Old MacDonald's Yellow Submarine (2004)
Soloist playing prepared piano, toy piano, music boxes and percussion.
Old MacDonald's Yellow Submarine is an exploration of sounds with which I've been fascinated since childhood. Its varied sections range from nostalgic and wistful to playful and cheeky, drawing on influences as diverse as John Cage and John Lee Hooker.
Old Mac comprises six movements - On that farm, e-i-e-i-o, Pink Memories, Chooks! (Australian for "chickens"), Bicycle Lee Hooker, and Old MacDonald's Yellow Submarine - each using a different combination of instruments, including prepared piano, toy piano, wood blocks, and miniature music boxes. Knowing the skill and dedication of Margaret Leng Tan, I pushed the limits of toy instrumental virtuosity by asking her to coordinate a bicycle bell, bicycle horn, train whistle, and toy piano in Bicycle Lee Hooker, a right brain-left brain extravaganza.
I arrived at the title of the suite, a conjunction of Old MacDonald had a farm and Yellow Submarine, when I took the tines (or melody) of one music box and crossed them with the barrel (or rhythm) of another to produce the surprising hybrids heard in the sixth movement. (The third movement similarly combines the pitches of The Pink Panther with the rhythm of Memories).
Old Mac is dedicated to Margaret Leng Tan, and was created with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. It was selected as one of the 'Recommended Works' at the 2010 International Rostrum of Composers forum held in Lisbon.