Anyone who teaches picky teenage students will be excited to learn about a fresh new series of books by composer Dror Perl. The Color Book Series contains three books: Red, Blue and Purple. Each contains a collection of original pieces: the Red and Purple books feature jazz, blues and funk styles, and the Blue book features modern sounding piano solos, described by the composer as “contemporary music with a harmonic twist.”
In the forward to the books, the pieces are described as “simple compositions that sound complex and impressive,” and the repertoire that follows hits that statement right on the mark. These are not your typical pedagogical collections! While keeping technical demands to a minimum (the music falls somewhere between the early and mid-intermediate levels), the composer has done a very effective job of using sophisticated harmonies to give the pieces a very “real-world” feel. I was privileged to have the opportunity to review the Blue and Purple books, and was impressed in both collections to find music that sounded more like something I would hear at a jazz club than music I would expect to teach to junior high students!
The Purple book contains an imaginative set of jazz-style pieces, all describing something “purple.” Unlike some jazz collections, where the titles seem to be an afterthought, these titles are unique enough to spur students’ imaginations. From the simple swing of Northern Lights, to the narrative-style Purple Earth Hypothesis and the driving Red and Blue Rumble, each piece has a strong musical character (check out www.sheerpiano.com for sample book pages and audio clips). Each piece makes use of repeated motives that lay easily under the hand and repeated rhythm patterns that use primarily eighth and quarter notes.
The Blue book, as suggested by its title, is more introspective in nature. The pieces are slower, use a diverse harmonic palate, and require careful attention to sound and tone (rather unusual and refreshing qualities for an early intermediate collection!). Each piece seems to call an image to a listener’s mind – one of my students commented that these pieces made her think of a soundtrack to a movie scene where the characters are silent, and the music is left to create the mood. Two pieces are sampled on the composer’s website: the flowing, hypnotic Waves, and sweetly melodic The Man in the Blue House. The notes and rhythms in this book are the easiest of any of the collections, but challenge a performer to be very sensitive to musical nuance and tone.
I put these books to the test with a few of my “pickier” students and was pleased to find that although one student’s first response was “that sounds hard”, each student was able to easily get the motives under their fingers. I think this music would have a strong appeal to teens and even busy adults who struggle with limited practice time, yet want music that sounds more professional than pedagogical. If you’re looking for some out-of-the-box intermediate literature for picky students, this is it!
For more details, or to order the books, visit www.sheerpiano.com.