In 1968 through the success of Palindrome for 5 Orchestras 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 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 asked 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. Musik mit gefundenen Gegenständen was published by Pan Verlag 1982.
My first work to use found objects was Stone Poem for double wind quintet and stone curtain. This was also the first work composed together with Michael Harlow, who played the stones with me and who was the inspiration for the text: words for stones in various languages.
These years working with primary and secondary school children had a huge influence on my own work. The gongs in the picture above were later used in my Devotion to the Small:
More Found Instruments
Works using found objects: