Tuesday, 30 November 2010

December's Game of the Month

December's free music game has just been uploaded. Called Seven of Eight, it's one for the whole group or class. Versatile as they come, this exercise can be made simple enough for five year olds or sufficiently challenging to stretch accomplished adults. Go ahead and assimilate it.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Descant recorders - health scare

It's not often my friend Hugh and I meet young girls who tell us we're gorgeous. And if you saw us you would instantly know why. So when I went with Hugh and a couple of others to demonstrate musical instruments on a travellers' site last week I had a pleasant surprise. The boost to my self esteem was short lived, however, as the word used was actually 'gadjos' (pronounced gorgeous). Gadjo means non-gypsy, literally 'outsider'. I found the outsider tag mildly amusing as I live inside a house whereas travellers...

Anyway, when we arrived at a small Portakabin on the site we found a box of percussion had been provided by a school teacher. This contained no fewer than three descant recorders. Some twenty years ago I had the misfortune to teach recorder to a six-year-old boy who took great pleasure in pointing the thing in my face and blowing as loudly as he could for half an hour. This only lasted for two lessons. A third lesson and I'm sure I would have done something I would still be regretting at Her Majesty's pleasure.

My ears are less sensitive after two decades of teaching woodwind but a recorder in the wrong hands still feels like someone drawing on my eardrums with a marker pen. Following this workshop my ears rang the way they used to after a Hawkwind gig. You should know, if you don't already, that if you subject your ears to noise that leaves them ringing you have caused them permanent damage. So the moral is, never give a recorder to a child unless you really know what you expect him or her to do with it. Never casually include one, never mind three, in a box of percussion instruments. In fact, if I ruled the world I would place recorders in the same category as alcohol and cigarettes with hefty fines for anyone supplying them to minors.

Monday, 8 November 2010


It's always a pleasure to visit Cambridge, even on those occasions when, not expecting rain, I get soaked to the skin. I arrived in balmy temperatures and sat outside the rehearsal space with a cup of coffee. But when I left the Fitzwilliam just after lunch it was markedly cooler and the rain was just beginning. And by the time I got back to our rehearsal space I was wet through.

I was in the city to work on a performance project called 'Dreams of Kings and Heroes' that opens at the Fitzwilliam Museum at the end of the month. It is based on, and accompanies, the current Shahnameh exhibition. The Shahnameh tells the Persian story prior to the Arab invasion in the 7th Century AD. It's a heady, and often violent, blend of history, legend and myth is reminiscent of both the Old Testament and One Thousand and One Nights.

Friday was an opportunity to meet the rest of the team, see the exhibition for myself and play with some ideas. Now I'm immersing myself in Persian classical music, quarter tones and all, in the hope that some flavours will find their way into my own compositions. If experience is anything to go by, fifty minutes may not be long enough to accustom Western ears to quarter tones, even if there were to be music throughout the show. But I hope stop short of Disneyfication and strive to do justice to what looks like being a fabulous (literally, for once) son et lumière presentation.