Kids as Composers: Some Examples

In my role as Head of Musicr, I am a big believer in teaching and empowering children to be composers. All children can naturally compose music, just as they do draw a picture. All that needs to happen is they need to be given some very simple starting blocks, and off they go. These starting blocks never need to be traditional western notation.

Here is an example of a piece written by a group of five-year-olds. They were given 45 minutes to write and perform this piece. They have been composing in my classes for about four years now, so they are very used to that task expectation. You can hear they have written a four-part piece of music, including an A and a B section. It totally rocks

Play Song

A School Music Program that Focusses on Student Composition.

The music program at North Fitzroy is a vibrant, stimulating program that embraces composition, creativity, participation, technology, and fun. The main emphasis behind almost all our work is to empower the students to believe that their compositions are worthwhile. Demystifying the role of the composer and valuing children’s composition drives much of the thinking behind our program. 

If our music department can do this, it will create a lifelong love of music in children. Rather than just being observers of music, these children will go on to be participants and, most importantly, creators.

Every child gets to participate in a generalist music class once a week. In this class, the core understanding of composition is taught to the child. We try to cover a vast range of concepts and presentation styles to allow for as many different learning styles as possible. These include sound sculptures, movie soundtracks, abstract compositions, loops-based composition, recording techniques, traditional notation, rap, and hip hop, and rock music. By teaching through composition, one can teach the basic concepts such as pitch, rhythm texture, and melody in a way that has personal relevance for the students and, therefore, will remain with them for their life. 

Other projects include instrument making, singing, and African drumming. 

Almost every class starts with a listening session where the children listen to various music and are encouraged to make comments on the compositional techniques and a personal judgment on whether they like it and why. Many of these “listening” exercises are now done using DVDs and a data projector giving children a more significant visual awareness of the music. On top of the generalist, lesson children are encouraged to participate in the ensembles that we provide. We run a mixed percussion ensemble for each year level. The ensemble comprises a variety of melodic and percussive instruments, including xylophone, glockenspiel, djembe drums, marimbas, and hand percussion. Learning by using your ears, not your eyes, is central to our pedagogy of small ensemble work. For example, when we learn a new piece, each part is sung to the whole group. A piece might have five different parts, ranging from bass, middle, high melody lines, and a rhythm section. The entire group would then sing each part before focusing on their individual parts. This provides context and trains the ear to hear things as a whole.  

To model our composition first approach, ensemble leaders initially compose all the music for the group before quickly handing that responsibility to the students. Improvisation in this ensemble is encouraged. 

We also run a couple of rock ensembles and a choir. Many opportunities are provided for the ensembles to perform within the school and outside the school. In addition, strong links have been made with the local high school and region where groups have been invited to our school for mutual concerts, and we have taken groups to other schools and community events. Finally, we also run an EYT (extend your talents) program for children who show a very keen interest and ability. In this program, they form their own groups to perform, record, and look at other areas of the music industry, such as advertising and management. They can also make their own short movies and animations using programs such as iMovie and iStopmotion. In this creation process, they are required to score all the music for their movies and animations.

We believe our program is innovative in several areas. Our core philosophy of valuing the idea of students as producers rather than just receivers of information is what drives all our innovation. We have fully embraced technology as not only an important learning tool, but we see it as merely being another valuable platform to allow for meaningful learning. A lot of our teaching revolves around understanding the role of music in various situations, but to fully learn, these children need to create those situations. With this in mind, the children work on a lot of multimedia projects such as filmmaking, animations, the creation of radio shows, and podcasting. Through programs such as radio waves, we have been able to podcast a lot of the children’s work on the internet, thus forming valuable relationships with other schools and community groups throughout the world. By doing this, we allow the children to produce work that has wings outside of the classroom. No longer are they producing work for merely one person, the teacher; they are now producing it for vast communities found and created by the internet. Technology is intricately woven into all aspects of children’s lives and therefore should be woven into all aspects of their school life. All of the children’s work is recorded and given back to them in the form of digital portfolios or uploaded onto the internet. This recording process is also handed over to the students in many instances.

However, one of our major innovations is to integrate the music program into the classroom program. If you can do this, you are mitigating against the risk of your music program being marginalized, a program that falls into line well behind literacy and numeracy. Instead, it becomes valued as a nessasary aid to those things. We have done this by pushing the value of multimedia projects because they work with visual literacy. We have run many PDs teaching the classroom teachers various music programs such as Garageband, iMovie, etc. By doing this, the fear of music has been removed from the teachers, and they are confident to allow the students to integrate music into many of their projects. We have encouraged teachers’ ideas and tried to provide the infrastructure for them to do this. All classrooms have five computers in them, and we have a Mac lab of 20 Computers and a small recording studio.

