Les Moutons de Panurge (Frederic Rzewski)

Frederic Rzewski's piece is in nice print available at International Music Score Library Project,
The license from the service above doesn't cover public performance (with music game meetings being a bit of a gray area), but in the "Nature Study Notes" of Scratch Orchestra (1969) the score is featured as an improvisation rite FRLMDP47 and has a liberal in-text license ("no rights reserved").

The version from Nature Study Notes

For any number of musicians playing melody instruments plus any number of non-musicians playing anything.

Begin ca ♪=150
accelerate to ca ♪=300.
Sempre ff (use amplification)


All in strict unison; octave doubling allowed if at least two instruments in each octave. Read from left to right, playing the tones as follows: 1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, etc. When you have reached note 65, play the whole melody once again and then begin subtracting notes from the beginning: 2-3-4…65, 3-4-5…65, 4-5-6…65, …, 62-63-64-65, 63-64-65, 64-65, (65). Hold the last note until everybody has reached it, then begin an improvisation using any instruments. In the melody above, never stop or falter, always play loud. Stay together as long as you can, but if you get lost, stay lost. Do not try to find your way back into the fold. Continue to follow the rules strictly.

Non-musicians are invited to make sound, any sound, preferably very loud, and if possible are provided with percussive or other instruments. The non-musicians have a leader, whom they may follow or not, and who begins the music thus: (♪=150) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ …. etc. (f sempre). As soon as this pulse has been established any variations are possible.

Recording of a performance.

The title is a reference to a story in Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel and "mouton" means "sheep". The expression describes those that follow sheepishly. With that in mind notice the very interesting direction: "if you get lost, stay lost", which in this case makes the music more complex.

The piece is written both for non-musicians (invited to play any sound, preferably loud) and for musicians who are given a score. The piece uses a well-known mechanic from children games that we call stacking. At every turn the note is added and the phrase gets longer and harder to remember.

The game of sheep

To take inspiration from Les Moutons de Panurge you can apply the same process to any song that is familiar to all participants of the music game meeting. This might let you look at some trivial pieces in a new light.

First you play only the first note of the song, than first two etc. It depends on the song, but this process might often be performed also by non-musicians.

Included in Reform set/collection.

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