The Monsters Are Coming

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This song has been described, accurately, as “the worst song ever written” (described by me). And it is known as the song that got us called “liars!” by an audience at a kids-show performance in Urbana, Illinois (they felt it wrong to disseminate disinformation about monsters imminently approaching). It is one — and, I stress, only one — of that set of songs that I have written specifically to annoy the person who was driving around with me running errands on that particular day of my life.

There’s a lot to say about this minimalist gem (it’s got 12-tone credentials, my brothers and sisters in Schönberg !), but I guess I’ll just let the music speak for itself. As it does for the viola right here:

You’ll find the linked PDF contains not only a lead sheet, but also the rules for the “Monsters game” I devised for the Lake Zurich Middle School North 8th-grade Orchestra to play, using the prime, retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion of the main 8-note theme (ask your nerdiest music friend), along with a page showing what those transformations would be (basically, the theme, the theme backward, the theme upside-down, and the theme upside-down and backwards. Trust me — this is really a thing 20th-Century composers did! And it rocked!).

For reference performances, let’s start with a three-person Viper & His Famous Orchestra live version at the Var Gallery in the Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee in 2016.

The Viper & His Famous Orchestra, “The Monsters Are Coming,” Var Gallery, Walker’s Point, Milwaukee, WI, July 2016

But let’s not forget the actual LZORK version of it, for which we devised a completely randomized version of the “game” in its whole middle section. Orchestra director Riley Broach made flash cards, shuffled them, and then during the performance held them up to let his student musicians know what to do — all culminating in an amazing “Lulu”-esque scream by one of the 8th-grade cellists.

Lake Zurich North Middle School 8th-Grade Orchestra with the Viper, “The Monsters Are Coming,” Spring 2016

the kind of music your great-great-great-grandparents warned your great-great-grandparents about