Finished week one and now starting week two of visiting junior and senior schools in Rotherham with the aim of inspiring the pupils to compose music for Pioneer the musical, the story about the people, and some places, that make Rotherham special. The script has been written by director and educator Karen Mulcahey and has 57 opportunities for music with my first job being to help the pupils/students to create the music for the musical. They have a couple of months to create, revise and edit their work before I collect it all up and order it into a score ready for rehearsals to start in the New Year. Performances are booked for the 29th and 30th March 2017 in the main auditorium at Magna Science Adventure Centre

It all started with a question I had asked myself many times ‘how do you get young composers to create music for themselves that relates to their experiences?’ This is a different concept for the young musical mind in the education system that is usually (if at all) asked to compose to a set of defined rules or with certain preconditions. The only requirements they have to meet is that the music relates to one or more of the 57 cues from the script. There are no defined styles to work to although if the student composers want to write a period piece the script allows for this as it covers a few thousand years of history as well as being in the present.

This could make for a disjointed series of music and drama sketches and I envisage my role as editor, arranger and possibly composer will give a consistent character to the final work. In the first week I saw over 250 pupils at various schools and recorded over 30 minutes of first thoughts created in a short period of time by individuals and as collaborations. Hope there will be hours to select from when more ideas have been composed in the coming months.

The overarching concept I had for the musical was as a project to inspire creativity and then present these ideas at a high standard which would help encourage the composers to carry on writing. The project has grown with the addition of drama and dance to have the potential of being a celebratory spectacle with a cast of hundreds. It is a credit to all at Rotherham Music that they have supported the project from concept to fruition and now there is the small matter of pulling all the elements together to make the show a success.

© P.R.Birkby 2016

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Present and past, new and old, now and then.


How to celebrate 37 years, and counting, of composing and publishing music? This is the question I have been pondering for a number of weeks and then everything became clear as I was editing some new compositions. The idea is simply a BOGO, BOGOF or to some BOGOHO approach and to fully explain the acronyms: BOGO and BOGOF are buy one get one free and BOGOHO is buy one get one half off.

The result of this concept is Percussion Now and Then. The plan is to produce a specially curated collection of music for percussion that couples brand new works with ones from the extensive prbp back catalogue. Each pair of works are chosen to be at a similar standard, have some similar instrumentation and are ordered with the capability of being performed as one work or as two individual works to fit your programming requirements.

There are now approaching five hundred works for percussion in the prbp catalogue with many of these are in collections such as Festive Music, Ten Xylophone Solos or Dance Suite No.3 to name a few.   The new works I am writing have a link to my music from decades gone by in that concepts and problems I experimented with then will have shaped and informed my current methods and practices of composing. I hope the ideas and obstacles I find now will enlighten me in the future as well.

My first offer in the collection is a pairing of the brand new Pencil Panorama with a work from Ten Quartets, my first book of percussion ensembles, Drum Parade both for percussion quartet. Both works feature the timpani and to match the resources of the two works a little more closely I have edited the timpani part of the Drum Parade and added an extra drum.

The product can be viewed at in an A4 format. As with many of my recent publications the music has been prepared with the option for onscreen use as well as printing.

The second offering in the collection will be two more quartets both inspired by rail journeys and available in the coming weeks with the third being two pieces for 12 percussionists of mixed abilities.

Thank you to everyone that took the time to comment on and like the anniversary and I have started planning for the 40th anniversary already. TBC, TBD and/or TBA in a future post.

© Peter R. Birkby 2016

Posted in Music and Enterprise, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part-time PhD and amendments

Bowed cymbal

The main writing has been done over a six-year period.  The aural examination of the evidence is complete and there seems to be an inevitable stage for the new Doctor to then be required to complete some more paragraphs that further explain, make the examples clearer, include elements discussed in the…

Life has been on hold for over seven years as any ‘spare’ time was taken up with trying to get to the heart of the problem and where is this extra time to come from now?  I must admit I was exhausted once the thesis had been submitted but there was no relief as it was  impossible to take time off at such a busy time of the year. I stopped writing words, infrequent blogs are the proof, and started composing although that was difficult with rearranging and editing being my way back to music.

Most of the new works were discussed in the Something old, something new, something borrowed and something based on the blues blog and I am still editing and rearranging now with these four new additions to the catalogue.

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas for drum soloist with percussion ensembles (8 players in total). Full score and parts now published and available to order from [advanced standard]

Timpani Tunes with piano accompaniments in £ in $ [elementary/beginner standard]

French Omelette for trombone quartet in £ [advanced standard]

Rhythm Quartets 6 with Dot in £ in $ [elementary/beginner standard]

I have also been revising the blogs and for the percussionist and/or any composers/arrangers reading don’t forget the resource of the A to Z of Percussion featured in a series of blogs last year.





E, F and G       

H, I, J, K and L

M, N, O, P and Q

R and S           

T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z

Will soon have submitted the amended thesis and then can I relax please? Probably not, music is a vocation not a job and is always with me.

© P. R. Birkby 2016

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas now published

Castle Hill 360

For Percussion Ensembles

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas for drum kit (set) and two percussion ensembles is now published and the complete set of full score and parts is now available to order from the Home page at

I experimented with a download version of the music for ease of distribution, and consequently a much lower price, but the complexities of the concept meant creating a full score with many options would be too costly, in time and resources, for the customer. As I have all the resources to manufacture the books ordering a physical copy will be much more satisfactory, even though there is a wait for the postal service, as it will be a better and more lasting product when it arrives through the mail. The score is a fully bound A3 size book and the eight part books are bound A4 size.

The concept for the complete work is that two ensembles perform fixed sections of music (Vistas) one after the other (there are a few that have some overlap). The ensemble of drum kit and tuned percussion has 18 Vistas, titled 1 to 18, and the ensemble of unpitched instruments has 19 Vistas named A to S. Each ensemble can start with any Vista and then continue in a linear fashion to an end point (which can be pre-determined or decided during the performance). As there is no defined start or end point the performance can continue in a loop, all music supplied in the score and parts, until an end is reached.

Starting points – if all the Vistas are to be performed a pre-determined starting point can be decided by the conductor/director, audience participation or chance – picking a number and letter out of a hat, key-pad voting, show of hands, texting, tweeting… At the first performance which was organised out in the community at a local bar and restaurant and the audience used whiteboard and pen or text to choose the starting points of Vista 11 followed by Vista J.

End point – the performance can be of any duration, fixed or undefined, with any amount of time being possible. As with the starting points the end point can be pre-determined or left to the discretion of the conductor/director during the performance or the audience could decide. Approximate (or suggested) durations for each Vista are included on the contents page to assist with the performance choices and the whole work, with no repeated material, lasts approximately one hour.

Instrumentation – the numbered Vistas are performed by a percussion quintet that features the drum kit (set) with marimba, tambourine, vibraphone, tubular bells (chimes), glockenspiel (bells), timpani (4 pedals), triangle, bell tree, finger cymbals, Mark tree, and shaker. The lettered Vistas are performed by a percussion trio using a mixture of 3 tambourines, high and low metal sounds (not cymbals), high and low wood sounds, high and low drum sounds, snare drum Mexican bean, pop gun, bass drum, 2 wood blocks, 2 temple blocks, claves, 2 suspended cymbals, 2 triangles, 3 sandpaper blocks, bongos, hand drum, ride cymbal, hi hat, china cymbal, crash cymbal, splash cymbal, large crash cymbal, clash cymbals, brake drum, surdo, castanets, tom tom, congas, thunder (metal) sheet, 3 brass prayer bowls, Indian bell, brass rod, bullroarer and 6 cowbells.

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas was composed so that it can be performed almost anywhere, no power or other extras needed, and I hope to hear of how different versions of the work are received in various environments. Some of the music is freely available to listen to at my Bandcamp site

© P. R. Birkby 2016



Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something based on the blues.


I submitted my PhD, enjoyed a few hours of conversation during the viva and have a list of amendments to complete but musically what do I do next? During my research I discovered many pieces of music that were written and performed years ago and I was surprised that, despite the intervening years and the developments in my ways of working, I still liked them.

As well as the older works there were also some new ideas that were inspired by events and conversations that needed completing so the last month has been spent editing and uploading music for publication on the Payhip and Sellfy sites. The old is the brass and flute sextet music, the new is the saxophone and wind quintet composition plus the pop-up percussion ensemble idea, Scarborough Fair and Bolero have been borrowed and the brass music has strong roots in the blues.


