Storytelling + music

Shhh. Listen carefully while the forest sleeps. The wolf, in his greed, has swallowed the duck alive. You can still hear it quacking inside the wolf's belly. When I was little, the only music I knew was classical music, with the odd folk intrusion. My mother was a flautist and spent seven years studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (affectionately known as The Con). My father played the violin in the Sydney Youth Orchestra, but the dog would howl when he played for us in the kitchen.

My school attendance record was impeccable, in part because a sick day meant a day listening to "yucky music" (read: operas) on the radio. When I was in Year 5, I asked my parents what was this "rock 'n roll" and "pop" music that the kids at school were listening to. They put on a record of Godspell. Godspell!

But one great gift my parents' fixation on classical music gave me was an appreciation of the power of music for storytelling and imagination. When I was a child, entering the world of music was as wonderful an adventure as entering the world of a really good book. I loved both.

It started with Peter and the Wolf. Have you ever heard it? Was this in your childhood? The music echoes the adventures of Peter as he rescues a duck from the family cat, only to watch it captured (and gobbled up) by the wolf.

Inspired by this haunting, disturbing and beautiful piece of musical storytelling, my father would create fairy tales from every piece of "yucky" music on the radio.

"Listen, the giants are coming! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!" he'd cry, as the double bass, drums and horns thundered. Oboes would signal the ruling of the wizard. Later, the piccolo and viola would quiver across the airwaves. "Can you hear it? The fairies are dancing!" my father say, then he'd grin and shake my arm. Dad could make a magical world of words out of anything musical.

Now, I spend my days trying to make music out of words. That's the power of imagination, I guess.

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