Friday, July 17, 2015

The Animals of the Bush orchestra

Found this again the other day - a proposal I made to some orchestras back in 2010. I was told that kids wouldn’t find it interesting. I don’t know. I’ll park it here for the moment.

The Animals of the Bush Orchestra - Proposal

The story


Returning from a country tour, the orchestra is stopped by a flooded river, a mile wide at its narrowest point. The only way across is for the musicians to leave their instruments and get in a few flimsy boats.

At night the creatures of the forest come out and find the instruments. Not knowing what they are, they discover that they make sounds and start improvising on them. Over several nights they work at this, until they come up with some very strange music - reeds played on trumpet bores, mallets across euphonium bells...
A local entrepreneur hears the bush creatures’ orchestra and decides to present them to the world. The animals feel that it may be advantageous to be given a ‘human’ voice.

Next day, the members of the orchestra turn up to retrieve their instruments. They’ve had to travel far and stay the night, but that night they hear the strange music. They befriend the creatures, but tell them that’s not the way you play their instruments. They show them ‘how it’s done
’ – instrument by instrument and then as an ensemble. But good as it is, that’s not the music the creatures like, and they slink away crestfallen.

The musicians go back to their jobs. The entrepreneur comes back to the bush, but can’t find the animals. The concert is off. The musicians feel bad.

They return to the bush with the entrepreneur and replacement instruments in tow. Together with the animals*, they devise a concerto for bush band and orchestra and put on a concert the like of which has never been heard before. Further afield, animals are inspired to make their own instruments with the woods, gourds and leaves around them.

*including members of the audience

GKW, 2010

Pluses of this story
This story provides an environmental context for a story which will expose audience members not only to the standard orchestral instruments, but alternative sound sources and sound-production techniques. It provides a sense of drama and magic and has a happy ending.

At 40 minutes, the work will be suitable as a stand-alone touring product, but could also serve as one half of a family-style concert. It has a double educational value in drawing upon bush ecology to ask audience members to think about their unique species.

While having an Australian flavor, it is expected that the work can also attract overseas audiences. The work will be an Australian ‘Peter and the Wolf’ that travels as far around the world as the Russian model.  An additional option for overseas users of the story could be to substitute native animals from their own ecology – for instance, skunks for possums and alligators for crocodiles in a US context.  Both options would be available to orchestras interested in purchasing the product.

The project will provide a challenging exercise for a composer who must come up not only with new instrumental techniques, but different configurations of a standard orchestra to match the differing performance venues of the various orchestras.

Forces/resources/other creative dimensions
The work will require a narrator, but no additional performing personnel beyond that. 

Though in the story the orchestra demonstrates how to play their instruments by playing a piece of standard repertoire for maximum contrast with the bush music, it is expected that the composer will provide this standard piece in two complements (large and small). Thus the work can be performed by small chamber ensemble as well as double woodwind/double brass. It will be necessary to have at least one of each woodwind and brass however to demonstrate orchestral colour. It is expected that the ‘bush instruments’ will be played by the orchestral musicians experimenting with their own instruments, though, as an additional educational attraction for school groups or families, audience members can make their own bush instruments as preparation for attendance at the show.   They could be invited to play these instruments at an appropriate time in the performance.

Further creative dimensions include the possible use of back-projection, whether illustrations or photography.  

Audience participation
The work will be designed to incorporate audience involvement. Audience members may be invited to make the ‘night sounds’ of the outdoors, vocal effects (eg. the ‘orchestras’ touring song’), or even the accompanying instruments made from ‘the woods, gourds and leaves around them’. This is an area to be developed in consultation with the composer and would be optional for the orchestra to choose to utilise or not.

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