The Drum – history and promotion

Snare 

In 1995 I was commissioned to write music for percussion ensemble with narrator for the Rotherham Schools Percussion Ensemble. The ensemble had four up and coming performers who were destined to become professionals supported by other enthusiastic students. The result was The Drum, a through-composed work telling of the journey from iron ore to snare drum in approximately 10 minutes. 

One of the students from that time emailed earlier this month with a request for the score and parts so he could use it with his pupils at Hill House School in the new academic year. When I retrieved it from the shelf it looked dated and difficult to read in some places so new some typesetting was required. One day later, with many hours in front of the computer screen, it was reprinted and ready to go. 

I listened to the music again after a break of many years (I was at the first performance and remember how well it was received by audience and musicians alike) and am happy to say I still enjoyed it. This made the creative cogs turn again and I have recorded a short extract (the opening) to which I have added some images and you can watch the results on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26uk7VdoAhc

Ordering details are available at www.prbpnews.info and at £19.80p (inclusive of p&p) I feel it is competitively priced. Hopefully some other forgotten works will be requested in the near future and I can rediscover more music. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Ring out the old, ring in the…

Snare

Some organised performers and teachers have been planning next year’s programmes and I have had a number of orders for percussion music. Not the new works that I have been struggling with lately but works from approximately 20 years ago.

I am not complaining as it is an interesting study for me as the composer to find which works capture the imagination and which ones do not. It can be circumstances that change with groups disbanding and people moving to different jobs as well as sometimes the music just not being required.

That said the works that are being requested this month are mainly my favourites. I judge this by forgetting about the music for a long period of time and then listen again. If they still have some attractive moments then I am happy but if there are sections that I think are not quite right then I can understand why they don’t interest others.

The works ordered recently include the suites Festive Music (Autumn Waltz is available to listen to at SoundCloud) and Sweet Whistling (the last two movements – On the Pond and A Real Mouthful – are also on SoundCloud). The Ten Xylophone Solos are still going strong with Two Spanish Dances and Silent Cinema Chase (which also have a brass band accompaniment) being the most popular from the collection. One of my early recycling ensembles from the Groove Music series – Drums and Junk, Rock and Funk has been requested this year and a percussion ensemble with narrator – The Drum had to be found, brought up to date and is now available and looking far clearer than before (no audio of this yet but I am recording some extracts for a YouTube near you soon).

These works are from the period 1985 (Ten Xylophone Solos), 1991 (Festive Music) and 1995 (most of the others). They still sound interesting to me today but in a different way to how they seemed years ago. I hope the new works have the same longevity and all of them keep ringing, striking, bashing, rolling and, most of all, are performed for many years to come.

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Bowls, bells and tings (and sings)

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Once I had recovered from the 26th June, the world premiere performance, I have been enjoying recording some of the works we did not have time to complete on the day. This has been good for me as a performer – the pressure, reading, standard, technique and stamina have all improved during the return to music from the depths of a life in academic administration.

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas has been influential in my rehabilitation and I am negotiating for more performances in the near future. The Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble are keen to continue the collaboration and you will be the first to hear about any new developments.

Thank you to the members of the audience that were snapping away on their mobiles during the premiere performance, I have collected the photographs and put them together with one of the most recent recordings Vista R and you can see and hear the results on YouTube http://youtu.be/0jHsBw3XQgE 

In the blog Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas – the instrumentalists from the 18th June there were three pen portraits of the musicians that created some of the music on the evening. Here are some more which show the wide variety of styles, experience and specialities the members of the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble bring to each performance.

Phil Steventon (vibraphone) is a Manchester based percussionist and bandleader, originally from Oxford. He has a wide variety of experience as a performing and teaching musician. His experiences include regularly working in musical theatre, pop bands and orchestras, big bands and various other jazz ensembles on drum kit, percussion and vibraphone, including featuring in his own vibraphone trio, as well as deputising for orchestras and bands across the country.

He has performed at the Marlborough Jazz, Cheltenham Jazz and Parklife Festivals. He has tutored various percussion courses in the South of England and worked as a private drum kit and percussion tutor. Since arriving in Manchester he has had the pleasure of working with Jiggs Whigham, Joe Locke, Enrico Pieranunzi, Dave O’Higgins and Lianne Carol, to name a few and is looking forward to the experiences the rest of his studies and musical career will bring!

Matthew Dabbs (percussion leader) studied drum kit and orchestral percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music and subsequently enjoyed a successful career in popular music as a founding member of the rock band “Longview”. He spent many years playing drums and percussion in the studio with some of the top professionals in the music industry, including: Rick Parasher (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nickleback and Bon Jovi), Biff Stannard (Spice Girls, Ellie Goulding) and Steve Osborne (New order, Doves, Vanessa Carlton).

After his time with the band he continued to be busy working as a freelance professional musician, in concert and in the studio. He is a regular performer with the orchestras of Opera North (Leeds) the Royal Northern Sinfonia (Newcastle) and the Sheffield Pops Orchestra (as principal percussion). He is the senior drum kit and orchestral percussion tutor at Hill House School (independent school of the year 2012). In addition to this he runs a successful private/Skype teaching practise at drumsandpercussiononline.com

Barnsley Youth Choir update

And finally – good luck to all the members of Barnsley Youth Choir (BYC) who fly out to Riga on Monday to represent the United Kingdom at the World Choir Games. All my support goes with you and remember to enjoy the whole experience. Mat and the other MDs will have rehearsed you well, you know how to produce a scintilating sound, all you need to do is relax and sing as one – good luck to you all. View the latest information at facebook -https://www.facebook.com/BarnsleyYouthChoir

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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“No vestige of a beginning, – no prospect of an end.”

John_Hutton

This describes last week very well as the organisation, recording and performance of Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas came to fruition. Little did I know where the creative journey would take me when I read John Hutton’s quote in the Natural History Museum on March 2nd 2013 and the idea for a composition that had many beginnings and endings started to form.

Up until the time of the London visit the music I had composed were going to be organised in a traditional way for percussion ensemble with the drum kit as the featured instrument. Once the Hutton revelation had occurred I changed the way I thought about each idea or section of music. Rather than imagining the music being organised to flow in one specified way I began considering methods of composing so that each section would be flexible enough to act as a starting point, an ending point or some transitional point during the composition.

This has resulted in the majority of musical sections in the work (Vistas as they are titled in the score) having an individual sense of structure, able to be performed as stand alone works, with the contrast of sounds being achieved by the alternation between two percussion ensembles (one with five players and one with three) throughout. This ‘conversation’ between the ensembles was a very interesting aspect during the world premiere performance.

At the venue I had put up a board with letters and numbers that corresponded with the titles of sections in Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas. These letters and numbers had also been broadcast on social media to allow the opportunity of virtual as well as physical influences on the order of the music.

DDoDV_Premiere_Choices

The world premiere performance at The Joseph Bramah, Market Hill, Barnsley on Thursday 26th June 2014 started with the ensemble of five percussionists at Vista 11 followed by the trio of percussionists from Vista J. Most of the sounds in Vista 11 come from cymbals on the drum kit part and Vista J is all cymbals as well. This was just one of the accidental juxtapositions of similar timbres that happened during the first performance and thank you to all that participated to create these phenomena.

Continuing with the acknowledgements I must thank Steve Kohut and the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble for performing the work, the guest soloist Peter Fairclough for his thoughtful and inventive drum kit ideas, other members of the ensemble – Phil Steventon, Le Yu, Matt Dabbs, Keith Ramskill and Nigel Chapman. Jack Green and Dr. Al McNichol for the studio recording during the day, Glen Sutton for filming the evening and Ben, June and all the staff at The Joseph Bramah who made us very welcome. The University of Huddersfield and Barnsley College for the use of instruments and spaces and Stewart Worthy and Steve Kohut for finding extra instruments at short notice. Robert Teal of the local express – Vitesse shops in Barnsley for the business sponsorship, everyone who contributed via Indiegogo thank you and finally Facebook friends for some photographs, any more out there please keep them coming. Everyone who has had some part to play in creating the music and putting on the event, thank you.

