o Raphael Zweifel: cello

Monday, October 12, 2015

In C by Terry Riley for Link Up: Grades 3-5

Carnegie Hall's Link Up program "The Orchestra Rocks" includes Terry Riley's "In C."
For Grades 3-5.

Download the pdf of the original one-page score along with the two pages of instructions.

Performance/Rehearsal Directions
  • "In C" consists of 53 short, numbered musical phrases, though for Link Up, you will only focus on the first seven. Students can sing or play the phrases. 
  •  Each phrase may be repeated as many times as each performer chooses. Each musician has control over which phrase he or she plays: players are encouraged to play the phrases starting at different times, even if they are playing the same phrase. In this way, although the melodic content of each part is predetermined, In C has elements of aleatoric music to it.  
  • The performance directions state that the musical ensemble should try to stay within two to three phrases of each other. The phrases must be played in order, although some may be skipped. 
  • One performer (or group of performers) keeps the pulse for the group by playing repeated eighth-note C's on piano, tone-bar or marimba during the entire performance. 
  • Grace notes can be omitted for recorders if necessary. 
  • You may want to also add non-pitched percussion instruments, clapping, or snapping as part of your performance exploration. 
  • Work to play/sing at the correct pitch with good tone and good rhythm. 
  • Incorporate over-all ensemble changes in dynamics from louder to softer into the class performances of the piece. 
  • Once students are comfortable performing "In C" have them compose their own "In G" (page 20 of the student guide). 
  • Listen to different types of performances of "In C" by professional ensembles (at the bottom of this post) for ideas about new ways to perform it, and to discuss the ideas of tempo and tone color.

Terms and concepts associated with Terry Riley's "In C"
  • Minimalism: Style of music that started in New York City in the 1960s. Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. 
  • Metronome: Any device that produces a regular, metrical pulse. Here, the person performing the repeated eighth-note Cs is being the metronome. The rhythms of the other performers should fit within the beat created by the person acting as the metronome. 
  • Aleatoric music: Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). In this piece, each person chooses how many times to repeat each phrase before moving on to the next once, thus each performance is different and not completely controlled. 
  • Pattern: Something that repeats. Look for different types of patterns in this piece. 
  • Sequence: In music, a sequence is the restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice.
  • Key: The key of a piece is the tonic note and chord/scale which gives a sense of arrival and resolution. "In C" is in the key of C. Notice how all the phrases relate to the tonic of C as it is performed. 

Some Interesting Performances of "In C" on YouTube

Shows video closeups of the instruments and performers clearly. Uses African instruments, and has nice low tone colors and added percussion elements that are interesting and appealing: 

Also uses African Instruments, but in a very different way:

The original recording from 1968:

Bang On a Can performance. Nice tone colors and use of dynamics in the ensemble:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Orchestral Etiquette by The Entire DSO Flute Section

At this link is a great article on orchestral etiquette that applies to all sections of a professional orchestra.

When you're still in school and in a student orchestra, you are more likely to be in a situation where asking questions as a non-principal is OK and even encouraged. In a professional setting, it is indeed the case that speaking out is not appropriate. All of the suggestions in the article are the normal expectation for orchestra rehearsals and concerts.

These are a great reminders to me even though I've played professionally for years. It's easy to develop funny little habits that may be annoying or inappropriate, and it's a good to re-examine the rules before this season starts again.

Link: Orchestral Etiquette by The Entire DSO Flute Section (Flute Specialists July 2015 Newsletter)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

12 Reasons Why You Should Use a Metronome Every Time you Practice

12 Reasons Why You Should Use a Metronome Every Time you Practice.

1. No excuses. You can download the app for free if you have a smart phone. Even though I have a drawer full of stand-alone metronomes, I almost always use Pro Metronome on my iPhone. It's convenient, simple, and offers everything I need, including the ability to listen though headphones if I want.

2. It trains you to listen outside of yourself while playing, thus making you a better ensemble player

3. It keeps you honest about your rhythm and tempo, and helps you find errors in your playing. We all have a tendency to rush or drag with certain types of playing. We all have the potential to be lazy about correct subdivision of beats. You can improve and overcome these tendencies. 

4. It helps you know what you can and cannot do at certain speeds. We all need work on both faster and slower playing. Keep track of progress as you set goals and work to push your playing ability on both ends of the spectrum. Work to make your scales faster. Work to make your long tones slower.

5. It is a necessary tool when learning challenging syncopated rhythms. Slow it down and really listen. Don't stop listening when you speed it up.

6. Being prepared for performance is all about consistency. Practicing with a metronome reinforces consistent rhythm, tempo, and the ability to play through the piece or excerpt to completion with no mistakes.

7. It makes practice more efficient. Set goals. Play things at both slower and faster tempi than your final goal. Keep track of your progress and write down the speeds at which you have played the excerpt/piece and check them off as you accomplish them.

8. It prepares you to play with backing tracks/click tracks. Playing with that external click takes some getting used to. 

9. For rhythms that you're having a hard time figuring out,  put down your instrument and clap/sing the rhythms along with the metronome before you add in the extra challenge of playing them.

10. It builds in a sense of tempo markings, so that if you are away from the metronome and see a marking of quarter=140 vs. quarter=132, for example, you understand what speed that is.

11. You can fool most of the people most of the time if you have rock solid rhythm even though you've wigged out about playing the all the correct pitches. Good rhythm comes before correct pitches when it comes to a solid, convincing performance.

12. Techniques such as trills can mess with your sense of time. Always always practice with a metronome when you've got trills....especially long ones.