In 1968 I was invited to write a piece for the Christchurch School of Instrumental Music demonstration concert. At Linwood High School we had had a tape recorder which could play backwards and I was interested to try and translate this “played-backwards” effect onto conventional instruments. The piece was Palindrome for 5 Orchestras, and it also made a feature of the spatial separation of the orchestras as they were set out in the stadium for that concert. The piece was a good one I think but dreadful to rehearse. The poor children in each of the orchestras had no idea until the final rehearsal what the total piece was like - for them it was like rehearsing one fragment of a jig-saw puzzle.
Probably because of the success of this piece I was invited to form an experimental group of children percussionists to perform in the Christchurch Primary Schools Festival. The first of these “Creative Percussion” groups was in 1973 and continued until 1979. Although the children were creating the music, I was learning a great deal about percussion instruments. As the years went by and I felt obliged to produce “different” sounds in each concert. I looked for new sounds in found instruments (stone, metal, wood, glass, etc.) and encouraged the children to do likewise. This has had an obvious impact on my own work, especially Stone Poem, Devotion to the Small, and Piece of 4, and to a lesser extent The Ever-Circling Light, all of which use percussion prominently - both conventional instruments and found ones.
In 1980 / 81 during my sabbatical leave in Europe I was invited to write a booklet for teachers about how to make music with found objects. It was an opportunity to put down in writing all I had learned working with children over the previous years. The book is divided up according to materials: Stones, Wood, Plastic, Metal, Tubes and Glass and shows what sort of objects to choose, how to make the sound and how to put pieces together with them. The text was written in Switzerland (I wrote it in English and Brigitte translated it into German) and the photos were made in NZ at the teachers College in Christchurch after our return.