The Octopus Turned Blue

by Paul Jennings

Actually, many octopuses can change into a wide spectrum of colors and patterns to blend in, hide from potential enemies, or surprise prey. And these fascinating creatures are some of the most intelligent, complex animals on earth. For this new work, it is a good way to discuss this unique octopus talent as we introduce our recorder players to the blues, one of America's great musical inventions.

Form & The Blues -

Blues in its simplest form is a 12-bar pattern that looks like this:

I / / / | IV / / / | I / / / | / / / / |
IV / / / | / / / / | I / / / | / / / / |
V / / / | IV / / / | I / / / | V / / / |

Note that the form has lots of variations. The most varied come in the third line. The last two bars, for instance, can be any of a number of turnarounds, the way to start on I and harmonically get back to I. There are even 16 and 24-bar blues made by repeating a part of the form or extending it. All in all, our specific form is: Intro - A - A1 - B - A1 - Ending

More specifically, A is the section from 5 for 12 bars, while A1 is the next 12 bars which now features a sax countermelody. B is what is sometimes called a stop chorus, which is generally quiet with a few big surprises in the brass. This chorus breaks up the flow of the tune and makes the ending more dramatic.

Improvisation -

In a live performance situation, many players could play improvised jazz solos, but we didn't build that into this tune. If you want to have players try this, they can practice for four times through the blues starting at bar 5. If students have never tried improvisation, we suggest for the first 8 bars, use low E, G, A, and C (avoid E with F chord) – and keep it simple. Tell them to play a few notes, then imitate what they did, maybe with slight variation. Have them listen to jazz greats as well as others who are learning. For bars 9 and 10, try low D, G, A, B, and high D, then back to the other notes for the ending. Consider trying to end on the note G. Encourage your young players. When learning, there is only good improv and better improv.

If you'd like to follow along with the piano/recorder score, we have provided a downloadable version for you on our web site.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.