Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Following the Bouncing Ball

If there is one thing that keeps my teaching fresh and creative, is the opportunity to introduce students to works that are outside of the box. Ping Pong Polka by Dr. Walden Hughes is one of those rare pieces that brings fun and musical challenges to students. A fresh approach to playing ensemble music and explore new ways to tweak musical boundaries. 

Ping Pong Polka is a six handed piece. Three players at one piano is challenging enough, but this piece has the added imaginative quirk of 30 ping pong balls placed inside a grand piano. As players tickle the ivories the balls bounce and ping as the pong across the strings of the instrument. The sound is at once intriguing and compelling as each note produces the unique prepared piano piece. It is a wonderful exhibition piece and I never tire of watching the faces of young children and adults as they gather around the piano watching the antics of the little white and yellow balls as they hop merrily around the sound board.

I have engaged students with other of Dr. Hughes' ensemble and duet pieces. Duet for Four Grapefruits has been performed in 50 countries. Although Dr. Hughes does suggest oranges for smaller hands or baseball or tennis balls, as long as the title of the piece reflects these changes. But he does suggest that pomegranates and  nectarines are indeed poor substitutes and not recommended. 

Yes, this is why I became a teacher. To work myself out of a job by teaching the art of thinking and playing outside of the box. That is what a wise grandma and teacher would do!

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