Scarborough Fair for violin and piano A4 size

US letter format


Simply for Soloist for trumpet and piano A4 size

US letter format

Flugel horn

Withershins Waltz Take 2 for flugel and piano A4 size

US letter format

Tenor Saxophone

Circumference 1 for tenor saxophone and piano A4 size

US letter format 

Alto Saxophone, oboe, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon

Circumference 5 for wind quintet A4 size

US letter format 


Only the dead have seen the end of war for flute and piano A4 size

US letter format 

Flute sextet

French Omelette A4 size

US letter format

Percussion quartet

Suitcase of Sounds A4 size

US letter format 

Bolero (Ravel) A4 size

US letter format

Marimba duo

Arrow of Eros A4 size

US letter format


The use of the two sites is for ease of cataloguing and currency with Payhip being priced in £ and all formatted in A4 size while the Sellfy material is priced in $ and formatted for US letter printing. Hope you feel inspired to try some of the music and this growing catalogue of music has a page on Facebook:

© P. R. Birkby 2016

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Divide and communicate


For the first time in many months I have been able to stop ‘doing’ and take time to review my business as a musician. In this line of work there is a lot of doing: performing, rehearsing, composing, preparing, teaching… and taking time to analyse what is being done is often at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Considering the what, how and why of all these activities is a necessity for a more productive and organised business and could also reveal where the time for reflection can be found.

The first part of the reflection process was to list all my current jobs and roles and then break these down into the different activities associated with them. One example of this is the percussion and drum teaching I have at various schools, colleges and community centres in term-time. Splitting the work into the constants: travel, lesson duration, syllabus, school calendar… and the variables: preparation of materials, speed of progress, special projects or events… revealed some areas that could be completed using a common approach and others that needed an individual plan.

Another of the elements in the portfolio of musical roles I undertake is composing. I looked at the many works I have written, approximately one thousand pieces of music, and it became clear that these works needed some detailed cataloguing and classifying if I was to effectively promote the music. This is a considerable undertaking and not one to be achieved over a weekend.

The way to organise has started to become clear as I divided the music into a number of categories and sub-categories. When I have a number of related works I then prepare them for publication in the most appropriate format, mostly aiming for a digital download configuration, and use Facebook Pages to compile and promote the music.

Some examples of the half dozen Pages I have created can be found at Recital Music Online  Percussion Music Online and Rhythm Quartets Series

To create and place items on the Pages has been quick and easy for text, images and links to other sites coupled with the ease that Facebook links with other social media makes this an ideal starting point for my composition promotion. I am glad I have been able to take a break from doing and got back to thinking as I will use time more efficiently in the coming months. Just need to find when the next review will take place, at 2, 3, 4 or 6 month intervals?  Some review of the reviewing will be needed next year.

© Peter R. Birkby 2016

Posted in Music and Enterprise, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anniversary music – A Lot of Light Music

Skythrough trees

This month is the second anniversary of Urban Skyline on Bandcamp as LinkedIn reminded me the other day.  I hope to release an album of Light Music on the label in the coming weeks as a celebration of all things melodic  The stimulus behind the compositions was this year’s RPM Challenge ‘ten songs, or 35 minutes of original music, created during the month of February.’  and if you have the desire to write some words there is plenty of time to start planning for National Novel Writing Month in November

The concept of forcing yourself to write, compose, paint, draw and just create for an intense period of time I find very useful.  This year it has allowed me to focus on writing one style of melodic instrumental music and given me the ideas to experiment with combinations of sounds as well as various musical structures.

Unfortunately various other work got in the way for me to submit by the deadline on the 1st March 2016 at 12 noon. Managing your own time is difficult when you are a freelance musician as earning a living is a necessity and accepting employment when it is offered sometimes leaves little time for any self interests.  On the plus side I have completed nine original compositions plus three bonus arrangements with a total duration of the music is over 35 minutes and I am looking forward to producing an album full of melody with some memorable tunes.

Look out for the virtual release of A Lot of Light Music on an internet enabled device near you soon.  © Peter R. Birkby 2016

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment