Composing for Skoog. A six piece Skoog section and ‘the voyage home’.

Thanks to Tom Harrold for this post, describing his experience of composing for Skoog and working with pupils with additional support needs as part of his recent commission for the Lancashire Sinfonietta.
“I was commissioned by the Lancashire Sinfonietta in association with the Lancashire Music Service to write a new work for 200 performers, called Voyage Home. The piece drew on the diverse range of instrumental groups Lancashire has to offer. One of the groups selected to perform was Pear Tree Specialist School in Kirkham who  have six Skoogs.
With the help of David Ashworth and Helen Quayle, we facilitated several workshops for the students in the months leading up to the final performance, during which time we taught the students how to use the Skoogs.
We quickly discovered that the Skoogs could be used by students of a wide-range of abilities, were exceptionally tactile and had an intuitive interface, all of which gave gratifying results. This ease-of-use was echoed by the staff at Pear Tree, who were able to rehearse with the students without the support of us workshop leaders.
I used a coloured score system in writing the piece – it was a really natural, fun way for the students to get results which were achievable and, in the end, sounded really good!
Composing for Skoog
The idea from the offset was that the Skoogs (as every other group performing in the piece) had to be integrated into the piece, for their material to never sound add-on, or extra. As a composer, this was easy to achieve with the Skoog software: by pre-programming a 5-note scale (G, A, B flat, C, D) on the Skoogs, I was able to create an accompaniment which was harmonically interesting but also meant that every note that the Skoogs played would sound good with – the example I’ve attached are the first four chords of the sequence.
Composition for Skoog
Skoog Composition
What was great about the Skoogs was that we were able to tailor the sounds to the students. For example, there was one student who was obsessed by all things Chinese, so giving him a Taiko Drum sound meant that he was immediately engaged and excited about the input that he had to the whole piece.
The support that Helen, David and I got from the staff at Pear Tree was exceptional, and I think that was in-part due to the staff seeing the immense satisfaction, fun and enjoyment their students were getting from rehearsing and performing with the Skoogs.
Skoog rehearsal
I really do believe that the Skoogs are a terrific instrument, and I look forward to working with another Skoog orchestra soon!”
Thanks again Tom. It was a great event we look forward to hearing more Skoogs in Orchestras around the world. This was the first public performance of a Skoog six piece as far as we know.  Who can go one better…or more!