In about a month I’ll return to the Pierre Monteux School once again as Composer-in-Residence. Two projects are on the docket: a performance of my trio and the premiere of a new kids piece Carnival of the Animals: Maine Edition.
It’s a region-specific version of the old classic, so you’ve got movements like The Puffin, The Lobster, The Porcupine, The Eagle, etc. In a nod to Saint-Saëns cheeky inclusion of “Pianists” in the original, I’ve included “Conductors” in my set.
Which brings me to my poem, which I’d really like you to read, because I am inordinately proud of it:
Now we behold a rare sort of bird,
As odd as a duck and twice as absurd.
It thinks itself graceful, as smooth as a swan,
Look there in its wing: it holds a baton.
But unlike most others, this bird doesn’t sing,
It stands at the front and starts flapping its wing.
And lo and behold, musicians will play,
The Conductor will help them together to stay.
Conductor 1 starts full string section.
But observing this species while out in the field,
Some musicians will think that they’d rather not yield.
“A conductor direct me? What does she know?
Her style’s not learnèd and her tempo’s too slow!”
Conductor 2 starts inner circle strings; same music, half-step lower, faster tempo, senza vibrato. (Other strings stay with Conductor 1.)
But for others such methods are stuffy and prim;
Study and practice can strike them as grim.
“Students are eager, and they’ll think I’m cool.
Teaching’s the game – I’ll conduct in a school!”
Conductor 3 starts woodwinds; half-step higher, slower tempo, beginning band style (Orchestras 1 & 2 continue apace.)
Some others will think “I make a great host,
So I’ll give the crowds what they all want most.
Arrangements of rock, pop, and jazz – that’s my game;
There’s no way in the world that those could be lame!”
Conductor 4 starts brass; pops style. (Others continue as before.)
Then there are those who will spurn with derision
All music from the past, as lacking in vision.
“I’ll serve up the sounds that are loved by the few,
Bleak and discordant and aggressively new!”
Conductor 5 starts piano & percussion; high modernist style. (All others continue.)
What a mess, what a noise these birds have let loose!
I can’t take any more of this aural abuse!
There’s only one thing to do: I myself will try it
In the hopes of getting some peace and some quiet!
Narrator gives voracious cut-off. Musicians stop, conductors keep conducting.
Well there they go on, flapping their wings;
Thinking they rule over woodwinds and strings.
But musicians, I find, are always best led
By leaders who don’t let it go to their head.
Conductors realize; begin shouting at each other. Narrator cues a big unison ‘button’ to end the piece.