Drum Factory is a retelling of the age-old camp classic Button Factory, in which a poor guy named Joe keeps getting told to push buttons with different parts of his body. I took this idea and rewrote it to be Drum Factory, where I assigned the buttons to different percussion instruments. After hitting each instrument, my “boss” tells me to go faster and faster until I lose control.
Tikki Tikki Tembo has become one of my most popular stories to perform. Arlene Mosel’s classic retelling of this Chinese folktale had me in stitches as a kid. Later in life, I came to enjoy the inherent rhythmic qualities in the name and the rest of the story.
I’m My own Grandpa is a popular Appalachian folk-tale that has been around for well over a hundred years. While I thoroughly enjoy the ludicrous nature of the story, I wanted to challenge myself to do something I had never done in any of my stories – speak as fast as possible. So I created a simple groove and tell the story twice, once at a regular speed and once at warp speed!
The Lost Bicycle is the original story that launched Percussive Storytelling. This story uses a great deal of leitmotifs, or sounds that represent certain characters, actions, places, or things.
The Turnip, based on an old Russian folktale retold by Alexei Tolstoy, tells how even the big and strong need the help of the small. The story is a perfect fit for Percussive Storytelling. As each character is added to the mix, from the old man to the old woman to the grandson to the dog to the cat to the mouse, an additive rhythmic process is added as well, creating a chaotic atmosphere as more characters attempt to pull the turnip up.
Black Bear and Mountain Lion was commissioned by Rocky Mountain National Park after I was invited to serve as the centennial Artist-in-Residence. The story is told in the tradition of many Native American tales – a mythical version of how something became something. In this case, a young black bear and mountain lion become the faces of two rock formations that point people in the direction of the highest peak in the mountains.
Bright, Green Leaves is an original story that tells the tale of a woefully bored and lonely caterpillar whose only desire in life is to fly. Yet try as he does, the caterpillar repeatedly fails to fly. After some advice from the wise oak tree, the caterpillar decides to try one more time and, in the process, discovers that he isn’t a caterpillar anymore; rather, he is a butterfly.
Abiyoyo is a wonderful South African folktale made famous by the late, great Pete Seeger. I decided to use a djembe, doumbek, and toy piano to bring this "giant" of a tale to life!
The Green Grass Grew All Around is another retelling of a classic song. This old novelty song is an example of a cumulative process, where each verse adds another element to the story. For Percussive Storytelling, that means I add extra instruments and sounds until things get slightly out of control!
Ain't It Great to be Crazy? is a cover of a silly song by the one and only Raffi. Raffi is to children's music as the Beatles are to rock 'n' roll or Mozart is to classical music.