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.Â In a nod to Saint-SaÃ«ns 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 doesnâ€™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 theyâ€™d rather not yield.
â€œA conductor direct me? What does she know?
Her styleâ€™s not learnÃ¨d and her tempoâ€™s too slow!â€
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.
â€œStudents are eager, and theyâ€™ll think Iâ€™m cool.
Teachingâ€™s the game â€“ Iâ€™ll conduct in a school!â€
Conductor 3 starts woodwinds; half-step higher, slower tempo, beginning band style (Orchestras 1 & 2 continue apace.)
Some others will think â€œI make a great host,
So Iâ€™ll give the crowds what they all want most.
Arrangements of rock, pop, and jazz â€“ thatâ€™s my game;
Thereâ€™s no way in the world that those could be lame!â€
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.
â€œIâ€™ll serve up the sounds that are loved by the few,
Bleak and discordant and aggressively new!â€
Conductor 5 starts piano & percussion; high modernist style. (All others continue.)
What a mess, what a noise these birds have let loose!
I canâ€™t take any more of this aural abuse!
Thereâ€™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 donâ€™t let it go to their head.
Conductors realize; begin shouting at each other. Narrator cues a big unison â€˜buttonâ€™ to end the piece.