Journey to the Mythical Place   Dur: -3:55

For string quartet or string orchestra, opt. marimba

Composed: 1/8/84

Revised: July, 2007

ISMN: 979-0-720090-10-8

Available on Luminous

Only a Dream    Dur: -7:30
For narrator, childrens choir (sop & alto), piano, glock, xylo, and/or metalophones (optional) and percussion x 2. 

ISMN: 979-0-720090-25-2

Originally composed as a work for young students (see below) I quickly found that Journey to the Mythical Place  was a favorite, both with the members of the Elektra String Quartet as well as with the audiences we played to in our metropolitan and Outback touring programs. Whilst performing it successfully was not without its challenges (the 'simpler' the writing, the more exposed;  and hence the control required (ask any string player!)) this work is equally suited to adult players of a less than professional standard.

There are a number of arrangements of this work, some including flutes, marimbas..... whatever seemed to be needed.

Dedicated to all my students, who having embarked on their own voyages of self-expression and discovery through (amongst other things), music, participated so enthusiastically in mine!

 

Only a Dream was written very specifically with young players’ performance needs in mind. Its inception came about through what I now discern to be a simple and organic process (some would call it ‘structured stalling’!!), which goes something like:

 

 

- I find myself with an ensemble in which the instrumental parts have been either lost, are nonexistent, or the music is inappropriate to the technical abilities of the kids, (and therefore not really useful in terms of building technique, ensemble, reading skills, etc). Faced with this situation I quickly sketch some simple musical patterns, photocopy, and hand them out.

 

-I then take the kids, collectively and individually, through clapping and counting exercises, then ‘follow the conductor exercises/games’, ie, random slowing down, speeding up, pauses- (anything really, to make them look at and understand the need to follow the conductor) -by the end , they are all busting to have a go! (“I can, I can…let me try!!!)

 

-A challenge is then set when I tell them to practise for the next rehearsal, and to be ready to stand up and perform, or clap and count aloud, in front of the ensemble! (This is all done in a humorous and playful context!)

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, I then have the time, and some useful feedback, to compose and develop a work for the next week’s rehearsal, based on the ‘seed’ ideas/exercises we have been working with!

Timeline:

 

First sketch: 3rd Aug. 06 (6.30 am, before a rehearsal)

Completed: 24th August 06

2nd Edition: revised 13th -15th Jan, 2011

Pastoral (A Song of Thanks)

for strings, piano and bell -4:50

Composed: 1st Aug – 13th Oct, 2007

Flute and rev:    4th April, 2009

Revision: September, 2018

ISMN: 979-0-720090-07-8

As can be seen from the organisation of the string material, this work makes possible the inclusion of relatively young or early stage string students, as second violins. This part focuses on the skills of counting (dotted whole and half notes), pizzicato, long bows and open strings, as well as a scale!

I also did an arrangement with flutes.... always there are keen flautists, looking for more than the tragedy of 'the wind band'

Dedicated to hills, creeks and gullies, the wombats, noisy friarbirds, … and big black cockatoos, …grass, blue skies, clouds, the rains, (soft gentle ones and those that rage and roar), lightning and thunder…and of course the sun, ….the stars at night, the incredibly still mist,… owls (hoo hoo…hoo hoo…), and the insects too, -can’t forget the snakes and spiders either, ……and then there’s the Heart -in which, as which, with which we find ourselves in such a beautiful and utterly mysterious realm. (To Annie)

A Simple Groove  5:05

string orchestra, piano, bell and drum, opt flutes

And Then It shone (It always does!)

string orchestra, piano, bell and drum, opt flutes  -5:05

Initial sketch:              12th May

Dev. and complete;    1st - 7th August, 08

Revised:                       22nd Dec, 09

A Question of Taste…Hmmm?

string orchestra, piano, and bell - 2:30

Composed:  12th May –16th June, 08

Revised:       19th Dec, 09

A Playground Groove   7.30

double strings (begin.+ advanced), glock., xylo., vibes, marimba (two players) and percussion x2

Composed:   17th June -17th July, 2005

This is a simplified version of Pastoral, for an even more beginner string group than the previous.... still, it has something of the essence!

Performance Notes/philosophy:

Just teach them to count rhythms and bars rests, to read and understand the notes, don’t take short cuts, and do what you know is right, patiently, and with love; -look for things to praise, yet, stay present to and with their mistakes, help them explore and find ways of solving problems themselves…., but always, be there, present, in love……life is too short to do otherwise.

Fascinating background details

Questions of originality, or even plagiarism, did but lightly pass through my mind, -after all, this piece was meant to be a ‘quicky’ for my kids at Kensington, (original sketch written Monday morning, with parts produced in the evening for the next mornings rehearsal) as I was getting worried that the previous piece was a bit too hard, and/or that some of them were getting bored.

 

Given that I don’t listen to much music these days, (particularly not classical, -if anything, ECM label on the rare occasions that I do) various ideas seem to sound familiar. (Well, truly, everything I write these days does).  The chorale may well be a composite, (or is it simply an archetype) of Brahms’ “St Anthony’s Chorale”, and/or “Now thank we all our God”; and the smooth 1st Violin figure at Fig. 3 does sound similar to his 2nd Symphony. Well, be that as it may, I suppose it can serve as an introduction to the ideas, shapes and archetypal forms of the great Masters for kids.  (In that sense it has to be better than some of the shit ‘arrangements’ and banal simplifications that are put forward by various hacks as ‘educational’, in a an increasingly ‘dumbed’ down system that has lost any sense of ….but I do digress a little, …and possibly a little too cynical?.., but be that as it may.

 

This work also marks the end of my time at K; as a creative, transformative presence, it became clear to me that there was no understanding of, nor room for such a process in that system, at that time… another reminder that all things and situations come to an end, or rather simply dissolve in the never ceasing process/state of change.  No more such compositions. (17/3/09) 

I was starting to suspect that the kids needed an energy boost, (the works we were rehearsing were tending towards the possibly too soporific and pastoral-like, (A Simple Groove, ...and then It shone) that is, something rhythmic and gutsy, with a funky, street-wise hard edge with which to express their growing sense of pre-pubescent identities was very clearly called for. (The tipping point was reached when young Phoebe stood up in rehearsal and, enacting all the appropriate rhythmic body language, recited “to-tal-ly raa-deecal, dude”, I knew the time for my 70’s hippie mystical ambience had long passed!!)

 

My cultural relevance and musical survival now hung in the balance, dependent on my next move -- and I didn’t have any time to spare!! So, withdrawing into a period of deep thought and introspection, (as well as serious research) I tuned into the collective unconscious … and, this is what revealed itself:

 

…“a hard, cutting, sometimes cynical post-pre-primitive modernism, with powerful driving bass riffs, strikingly contrasted with sinuous and sensuous melodic lines.”,

 

Well, in the end, I guess it all boils down to being A Question of Taste…doesn’t it …Hmmm?

A Playground Groove was written very specifically with the young musician’s performance needs in mind.  As can be seen from the organisation of the string material, this work makes possible the participation of relatively young, and/or early stage string students, with parts that focus on the development of counting and reading skills, through plucking, tapping strings with the bow, and a lot of open string material, as well as very simple left-hand finger work.

 

By incorporating these ideas in an advanced, and hopefully more musically satisfying context, as provided by the material composed for the older and more experienced players, our intent was to provide younger players with a meaningful, and exciting experience of what it is like to play ‘real’ music; and, given that there is percussion as well….well, how more cool could it get!

 

The junior string parts have been constructed through the use of a small number of set patterns/units, so that they may be easily learnt, and then simply cued by the conductor.

A Moments Peace   3.45

violin, (or cello) with piano

Birth of the Bongo Bangers   1:30

marimba x 2 (single lines), xylophone, bass drum and bell

Bongo Songo! 3:50

marimba x 2, bass marimba, xylo x 2, drum and bell

To Linsey Pollak, - who just makes it happen; whatever it is, as he goes about his always creative life, and shares, spreads, and nurtures the living experience of ….simple (simple?!!) social music-making with whoever it is that wants to explore, or nurture that subtle…urge, or inkling, in whatever form, to play music themselves.

In Time (almost)   3.20

wind band, percussion and piano

Composed: 19th  -  31st May, 06

Over the years of visiting my long long-time friend Linsey Pollak, we created various ‘ritual’ events that we engaged in as part of our process of catching up and sharing. One of the favourites was going to the local Kin Kin Community Arts Hall, and listening to rehearsals with, (and sometimes playing in) his band “KKarimba” (massed hu-marimbas and Thongo-phones). An amazing group experience; -connection, commitment, and energies which, in subtle ways, flow back out into the broader community and…who knows…it just flows!

 

​​

First sketch:   12th Feb, 08 (Kin Kin)

Revised and completed: 5th June -9th Oct, 2011

“Romano, could you take the wind band for this term … we've got some other gigs on…….”  And so was set the stage for my triumphant and musically exhilarating journey into the world of the ‘School Wind Band’ system. However, the music I was expected to work from was in a state of indecipherable incoherence and confusion, some of the older kids had gone, and they had been playing the same material for ages….the simplest solution was to write something for them, after assessing where they were at.

 

And so it was that In Time, Almost (an almost march!), came to be; if nothing else, an opportunity for some of the kids to learn to read and play the first five notes of C major scale.....and seriously, that was pushing it....

In Pulse

Saxophone quartet