The impact we have is an exciting one. On a very grassroots level, many of our students go into high school with the innate belief that they are creators and their creations are valuable. They are not content to merely play a role but want to have very personal involvement in creating that role. Many of our rock bands, formed when the children were only ten, have maintained and are now gigging professionally. We have developed significant relationships with local community groups such as the Old Colnialist home for the elderly and the Croxton Special School. 

Finally, a special project is being run with the Croxton Special School where 10 of our students are working with 10 of their students every week for a term playing music and ultimately leading to a performance. The students have also chosen to film and edit the process and final performance. That will be presented as a DVD ready for purchase by the broader school communities.  

How to Earn A Considerable Amount of Money Each and Every New Year’s Eve

The experiences of a musician for hire are the same the world over. A never-ending uncertainty concerning every single gig and added to that a general sense of weirdness surrounding almost every gig. Here’s a tale that gives you a taste.

Once a year, on the 15th of December, I get a phone call. The man on the other end of the line is a fat, very wealthy restaurateur who never has any idea who I am despite the fact he has called me every year on this exact date for the last 5 years.

“Hi is this ahhh how do you say your name? 

Kynan is it?” he says with what might be described as the tone that emanates from a fellow regarded as Jolly. 

“Yes, it is” I reply. “Hello, Alf. Good to speak to you again.”

“Ah, good. Hi Kynan, you don’t know me. Adam Simmons gave me your number. You see, we have a new years bash at my house every year, lots of fun, my wife likes to have a brass band at it, I want Adam Simmons, but it seems he’s swamped. He’s an excellent guy, that Adam. I love listening to him. Anyway, he tells me you might be able to organize something. Is that something you could do? Get my wife a brass band for my New Years’ bash.”

“Of course”

“Good good good, now go get some trumpets, saxophones drums the whole lot play some music, have a drink you’ll love it. Now I want American Patrol – you know that song Da Da Da dumda da. Of course, you know it, the wife loves it, so play that oh and also the Peter Gun tune play that. I don’t care what else you play. Actually, if you just want to play those two and keep playing them, that’s fine with me, especially Peter Gun. What do you play?”


“Oh right, oh, OK, bring one of those along…and some drums saxophones, oh I’m sure you know what you’re doing, just get American Patrol, OK. Right, see you then but 11.”

And the phone goes dead.

This conversation comes around like clockwork every year, word for word, and no matter what I try to do each year, big Alf blocks me from his memory without blocking the routine.

So I make a few phone calls get a baritone sax, a trumpet, and two marching band drummers, and we show up at his mansion at about 11.00 on New Year.

The party atmosphere is unchanging from year to year, with about 15 people sitting around looking fairly unenthused despite the surrounding madness. When we enter the house, pushing past the collection of choristers that are lining the staircase getting ready for their set Alf come s striding up, arm outstretched, huge feathers sticking out of what must be regarded in some quarters as a hat, shirt open revealing the grey haired mat on his leather chest.

“You must be Kynan, he bellows.

“Yes, sir, thats me, the same as last year.”

“Right, heres the routine. After the choir finishes, you guys come on for about an hour set, that be right with you? Great, what do you think of my hat? I got this at the set of Pricilla Queen of the Desert. I’ll put my fireman’s hat on in a while. Help yourself to anything; you want to come out and see my Lamborghini? What do you think of my chandelier? Had it imported from Italy, I hate it. I’ve got some costumes I want you to wear, go get changed in that spare bedroom. The chandelier cost me thousands, hundreds of thousands. The wife wanted it. See you when you’re ready.” 

Despite possessing an impressive overweight voice, Alf still has to speak louder than usual to be heard over the police bagpipe and drum band performing in the kitchen. This would seem like no place for a police outfit unless you were wearing a skirt that these conveniently are.

Same drill as last year, which we follow to the letter.

And come out charging, determined to blow the 15 drowsily drunk guests off their feet. We start with a calypso number that draws an immediate response from Alf at its conclusion.

“Alright, boys, enough of that. Just give us American Patrol followed by Peter Gun and loudly.”

So we do for the next hour, at which stage it is the comedian’s turn.

