Compose Yourself – music composition game

October 12, 2015

Philip3yrsOldI recently invented a game concerned with creative music play called Compose Yourself, and I’m really excited to share it with you.

I’m pretty sure that given the right tools, anybody can become a composer. It’s an easy thing to say, but actually I’m sure It’s true!

Some of the greatest musicians I’ve worked with, from the classical world, the film music world & the rock music world haven’t been able to read a note of music. It hasn’t stopped them from having full, successful and exciting musical lives.

When I was very young I really wanted to make music.
Actually, to be very honest with you, I just wanted to make lots of noise, and music seemed the best way to do this without getting into too much trouble.

At the age of three, I decided I was going to play the cello. It sounds like a cliche, but I heard a cello on the radio and fell in love with it. I actually remember the moment very clearly. It was the Elgar cello concerto played by Jacqueline Du Pré.

When I saw pictures of a cello and realised that it was much much bigger than a violin I was in love. That was it. I was going to play the cello…

That photo above is me on the day I had my first lesson. Looking back on it now I realise I was so lucky that my teacher also happened to be a kindergarten headteacher. She really knew how to make learning fun, and more importantly she knew how to play with music. Believe me, in the UK in the 70s, classical music was very very serious.

Not for fun. Nope…

The photo shows me playing a piece of music that she wrote and taught me in my first lesson. The piece was called Charlie and Fred and it was a simple thing that she’d written about her two pet Cavies. Most importantly, it was a piece of music about something I cared about, and it was written by someone I knew. Looking back on it now I realise that this was a really unusual way to teach music at the time, and it totally worked for me.

I loved playing her piece. It sounded amazing to me. I would play it for as many hours as I could. At no point didn’t occur to me that I was practising…
(Actually the way I played it at the time, it probably sounded horrible, but it’s still one of the most exciting moments of my life!).

I remember being so excited that I could make abstract noises that painted pictures in my mind, and to be honest, I still get very excited about this.

I’m now a film composer with more than 30 movie scores to my name, and I now get to paint pictures with music all day. I can’t begin to explain how much fun this is, but I can share the feeling a little bit.

This is the reason I invented Compose Yourself, so kids can make their own music – music that paints wonderful, colourful pictures in their minds.

Music can take kids on wild and exciting musical journeys, and they can make music about absolutely anything. One of the children I was teaching in Harlem number of years ago wrote to me after the composition project we were running.

I’ll never forget what he said,

‘… I like writing music. Music makes me feel important…’


Kids have no idea that writing music is difficult (until adults point it out), so let’s keep it easy for them! This game is a powerful set of musical building blocks. The moment children make up their very first tune, they become Composers.

Here’s a little film about the game:

.Being a composer is like having a special power. A power that can make people dance, sing and cry (in a good way).
Now, that’s a real superpower….

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