World Premiere at The Joseph Bramah

World Premiere at The Joseph Bramah

The first of many versions of the work has been performed and most of the music is recorded. As a future promotions I could release 1000 unique and individual versions of the work on CD as special editions and/or the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble could tour world performing unique versions at each venue. The prospects for Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas depends on demand from you the reader, audience and listener. Thursday’s performance was just the beginning of the distribution of the music which I hope will continue for many years.

There are still 50 programmes from the evening left, if anyone wants one as a memento and has a PayPal account, just transfer a donation of £5 or more to music@prbp.co.uk and I will send you the booklet.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Online promotion over, now it is your turn

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The Indiegogo site is showing the project but it is no longer taking contributions (just send digital cash via PayPal to music@prbp.co.uk and it will still get through).  This form of promotion is over but your contributions to how the music will unfold on the night are needed. 

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas has been written for two percussion ensembles, one with 5 players and one with three.  The music is organised as a conversation between the two ensembles and one of the elements of chance in the composition is deciding on the starting point for each.  The audience can choose the two starting points by picking one letter from A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R and S and one number from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.   

Mathematically there are over 660 different starting permutations and the end point is not prescribed and could be decided by the conductor or performers before or during the performance, it could be dictated by performing for a specific amount of time, it could be…  One of the interesting consequences of this approach is that the order of music could be different ever time it is performed which may produce interesting juxtapositions of sound and each performance of the same work could be unique.

For the world premiere performance the number or letter chosen most often will be the starting section of music, the second most popular letter or number will be the starting point for the other ensemble and once these are set the piece will progress in a sequential order until all sections have been performed. 

E-mail, tweet, message, text or send a pigeon with the letter and number of your choice.  Just before the start of the performance these will be added to the selections made at The Joseph Bramah on Thursday and the virtual and physical audiences will have a say in how the first performance evolves.

If you want a different artistic experience before the drums and percussion strike up, the graduates from the art and design degree course at the University Campus and keeping their exhibition open longer on the Thursday evening.  They are just across the road from The Joseph Bramah in the Arcade and have transformed the ex Rehab shop at the top of the Arcade into an excellent exhibition space.  The short film I made of the gallery can be viewed by following the link http://youtu.be/KKg8MMFtSGM

Don’t forget to send me your number and letter and hope to see you soon.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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12 hours to go or !@ ˙ø¨®ß †ø ©ø

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In 12 hours, or at 7am Greenwich Mean Time (8am British Summer Time) the crowd funding experiment with Indiegogo will have elapsed. If you still want to contribute but have just been putting it off until the right time; now is the only time and please follow the link to part with some digital cash that will support the musicians and secure your memento of the event. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/deranged-drums-on-digital-vistas-world-premiere-gig-and-recordings-to-share  

The one last process is the little matter of getting all funds into the bank account and I have complete faith in the system. When I recover from the organising and performing the world premiere – Thursday between 7 and 8pm at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2PX, I hope to be able to share facts, figures, findings and my thoughts on the process. 
Vitesse

There was a little support from business for the event – I thought this would be the case with the prize being difficult to define – and the winner was Vitesse lifestyle express in Barnsley, thank you to Robert and if you want to see a draw from a drum the link is – <a title="Business draw to sponsor the event" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ufbid3E2K4Atarget=”_blank”>youtu.be/Ufbid3E2K4A 

 

The band of musicians are carefully practising the parts, the recording engineers and film crew are ready so I am hopeful of some brilliant music on Thursday.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Wetherspoon world premiere – 5 days to go

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One hour of percussion music – Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas written by composer and percussionist Peter Birkby.  8 instrumentalists, over 60 percussion instruments and a musical mix of drum ‘n timpani, latin, contemporary, jazz and classical all on Market Hill in Barnsley.  The world premiere is on Thursday 26th June 2014 between 7 and 8pm at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, S70 2PX .  

This is completely funded by your contributions, the last day you will be able to contribute through the Indiegogo website is Tuesday 24th, and please support by donating at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/deranged-drums-on-digital-vistas-world-premiere-gig-and-recordings-to-share  

To watch one of the 37 sections of music being performed by the composer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZoJnksq2bc&feature=youtu.be

After the event the music will be made freely available as downloads (with links and instructions to free recording and editing software) for you to create your own version of the music and then share it through the Urban Skyline Bandcamp site.  Hope to see you soon or hear the new creations in the future. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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