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Musical Instructions

1. One sound after another (of different lengths) mainly quietly.

2. If sounds coincide (by accident) the other players should deliberately try to coincide one more sound before going back to the instruction.

3. Occasionally, some long sounds may overlap.

4. Throughout the performance an extra performer should read a current political text, newspaper account or the like. This performer should read their text in a neutral mezzo-forte voice, at a medium speed. This may or may not be done with a microphone.
There should be pauses of varying lengths between paragraphs.

Note: The title of this piece should change according to whatever progressive causes are current. A new title should be thought of.
Fish Music



This 2008 version of Fish Music adds to and improves a previous one which was performed and filmed in 1995 at the old Plymouth Aquarium, The Hoe, Plymouth, UK. This new version was created for a performance at the National Marine Aquarium, the Barbican, Plymouth, November 1st, 2008.

The Basic Idea

A musical stave without a clef is placed on the side of an aquarium which is stocked with plenty of fish. As the fish swim behind this stave the pitches they can be seen to “notate” are followed by string players who sit with their backs to the audience, and looking at the fish. A group of improvisers sits facing the audience, their backs to the fish and the string players, and improvises using the music created by the strings as the basis.

Making the Stave

The easiest way to create a stave on a glass fish tank is with masking tape which is stretched across in five parallel lines. This requires time, patience and precision to get the lines more or less straight. If the aquarium is made of acetate instead of all glass no adhesive materials will be allow. An alternative would be to create the stave with ribbons attached by Bluetak. (This is how the 2008 version was done.)

No clef should be drawn. Each string player reads in their own clef, double basses allowing for octave transposition.

Playing the String Parts

Each player chooses one fish and follows it by playing the notated pitches created as the fish swims behind the stave. The eye of the fish is the best part of its anatomy to follow. Do not play continuously. Pause as much as you play. However, the group as a whole should never allow no string players to be playing. If this happens you should play immediately. There must always be string sound, albeit with varying densities due to playing pausing. You may chose another fish from time to time.

The general effect is a quiet, glassy, dreamy, continuous sound. For this purpose the strings should be muted. However, improvised swells and fades in volume may be used to vary the texture.

Although string players will use glissandi to follow the gliding movements of the fish, the piece should be felt as basically on the “white” notes, so to speak. All sustained tones should be on “white” notes, no sharps and flats, and all glissandi should emphasize “white” notes by giving them a little extra weight.

All players should be flexible. Go for the general effect (described above) first and foremost rather than slavish accuracy in playing the fish.


This should be a small group, minimum three, maximum six players. Any instruments, acoustic or electronic.

Allow the sound of the strings to establish itself before playing. At least to begin with meld in with the string sound. Do not be too eager to create contrast. Sounds which are “folded” into or under the strings are good to start with. Later in the piece more contrast and stand-out solo passages may be introduced. Keep in mind the general effect as described as “Playing the String Parts” (above): a quiet, glassy, dreamy, continuous sound. This should not exclude occasional dramatic, louder moments.

Do not play throughout. Pause as much as you play. The improvisers need not fear passages when none of them are playing. The strings will be continuous.
Dubuffet Jump


Instructions for a Musique Brut piece


1. The piece is played acoustic. No plugged in sounds.
2. A minimum of four players. No maximum.
3. Each player has:
a) the instrument you usually play – something you are able to play.
This is Instrument A.
b) another 2 sound sources or instruments – lo-tech toys or modest instruments such as: mouthorgan, whistle; small percussion (claves, castanets, finger cymbals, small drum etc.), glockenspiel, small xylophone, toy piano, ocarina, toy wind instruments, any squeezeboxes, jug (as in jug band), beaten up old fiddle, dulcimer, thumb piano – the choice is yours. Things to bear in mind: your other instrument will need to be loud enough to be heard against the other other instruments; you will be playing a solo so make it versatile enough; you don’t necessarily have to be able to play it well. In fact, preparing for this piece might be the start of a new instrument for you.
This is Instrument B1 and Instrument B2.

Playing the piece

1. It starts with solidly rhythmic riffs played on everyone’s Instrument B1 and played at a medium-to-brisk pulse. They may (or may not) be underpinned by a bass. These riffs may be worked out and practiced up to a point, but must retain a strong improvisational feel.
2. Begin with one riff created by all players playing repeated figures. Any player can move on to another riff. Keep it fluid, but keep it going – flowing, repetitive. It should develop.
3. Take it in turns to play solos over these riffs/this rhythmic accompaniment. The solos should be played on Instrument A either in an agreed order or improvised order.
4. When you’ve finished your solo on Instrument A indicate to the others that you’ve finished by going on to play riffs – still on Instrument A.
5. Eventually everyone will have played a solo on Instrument A, and all will be riffing on Instrument A.
6. Now take it in turns to play solos on Instruments B1, ending by riffing on Instruments B2. In this way you end up all riffing together as you started, but this time on Instruments B2.
7. This could be the end, or there could be more. Sam Richards Powered By Thinking Arts