Over the last 20 years, Music Maze - BCMG’s monthly Sunday creative music making workshop for 8-11 year olds - has explored over 116 pieces by 76 composers.

The idea of Music Maze began in 2003 with a computer who created poetry. The piece of music was Floof by composer Esa-Pekka Salonen for Soprano and 5 instrumentalists which was later performed by Anu Komsi and BCMG. On Sunday 31st May, twenty children, two BCMG musicians, composer Liz Johnson and I crammed into Studio 1 at the CBSO Centre and created music about a computer who learnt how to make poetry. 

The next year, with a generous grant from Birmingham City Council, we began Music Maze, a monthly Sunday workshop for children aged 8-11 who liked to be inventive with sound. It was one of BCMG’s first projects and it still carries on today. I think we are up to 126 Music Maze workshops! And only a few weeks ago we had our very first Zoom Music Maze.

The first official Music Maze explored Tiger Under the Table by Judith Weir. Judith described the piece to the children and invited them to respond to it:

I’m afraid the title doesn’t have a proper story behind it – it merely refers to the piece having quite a lot of growly writing in it, particularly for bassoon.  Perhaps after your project’s over, you can send me the story about the colourful tiger with a stripy tail which it should have been based on!’

And this is the poem, a haiku, that one of the children Jack, sent us:

Since then, we have created music about: clouds, constellations and canals; Indian epics, Greek myths and Grimm's fairy tales; deep sea creatures, clowns and birds and so much more. The children have used serialism, minimalism, extended techniques, improvisation, musical cryptograms, graphic scores, aleatory techniques and hocketing to compose and have created mini operas, musical miniatures, songs, concertos, duets and quartets. They have used their voices in extraordinary ways, discovered new ways of playing their instruments they never thought possible and challenged themselves to imagine and find new sounds. Listen below to some of the music we have created:

We have also had lots of wonderful guest visitors to Music Maze including composers Shiori Usui, Richard Causton and Duncan Chapman, bamboo flautist Neel Kamrul and tabla player Harjit Singh and singers Lore Lixenberg and Roderick Williams.

It isn’t just about music though…. through the composers we have explored, the children have been introduced to new books, poetry, film, paintings, sculpture, philosophy and science that they might not otherwise have come across. I know I have!

Over the years we have had many designs for our Music Maze publicity. In particular drawings by the illustrators Gunnlaug Moen Hembery and Mina Braun which beautifully capture the essence of Music Maze. Here are some of our favourites:

When planning Music Maze workshops, the aim is to achieve a balance between creating a space for imaginative responses (freedoms) and having meaningful parameters (restraints) that connect authentically to the piece of music being explored and scaffold the young people’s composing. When we get this right, the young people participating feel ownership over their musical creations and develop as composers. But, not only do they develop as composers, they begin to understand music from the inside, and this changes how they listen to and perform music.

Find out how you can support our work further: 