When it’s all over, Alf stuffs wads of 50 and 100 dollar bills into my hand tells me he loves it. And says. “I don’t think we’ll bother with that Adam Simmons next year. We’ll just get you.”

Sampling Other Peoples Lives

I know a musician friend who is in the process of stealing a friend of his’s story and making it part of his own lifes makeup. She shared a story with him that she was going to turn into song.
He liked it so much he took it and started slipping it into stories and answers he gave when he was doing interviews. He then slid it in so much it became a vital part of his history and interviewers actually started asking him about it. Once its in the media it becomes truth for both the teller and the reader.
He still had some notion of self doubt enough to email the original storyteller and suggest she alter her song idea to instead being about someone who had stolen one of her stories aadn was using it for them selves. And only reveal the story in the last verse – it didn’t require a complete song but only a verse within a stronger story.
He hasn’t had a response from the women but I will let you know if he gets one.

Tonight I start my tour with a man called C.W.Stoneking
we play tonight at The Melbourne Spiegletent before heading around the country.

heres a photo I took in country Australia while on tour with Des Peres
there is work out there even in these hard times. The music industry had its greatest boom in the original depression, so its good news for all of us.

More on the House of Pow

am no teacher but my father was a preacher so I have seen him show the people. I will try
If you are there you know, welcome and grab yourself a bed. If you aren’t, there are plenty of invites floating around, find one for yourself, put on your best suit, grab a cane, umbrella or taxidermist’s bird (make it a big one) and hail a street car. But make sure you bring a plate, a plate full of big love. Love for all things fast, red, a love of slight of hand, a love of loud sounds when you need them, a love of theft when the object can be better used, a love of all things old but only when presented in a new way, a love of fox skins and a love of that deep, deep POW.
POW is when you are being held up against the wall but a man much bigger and stronger than you, adrenalin pumping but oxygen leaving, only one thought comes to your head POW
POW is when you can take over a back stage after a roaring concert by singing nothing but American work songs unrelentingly and then use the same skill to unload all the band of all their drinks, negotiate your way around a large city, order a Greek dinner delight and then wave goodbye all without dropping a note.
House of POW is a lifestyle. If you don’t see the world this way you might never but you must try and try and try. You must Must Must.
House of POW is music . The best music, music you cant understand but it gets you, gets you in that spot. The spot that fills you with groove and move, fills you desire, lust passion hatred love all of the great emotions. Fills you with confusion that says you must have more.
POW is when you know everything there is to know and the only thing left is to go POW
Des Peres is in the house of POW, Des Peres is its prime minister, president, sultan, and singalong chief.
Des Peres’s just finished the mixing process of the new album which makes it one step closer to being in your hot little hands or on your funky new personlised digital readers or flashing at you from your computers or however it is you enjoy DES.
I might even upload some new tracks for you in the next coupla days
GOD BLESS you all

Des Peres and the House of POW

Let me introduce to you the house of PoW
I don’t really need to say more, as the phrase itself combined with your more than adequate imaginations should be sufficient I’m sure, but the rules of writing require that I do.
The House of PoW is a house full of stolen bits and it might fall down at any minute but for some science defying reason, it never does. Rather it continues to operate as a high powered pleasure provider for young men and women in this crazy old mystical mass we refer to as THE WORLD.
In its backyard there is a picnic on a stupendous scale, where the participants are young and beautiful and eat an endless supply of donuts, cakes and chicken pies. Whose daily programme of events consist of everything and anything from darts, to champagne swimming, to camel races, to hunting the great lion of Africa, to dubbing out under a banana tree, to climbing the technological hights, to cat burglary, to reading of mighty literature, to converstions with to many implications. There will be green spectacles and umbrellas, veils for Egypt and rough clothing for the pilgrimising in the holy land, Dark coats for Paris and saddles for Syria.
Light musical instruments are encouraged.
It consists of all the great and bad houses you have lived in seen or read about and none of them at the same time. The gingerbread house, something from Frank Lloyd – Wright, Coltranes House, Parliaments House, William Burroughs House, Iannis Xenakis’ House, The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s House, Miles Davis’ House, Prince’s house, Buckingham Palace and The hanging garden of Babylon, and Talking Heads House, the house that was built on the rock as well as the one that fell done on the sand and every other house not mentioned that held people together.
What was there lacking about that programme to make it perfectly irresistible? Nothing that any finite mind could discover.
It was and is the House of POW and it is Irresistible

The recording of Des Peres’ House of PoW is due for release in 2008

Des Peres is one of my many musical univerces