Recommendation by Norman Skillen

Every year for the past seven years Chris Tokalon has taught part of the Class 11 Music Main Lesson at Constantia Waldorf School. During that time quite a little tradition has been built up. His contribution consists of a 4-5-day introduction to the phenomenology of sound, during which the students are not only told about, but also experience directly, the harmonic relationships involved in the production of sound. This entails their learning, among other things, the rudiments of overtone singing (Chris is an expert in this), but also involves a lot of interactive and highly enjoyable music-making.

Chris has immense experience both as a musician and sound therapist, and out of this rich background has the ability to relate to the students in a way that is both serious and playful. He wears his learning very lightly and reaches the students with ease, and often succeeds in getting them to try out things that they would normally shy away from. For such young people this can be an empowering and confidence-building experience.

In the course of all this they also learn from him much about the origins and history of music, which provides a good basis for the subsequent weeks of the main lesson. Again, this is done largely experientially, by means of such group activities as the “nature orchestra”, and spontaneous music circles using both instruments and voice. This creates a platform for the group to enhance their listening skills and communication through teamwork. It’s also a lot of fun!

The highlight comes on the final morning, when the students are taken on a sound journey, which is one of Chris’s specialities. During the previous days he will have spoken of “sound entrainment” and of creating “multi-dimensional wave-forms in harmony with themselves” – now it is the students’ turn to experience first-hand what this means. They are given a sound bath of live, acoustic sounds (bells, gongs, bowls, shakers, various instruments, voice etc.) that are designed to tell stories, harmonise and energise.

If the aim of this main lesson is to deepen the students’ knowledge and appreciation of music, this attunement experience provided by Chris Tokalon in the first week is an ideal preparation for such a purpose, and as such is to be highly recommended.

Norman Skillen

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