Demon Dumplings 2016
I had this idea for ages: A large scale, extended, instrumental work for toy instruments. I made something like that happen last year and this web page documents the resulting mess: complete video footage of the final rehearsal, audio from the piece's 2nd performance, photos, downloadable copies of the full score and somewhat of a personal debrief.
(Click on the buttons to the left for links to video/audio/scores)
Since I was a teenager I'd been collecting any instrument I could get my hands on for free / super cheap. Same with records and novelty coffee mugs. People would give me music things they weren't using too. I ended up with a lot of things that made noises. Many of these instruments I had used on previous recordings but I felt they demanded their own showcase. Some were just so weird and amazing and I'd never come across real music written for piano play mats, balloon whizzers and a lot of the other curious things that ended up in the music.
So I made this Demon Dumplings thing which has 6 movements and goes for about 40 minutes
As I was turning sketches into compositions I decided to try and get some funding to pay for ensemble players. I wasn't sure how many people were required until very late in the process but I figured on around 20. I talked to my boss Helen Marcou who was in the know about arts funding and contacted lots of other fantastic people for letters of support etc to put together my case for funding. It was a learning process, a shit load of work and initially unsuccessful. At the same time as busting it to make an application deadline I was day jobbing, looking after my little goblin girl, trying to develop / finish the pieces while also finding people to join the group. The composing itself was demanding. I had to stretch my mind to come up with ways to incorporate these non standard instruments into a cohesive piece to be played by people who hadn't used them before. The notating was challenging too and I'd been working mostly outside of notated music in the previous years. Before I knew it I had performance dates, most of the band locked in, a very unfinished piece, no score and no money to pay musicians. All these worms jumped out of a can, stuck their tongues out at me......and raspberried loudly.....
OH! the group featured:
STRINGS & THINGS:
(op-shop zithers, charm harp, violin, slide violin, hand bells, wobble board, piano playmat, harmonicas, ocarina, tin whistle, upright bass)
JULIAN CUE - ANGUS MACLEAN - MEENAH HARRISON - THOM SULLIVAN
REEDS, BRASS & GADETS:
(baritone, tenor, alto saxes, trumpets, french horn, trombone, tuba, recorders, whizzers, duck / slide / train / party whistles, kung-fu drums, bongos, chimes, siren, dog toys, soccer horns, brass bowl, melodica, ornamental guitar, ratchet, guiro, clappers)
FIONA LOCKIE - ANIA REYNOLDS - D'ARCY MOLAN - ANNA GORDAN - CHARLIE WOODS - JOEL RICHIE - NATHAN FORD - MONICA LUDEKENS
PERCUSSION / OTHER FANTASTICAL OBJECTS:
(toy piano, little xylophone, marimba, brass serving plate, bells, kids keyboard, wind tubes, assorted tins, thunder drums, melodica, pump horn, pop gun, snare / bass drum, razzer, glockenspiels, drill, wood block, kung-fu drums, dog whistle)
JOSH MOULT - LOUISE TERRY - GRAY TAYLOR - JEM MALONEY - SELWYN COZENS - RENATO VACIRCA
I have no immediate plans to revisit demon dumplings but glad to finally share this record of it. I'd love to one day perform / professionally record it in a quiet hall with nice acoustics and hopefully have a lot more time to work with an ensemble. It was a real honour to work with the players in 2016 and I'm very grateful for the many people that encouraged and supported the project in so many ways. I recently visited the office of Peter Neville who heads percussion studies at Melbourne University. He has two air raid sirens / countless other ridiculous instruments sitting in there and told me about a piece he performed in a Swedish swimming pool, or something like that, composed for 4 air raid sirens. Wild! There will never be a shortage of sounds you can write music for. I've been keen on putting together a piece for vacuum cleaner and a hard plastic sort of nippled non slip mat for a while though that may be only of interest to me alone.
Doesn't really matter I suppose.
Please enjoy diving into this mess. Enjoy the peculiar colours and massive efforts. Better still - I lovingly encourage everyone to make art with and from whatever you have lying around - no matter what demonic, confusing outcome it has. Rope people in / Ask for help. Don't worry if it doesn't turn into some super professional thing. We need more interesting near miss fall apart big balls of wonked weird idea art and less bland perfection. What else are you going to do?
Szonk - Dec 2017