My piece for SONIC LITTLE CAT is called It's a Numbers Game because that's what it is – I wrote it to get kids to start thinking outside and beyond the normal (boring) 1-2-3-4 and try different numbers to see how they feel when they're juxtaposed with each other. How can music sound different when you start to stop counting in fours?
I wrote it in C to make it accessible to young children (pretty sure I remember that being the first scale I learned when I was a kid) and I kept the phrases very simple because the idea is for this to be played*, not just listened to.
Any instruments with a broad enough range between them will do the job just fine. I couldn't assemble a full ensemble in time to record my version on traditional instruments played by real people (though there a couple of sneaky real life performances in there) so for my version I made a fake orchestra from some virtual instruments in my computer.
The first section of the piece is made up of eight different repeating phrases, starting with a one-note phrase, then bringing in a two note phrase, then three … in sequence, all the way up to eight. Each phrase is evenly paced following the regular rhythm of the number one pulse and can be introduced whenever the player feels like it's right to do so – but you have to wait for your turn! (e.g. seven can't begin before six.)
Once they've begun ,the phrases must repeat without variation until, at some point when it feels right to the players, everything should suddenly stop, except the first phrase which leads us through to the second section ...
The second section of my piece is based on the same phrases as the first but it gets more playful, breaking some of the earlier rules. The idea is to encourage the kids to think beyond the rules set for them in music and try out new ideas without fear – breaking rules can be a good thing, follow your ears and ideas!
The first change is that the numbers have swapped around to different instruments so the players have to think and count differently in this section.
The second change is that the phrases don't all just repeat their number of notes without variation – even though they're based on the same phrases as in the first section, some of the parts are allowed to evolve and change now to help bring more life to the melodies.
The third change is that the phrases no longer have to stick to the strict regular rhythm of the number one pulse, thus bringing more life and interest to the music rhythmically.