February 5, 2009
As I mentioned in the other entry I posted today, I’m working on two pieces right now.
One is a “true Grade 4” piece, I hope. That basically means it’s “good high school level,” but I’m probably making it more difficult than that, just because I always underestimate difficulty level. The piece, commissioned by Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia, looks like it’s going to be All-Out Happy And Sparkly. (That’s not the title, by the way.)
The other piece, for Deer Path Middle School in Lake Forest, Illinois, should be a “true Grade 3,” or maybe even a Grade 2-3. It’s most definitely for young players. The idea for this one came from AEJ (of course). She said that she thinks that if you’re a percussionist, there would be a cool realization the first time you found out that percussion isn’t just snare drum and glockenspiel, but it can be anything that some idiotic composer (my words, not hers) asks you to hit. The idea with this piece is to do just that — show young percussionists that part of their job is finding stuff that composers ask for, and figuring out how to make it sound like music. One thing I’m using is a metal cheese grater, like this one —
Oops, sorry – that was one of the first images to come up on Google. No, more like this one:
So I have the student scrape it with a metal spoon. It’s like a hillbilly guiro! — well, if hillbillies were all about fresh-grated cheese. Let me tell you: metal cheese grater + metal spoon = not a subtle or pretty sound.
I also want somebody in the percussion section to hit something with a hammer. As Ben Lorenzo — a UT conducting student — told me the other day, if he was in middle school, he’d want to hit stuff with a hammer. But what? I love the sound of a bell plate on top of a brake drum (I use this in almost every piece now), but it’s surprisingly hard to find a bell plate or even a good substitute — and that’s for college players. What can I ask middle school kids to hit with a hammer? Any other “found percussion” ideas?