The Post-Apocalyptic Blues (2016)
duration ca. 9:00
wind ensemble with sound effects:
piccolo, 3 flutes, oboe, English horn, bassoon, 5 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet,
alto saxophone, 2 tenor saxophones, baritone saxophone,
5 Bb trumpets, 2 F horns, 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba,
sound effects, timpani,
3-4 percussion (vibraphone, chimes, drumset, 2x4s, fabric sheet, newspapers,
wobble board, whirly tubes, leather belt(s).
The Post-Apocalyptic Blues is the third in a series of pieces for wind band utilizing American popular music. The first two—A Jazz Funeral and The Snake Oil Peddler—were based on jazz and ragtime respectively. I’ve long wanted to write a piece based on the quintessential American music that came from the Mississippi Delta from the slave trade and has spread worldwide. The times we live in couldn’t be more perfectly designed for the Blues, with corrupt politicians at every hand, economies in shambles, the environment degrading daily, and the threat of violence shouted by every media sensationalist. It’s almost enough to make you wonder—what if the Apocalypse already happened, but we just didn’t notice?
You wake up in the morning, Just can’t get out of bed.
Your body feels like screaming, Your mind is filled with dread.
Everything’s a disaster,
Oh, God, turn off the news!
You’ve got those Post-Apocalyptic Blues.
The Post-Apocalyptic Blues was commissioned by Wing Kam Chau for the 10th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Wind Ensemble and was premiered on October 16, 2016, at the Tsuen Wan Town Hall in Hong Kong.
The sound effects may be downloaded from https://soundcloud.com/user-73364089, and uploaded to a triggering device and program such as an iPhone and iTunes. The performer simply triggers each effect at the time shown in the score. There should be no need to stop an effect but care must be taken that the following effect doesn’t begin automatically. Playback should be through stereo speakers. The sound effects have been balanced and panned as desired; the performer is to set an optimal level for playback so that the effects can be heard without obscuring the band, and ideally that level should not need to be adjusted for individual effects.
Performance Notes for Percussion 3
This part is composed entirely for found percussion: wooden 2 x 4 boards, a fabric sheet, newspapers, a wobble board, whirly tubes and a leather belt. If possible, the part should be doubled and the two players placed on opposite sides of the stage, as far forward as possible. The part is the most theatrical of all of the parts of The Post-Apocalyptic Blues, and must be played as such. The performer(s) should make sure the audience sees everything they do, and must put on a show for the audience.
The 2 x 4s should be smacked together, like a large slapstick. If desired, they may be hinged together, and handles may be attached. If two players are used, they should alternate notes during this part.
The sheet is a large fabric sheet like a bed sheet, which should be torn as loudly and slowly as possible—it represents the rending of the fabric of the universe. If necessary, either amplification or a sound effect may be added for the necessary volume.
The newspapers are to be torn from top to bottom in their entirety—the tearing should last the entire beat. It may be necessary to have another percussionist assist, tearing on alternative notes, and starting the tearing if the 3rd percussionist does not have sufficient time to put down the sheet and pick up a newspaper. The torn papers are to be crumpled up in m. 29 and thrown over the percussionist(s) shoulder on the downbeat of m. 31.
The wobble board is a flexible piece of wood, plastic or metal, popularised by Rolf Harris. Many videos of him performing with the wobble board can be found if an example is needed. The board is approximately 30 inches x 20 inches (76 cm x 51 cm) or larger. If made of masonite/hardboard the wood must be 3 mm thick or less. It must be flexible enough to bend easily, but rigid enough that it makes a wobbling sound and its movement can be controlled by the player. The technique used in The Post-Apocalyptic Blues is somewhat different from Harris’s. The + over the note indicates that the board is to be flexed once only and held in position, making only a single wobble. The wavy line indicated that the board is to be repeatedly flexed, making multiple wobbles.
The whirly tubes are flexible corrugated plastic tubes, spun around the head so that an edge-tone pitch sounds. The tubes used should be approximately pitched to any note in the E whole-tone scale (E F#, G#, Bb, C, D), although perfect intonation is not necessary. If the part is doubled, the two percussionists should play different pitches.
The leather belt is simply a man’s belt. To play it, the belt is flexed as shown in figure 1, then snapped together quickly as in figure 2. Ideally, if there is room, the belts should be doubled (two belts each, one on top of the other for maximum volume) and whipped quickly and as loudly as possible against the stage floor.