back to the homepageAll material is copyrighted. Click to read the details.find an artistwhat´s going downwho are we and what do we do?
back to the homepageback to the homepagewhat´s new & the site all about itOrdering Back issues of Arts Dialoguesubmit material / help with our work

Michael Knopf  

composer, musician, Australia

Michael Knopf, 2006

About two workshops and a session at the Australian Bahá´í arts conference, September 1999.

by Michael Knopf.

For the Paramont Project Workshop about 20 people learned to read basics quickly and we went through about 11 songs. I presented the Cheve system of rhythm language for notation. Each note has its own syllable, e.g. a quarter note (crotchet) sounds ´ta´, and eight notes (quavers and a pair of them ) is ´ti ti´. After spending about ten minutes learning a few of these, they were applied to songs in the Paramount Project. When this was comfortable for most, we learned the "do re mi " scale (the solfa system) and the Curwen hand signs. All of these systems are used in the Kodaly music learning method which can be found in most libraries and easily on the internet.

Listen to examples of his work at:

We learned each piece by reviewing its rhythm using Cheve, its melodic pitches using Solfa , and then the text was added and practised until learned. The aim of the workshop was to make the group independent of a teacher. We broke into smaller groups each of which had the task to learn a new song on their own with only a little help from the facilitator. Most groups got most of their songs correct after having only a rudimentary introduction to the systems used.

For the second workshop, most of those present had previous training in music but not with the Tonic Solfa method of composing simple songs. We learned the solfa major scale of do re mi fa so la ti do, and experimented with singning different scale degrees and intervals so that an aural familiarity was gained. These were then applied to simple devotional texts to create a new song. Notating involved using a simple symbol for the solfa pitch ( say d for do or r for re) and sticks to indicate notes equal to a quarter note, and sticks with tails for eighth notes. Each person was able to create a simple song for use in private devotions.

My presentation, ´On the Edge of Failure´ reflected the risk taken by spontaneous creators (such as Jazz improvisationists and free improvisation proponents) in creating something meaningful for audiences. The distinction made between improvisation and "spontaneous composition" in my work is that the latter must present some form of musical architecture to give form and thus communicate better with an audience. The subtitle of this workshop was ´Out of Nowhere´. This looked at the powers of the soul in creativity and especially in spontaneous composition. Two powers of the soul used are the mental properties of the mind (thought, understanding, memory and imagination) and inner -vision which is what Abdu'l-Baha calls the meditative faculty. As the mind develops abstract thoughts from experience, and concrete considerations, innervision releases abstract thoughts without effort. They come from the spiritual realm. So, in improvisation, I work at finding a release and then developing it to create a spontaneous musical form.

Demonstrations of spontaneous composition were conducted on the classical guitar using jazz, classical, flamenco techniques and drumming sounds. The audience were conducted in a spontaneous composition with groups of two or three saying various syllables randomly or in rhythm, breathing sounds, body percussion and the loud declamation of the phrase ´What is this???´

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, December 1999, page 8.

The Paramount Project is 38 new songs for devotional community singing. The purpose of the Paramount Project is to assist community development and personal spiritual transformation by increasing the level of quality participation in communal singing within the Bahá´í community. This music incorporates texts from the Bahá´í Writings suitable for a wide variety of abilities and is appropriate for any individual or group wanting to use music in devotional practice.

Songs are mostly a cappella and includes hymns, spirituals, chants, round and part songs.
The Appendix contains reference materials including musical scales and the col-fa associated with them.

Order the book:
Michael Knopf, 10 sunnyside court Maleny Qld. 4552, Australia.

email: mknopf [AT]

Listen to examples of his work at:

Cost AUS$33 including postage payable by cheque, money order, or credit card. Orders from the US, Canada or the Caribbean AUS$28, Orders from within Australia: AUS$24.

  • Review: ABS Arts Conference, Melbourne, Australia, Arts Dialogue, December 1999

Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands