Voiceover: In 2013, Museum Victoria commissioned Steve Falk to compose a work for the Federation Handbells, a piece especially designed for performance by community groups. The museum was invited by the Association of Music Educators to premiere the composition at their 2013 Sounds Great conference.
Museum Victoria worked with Blackburn High School staff and students to prepare for this event. The composition is called Welcome.
Steve Falk: When we talked about this piece and the idea of a welcoming kind of piece, an introduction to an event, I was thinking of maybe connecting with natural sounds in nature in some way. And then trying to transition into a much more kind of uplifting rhythmic and melodic kind of idea.
Student: It sounds like a forest in the middle of the night.
Student: Yeah, the forest.
Student: Otherwise, it's like the water coming.
Student: It sounds almost magical. Like there's little magical creatures running around.
Student: The way the composition has been made, it works really well in the sense that we've got the core group of players who are experienced percussionists and they're doing something that's engaging and involving to them. But then we've got the less experienced musicians, or the less experienced percussionists, who are able to play these simpler parts while remaining engaged in an intricate part of the piece.
Student: And so, it's not a sort of fringe group on the outside. But we start the piece. And we end the piece. And add a whole heap to the atmosphere of it.
Steve Falk: The part that I've written for the solo performer is quite difficult and requires probably someone with a percussion background like myself that can work very nimbly with a pair of mallets. Alternatively, you could perform this with another instrument. I was thinking a particularly loud wind instrument like maybe a piccolo or a soprano saxophone, or something like that.
Steve Falk: A lot of the melodic interest I'm performing in conjunction with the four core players. Now these people don't necessarily have to be percussion players. But they do need to have a reasonable understanding of rhythm and some musical background.
Steve Falk: That was one of the things I found a real challenge was thinking about how to write something for performers with greatly differing levels of ability.
Steve Falk: Let's just pick it up from M. That's four bars before I come in on these. And then all of you players will come in another four bars after I start playing with these, OK?
Student: The ensemble parts, anybody really, not even a musician, could probably play them. These parts could probably be played by musicians, not necessarily percussionists.
Student: The way that you work together is just making sure that you're over your section of the instrument and they're over their section of the instrument.
Stephen Hardie: We quite often as music teachers can be a little bit obsessed with the whole idea of accurate reading of notation and playing the right note at the right time, and that sort of stuff. This piece is very different. There's obviously elements of that in it but its largely for the players who are playing as part of the core group. But for the musicians playing as part of the antiphonal groups around the edge, they're actually much more concerned with creating a soundscape. They're actively involved in listening and making an assessment of the sound wall that's being created. And what they can do to contribute to that.
Stephen Hardie: That's actually something from a musical point of view that students quite often don't experience a lot. And indeed, a lot of professionals don't even experience it a lot either.
Stephen Hardie: You've also got the different methods of sound production on the bells. We've got use of mallets, chopsticks, thimbles, and all that sort of stuff. We've also got the use of the bows, as well.
Student: Instead of just playing notes, we can play a lot of different sounds.
Student: I'm shaking them, flicking them, touching them.
Student: The coin inside it, like you're rattling the coin.
Steve Falk: The score is available and free for use on the Museum Victoria website. So I really encourage people to take that resource and make music with the bells.
Tim Brinkman: And to commemorate the opening Sounds Great 2013, Museum Victoria has commissioned a work by prominent composer Steve Falk to be performed on the Federation Handbells.