Tag Archives: music

1700. The hand we’re dealt

Look at that! 1700 is a round number if ever there was one! Usually for such a significant number I deviate into some true narrative or other. This time I’ve hit a complete blank. I don’t believe in “writer’s block” but I must admit that these last ten or so postings have been like trying to get blood out of a stone. I wanted to get to Story 1700 before Christmas and then have some time off until sometime in the New Year. And so I’ve drawn a blank. Let me think…

Well I’ve thought of something… but I don’t know if I should chat about it or not. Counting up it happened 33 years ago!

The photo incidentally is not of what I am going to talk about – it’s of another group unknown to me, but it gives the general drift.

I dare say those involved have long since moved on. I was teaching Music and English at St John’s High School in Hastings, New Zealand. Hastings had a pretty “varied” population. St John’s High School was a boys-only school and the only High School in the city that would accept students who had been expelled from other schools and couldn’t find another school to attend. That’s how I ended up teaching a class of 24, 14 of whom had a “history”. They were all aged 14. Montzie, for example, had a criminal record since the age of six.

The school didn’t have a great number of resources. My classroom was an old shed set apart from all other classrooms and in the middle of a field. We called the shed “The Shack”. The record player and all the stuff for music were in The Shack. The trouble was: The Shack couldn’t be locked. I told the class that if anything was ever stolen from this shack I’d “have their guts for garters”. (I also had to explain what garters were).

“Don’t worry,” they said, “we’d never steal from you.” We were the only school Music Department in the whole city that hadn’t had all its electronic equipment go missing. And then it happened. One night, the classroom was stripped. The policeman was very nice about it. He took notes and said he’d keep an eye out. That wasn’t good enough for Montzie and friends. Did not the policeman want to know the names of those who took the stuff? Did not the policeman want to know the place in the city where these thieves stored their stolen goods? The policeman was kind of stunned!

With such information it still took six months for the police to act. In the meantime insurance paid for new equipment and when our goods were returned we had two of everything. And Reuben, a master of the “five-finger discount”, would most days bring five or six long-playing records that he’d “got from the shops during lunch break” to replace the records stolen. I explained it was wrong. It was above his comprehension. He was helping out. (And I might add that not even the shops wanted to know because the packaging had been removed).

Many other things happened during the year which can wait another time, except to say I am a master pickpocketer; for they passed on skills you wouldn’t believe. I was never party to their activity, but they were surviving in the only world they knew.

The highlight came when I was selected (because I was pretty good at it) to represent New Zealand at an International Youth Theatre Festival – with theatre performances from Germany, England, India, South Korea, Australia, United States and New Zealand. It was inordinately expensive to get a theatre team to the festival and to survive a week. That is when I started to write little musicals for elementary schools and market them. Within two easy weeks, we had enough money to travel. I suggested we do a performance about New Zealand’s many endangered species. And would you believe? The class wanted to dance it, and from all the five-finger discount stolen records to dance to they chose extracts from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé”. At least I’d taught them something!

It was street-dancing. They did the choreography themselves. It was an outstanding hit! The boys were so well behaved and more charming than I could believe. At the end of the performance the audience didn’t clap; they stood and sang a song they all knew. It was very moving. The newspaper reviews were stunning.

I dare say these kids would be heading for their mid-forties now. Those who aren’t dead are possibly in prison. I know a couple have done murders and some are destroyed by drugs. A teacher can’t keep in touch with everyone.

But they were one of the nicest and most talented group of kids I’ve ever taught. A pity they weren’t dealt much of a hand.

(A Happy Christmas and New Year to all! See you some time in 2020!)

Music 339-345: Six pieces and a minuet

Hi Everyone

Here are the last of the piano pieces for 2019. The set is called Six Pieces and a Minuet – because I occasionally border on the eccentric. My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 was to compose some pieces for the piano and it’s been achieved – 181 times! A big thanks to those who listened and apologies to those I bored! For good reason, Fame has eluded me over the years. There’s a poem HERE (it opens on a new page) that tries to explain why!

Click on a title in the first list to listen to the music, and click on a title in the second list to download the written music.

Thanks

Click on a title to listen
1. The question
2. Hoopla
3. Yipee
4. Oh no!
5. Fairground train ride
6. Detective Inspector
(aka “Something to play over and over if you want to annoy your parents”)
7. A minuet to end the year

Click on a title to download the written music
1. The question
2. Hoopla
3. Yipee
4. Oh no!
5. Fairground train ride
6. Detective Inspector
7. A minuet to end the year

Music 338: C.P.E. Bach meets Schoenberg

In this piece of music I have taken the rhythm of a C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788) sonata movement, and applied the type of serial scale that Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) could have used. The result is… interesting! There are snippets of the Bach unchanged. The piece ends with the playing of the Schoenberg-like serial scale employed in the piece and C.P.E. Bach’s scale of C minor which he used.

Click here to download a copy of the piano music

Music 314-328: An Eleventh Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches

Hi Everyone

This Eleventh Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches – both audio and printable – for the piano, concludes the series of Little Suites begun this year. Note that sketches 2, 3 & 4 of this suite form a Sonata that was posted on this blog earlier this year.

Although each suite is in 15 sketches, the first and last of each suite are the same. So 14 pieces multiplied by 11 comes to 154! I wanted it to be 153 because that is how many pieces there are in Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, however I overran!

The idea of 15 sketches in a “little suite” came from the French composer, Jacques Ibert, who wrote such a collection.

Click on a title in the first list to listen, and click on a title in the second list to download the written music.

Thanks

Click on a title to listen
1. Prelude
2. First Movement Sonata 2
3. Second Movement Sonata 2
4. Third Movement Sonata 2
5. A little toccata
6. Sleeping Beauty
7. White horses
8. Blackbird on the lawn
9. Doe and fawn
10. Little romance
11. A trinket
12. Jurjina
13. Clowns
14. Tarantella
15. Finale

Click on a title to download the written music
1. Prelude
2. First Movement Sonata 2
3. Second Movement Sonata 2
4. Third Movement Sonata 2
5. A little toccata
6. Sleeping Beauty
7. White horses
8. Blackbird on the lawn
9. Doe and fawn
10. Little romance
11. A trinket
12. Jurjina
13. Clowns
14. Tarantella
15. Finale

Music 299-313: A Tenth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches

Hi Everyone

Here is the Tenth Little Suite in Fifteen Sketches – both audio and printable – for the pianoforte. There are to be eleven suites in total. In this Suite, sketches 2, 3 & 4 form a Sonata that was posted on this blog earlier this year. As for all suites, Numbers 1 and 15 are the same – except for their titles.

Click on a title in the first list to listen, and click on a title in the second list to download the written music.

Thanks

Click on a title to listen
1. Teardrops
2. First Movement Sonata 1
3. Second Movement Sonata 1
4. Third Movement Sonata 1
5. Washing in the wind
6. Mice in the cupboard
7. Oblivious to all else
8. Dancing on stilts
9. Ghost house
10. Night sky
11. The happy wanderer gets caught in a cloudburst
12. Hurry-scurry
13. Twirling in the wind
14. Cavort in six eight
15. Grief

Click on a title to download the written music
1. Teardrops
2. First Movement Sonata 1
3. Second Movement Sonata 1
4. Third Movement Sonata 1
5. Washing in the wind
6. Mice in the cupboard
7. Oblivious to all else
8. Dancing on stilts
9. Ghost house
10. Night sky
11. The happy wanderer gets caught in a cloudburst
12. Hurry-scurry
13. Twirling in the wind
14. Cavort in six eight
15. Grief

1582. On that note

(Because of the Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas, today’s story suddenly has been rendered “insensitive”. It shall appear later. I’ve replaced it with a little bit of drivel about myself… )

Many years ago I was in charge of the biggest music department of any high school in New Zealand. We had 17 instrumental music teachers instructing over 300 individual instrumentalists. There were three orchestras, five choirs, every student sang like it was going out of fashion, and… well goodness me! (I might add that the school was renowned for its rugby teams of which I was also a coach – so there!…)

I had decided in my enthusiastic relative youth to sit the highest piano-playing exam available and so I learnt a Schubert Sonata and I can’t remember what else because it was a jolly long time ago. My teacher, Mrs Oliver, was wonderful and taught me for free – which is something I’ve since tried to emulate (occasionally).

The music examiner arrived (from England) to test the students at the high school from beginners to very good. He was at the school for a week. I provided lunches and we got on well enough. I suspected he was a bit lonely travelling the country week after week on his own. I lent him books to read. We discussed all sorts of musical things. At the end of the week he invited me to dinner at a rather swish restaurant by way of thanks for my hospitality. By now I was in a horrible mess; I had never told him that in a week’s time in a neighbouring city he was to examine me for piano playing in the highest exam possible. I didn’t do it intentionally; I was simply caught up in trying to organised instrument exams for lots and lots of students other than me. To put it politely, I was shitting myself.

Exam time came. I entered the room.

“Well hello,” said the examiner. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a candidate for this exam?”

“I got all caught up and now I’m a mess,” I said.

“Well,” said he, “if you’d told me I could have brought the books with me that I borrowed.”

I passed! I never know to this day if I was good enough.