Music that has inspired Music Maze

  1. Thomas Adès, Living Toys
  2. Thomas Adès, Cardiac Arrest
  3. Thomas Adès, Couperin
  4. Julian Anderson, Khorovod
  5. Julian Anderson, Poetry nearing silence
  6. Julian Anderson, Comedy of Change
  7. Julian Anderson, Book of Hours
  8. Louis Andriessen, Workers Union
  9. Richard Baker, Richard Baker, Yannis Kyriakides and Ondřej Adámek, Canal Serenade
  10. Gerald Barry, Letter to Beethoven
  11. Gerald Barry, Feldman's Sixpenny Editions
  12. Gerald Barry, The Importance of Being Earnest
  13. George Benjamin, At first light
  14. Erik Bergman, Silence and Eruptions
  15. Cathy Berberian, Stripsody
  16. Luciano Berio, Duetti
  17. Luciano Berio, Accordo
  18. Luciano Berio, A-Ronne
  19. Luciano Berio, O King
  20. Luke Bedford, Good Dream She Has
  21. Luke Bedford, Seven Angels
  22. Harrison Birtwistle, Slow Frieze
  23. Harrison Birtwistle, Silbury Air
  24. Harrison Birtwistle, Ut Heremita Solus
  25. Harrison Birtwistle, Machaut arr. Birtwistle Hoquetus David
  26. Pierre Boulez, Dérive I
  27. Charlotte Bray, Fanfare for Birmingham
  28. Benjamin Britten, Curlew River
  29. John Cage, Living Room Music
  30. Elliott Carter, Dialogues
  31. Elliot Carter, Two Controversies and a Conversation
  32. Philip Cashian, Three Pieces for Chamber Ensemble
  33. Philip Cashian, Chamber Concerto
  34. Richard Causton, Chamber Symphony
  35. Richard Causton, Transients
  36. Sean Clancy, Findetotenlieder
  37. Tansy Davies, Falling Angel
  38. Tansy Davies, Iris
  39. Tansy Davies, Grind Show Electric
  40. Tansy Davies, Piano Concerto
  41. Claude Debussy, arr. Schoenberg, Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune
  42. Claude Debussy, Preludes
  43. Claude Debussy, Sonata for Flute, Harp and Viola
  44. Franco Donatoni, Hot
  45. Franco Donatoni, Bok
  46. Dave Douglas, Blue Latitudes
  47. Hans Eisler, 14 Ways of Describing Rain
  48. Brian Ferneyhough, La Chute D’Icare
  49. Morton Feldman, The King of Denmark
  50. Heiner Goebbels, Walden
  51. Helen Grime, A Cold Spring
  52. Gerard Grisey, Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil
  53. Simon Holt, Boots of Lead
  54. Rolf Hind, A single hair, a jasmine petal, seven mattresses, a pea…
  55. Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question
  56. Pierre Janson, Acera or The Witches’ Dance
  57. Liz Johnson, Elephant Woman
  58. Mauricio Kagel, Match
  59. Oliver Knussen, The Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh
  60. Oliver Knussen, O Hototogisu
  61. Helmut Lachenmann, Got Lost
  62. György Ligeti, Chamber Concerto
  63. György Ligeti, Piano Concerto
  64. György Ligeti, Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedúvel
  65. György Ligeti, Melodien
  66. Magnus Lindberg, Joy
  67. Bruno Maderna, Serenata per un Satellite
  68. Benedict Mason, Nodding Trillums and Curved Line Angles
  69. Benedict Mason, Horns Strings and Harmony
  70. Olivier Messiaen, Oiseaux Exotiques
  71. Olivier Messiaen, Quartet for The End of Time
  72. Silvina Milstein, de oro y sombre (of gold and shadows)
  73. Tristan Murail, Thirteen colours of the setting sun
  74. Nigel Osborne, The Piano Tuner
  75. Enno Poppe, Holz
  76. Steve Reich, Music for Pieces of Wood
  77. Steve Reich, New York Counterpoint
  78. Poul Ruders, Nightshade
  79. Esa-Pekka Salonen, Floof
  80. Matthew Sergeant, heard weeping under the boughs of hemlock trees
  81. Lucia Ronchetti, Anatra al Sal
  82. Edward Rushton, The Shops
  83. Rebecca Saunders, Molly’s Song 3 – Shades of Crimson
  84. Rebecca Saunders, A Visible Trace
  85. David Sawer, The Memory of Water
  86. David Sawer, Rumpelstiltskin
  87. Salvatore Sciarrino, La bocca, I piedi, il suono
  88. Arnold Schoenberg, Serenade, Op. 24
  89. Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
  90. Sean Shepherd, These Particular Circumstances
  91. Howard Skempton, Ben Somewhen
  92. Howard Skempton, Only the Sound Remains 
  93. Karlheinz Stockhausen, In Freundschaft
  94. Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tierkreis
  95. Igor Stravinsky, The Soldier’s Tale
  96. Igor Stravinsky, Three Pieces for String Quartet
  97. Mark-Anthony Turnage, The Torn Fields
  98. Mark-Anthony Turnage, Crying out Loud
  99. Shiori Usui, The Silent Forest
  100. Shiori Usui, The Deep
  101. Param Vir, Constellations
  102. Kevin Volans, The Partenheimer Project
  103. Errollyn Wallen, English Folk Songs: From Eleanor to Sweet William
  104. Rolf Wallin, The Age of Wire and String
  105. Jorg Widmann, Freie Stucke
  106. Anton Webern, Five Pieces op. 10
  107. Judith Weir, Tiger under the Table
  108. Judith Weir , Psyche
  109. Judith Weir, Musicians Wrestle Everywhere
  110. Peter Wiegold, Youwarkee
  111. Michael Wolters, Neighbours for a Night
  112. Michael Wolters, I See With My Eyes Closed
  113. Stefan Wolpe, Piece in Two Parts for Six Players
  114. John Woolrich, The Kraken Awakes
  115. Yannis Xenakis, Rebonds B
  116. Øyvind Torvund, Neon Forest Space