All Our Broken Instruments (2016)

Download the score – All Our Broken Instruments

Program Notes
Composed in the summer of 2015, All Our Broken Instruments is a musical adaptation of the Robert Fanning poem “May Our Young Find Music in All Our Broken Instruments.” The percussionist speaks the poem’s text while playing a mixed batch of instruments and triggering the electroacoustic sounds.


  • Instruments
    • snare drum
    • bongos
    • flower pots
    • suspended cymbal
    • triangle
    • resonant metal coil
    • kalimba or mbira
  • Electronics
    • Computer system with stereo playback
    • Microphone and audio input for computer
    • MakeyMakey to connect kalimba/mbira to computer
    • Foot pedal for triggering electronics
      • electronic app, MakeyMakey, foot pedal are all available on request

In the back of a drafty barn, dust drifts
through shafts of light that split
wall slats. Everywhere, junked stuff:
bent coils of a warped box spring, a tossed
rake, a rusted sewing machine,
face of a grandfather clock
with no hands. Marooned among
these heaped shadows, a baby
grand piano sits. Left open
to the air, its fallboard hoisted
and stuck, it leans like a boat
once dashed on ice or shallows,
as if it sailed here carried on
the storm of its last song.
Now its new resident soloist’s
strung her own resonant web,
her silk bridge strewn
across dampers and soundboard strings
she crosses nightly
to devour all her divers.
Under felt hammers and cleft rails, she’s laid
dozens of pearly egg sacs, airy
clusters of opaque globes
clumped like dormant notes.
Soon they’ll burst free, her progeny,
from the trap work and escapements,
to fury and scamper along the buckled keys
rehearsing scales and ascensions—
their catchy tunes too slight to register
yet played for far years: these melodies
no-one now here will hear.

poem by Robert Fanning

About Me

Jay C. Batzner (b. 1974) is currently on the faculty of Central Michigan University. He reads too many comic books and tries to find time for sewing and other various hobbies. Jay likes playing chess but loses a LOT of games. 

Jay’s frequent interdisciplinary collaborations with choreographer Heather Trommer-Beardslee has led to several dance works based on student veterans, ecological succession, the Larry Craig scandal, and hyena behaviors. The hyena piece even includes puppets! 

80s atonal awesome bilston comic books comics concerto contemplative counterpoint duet dulcimer duo electronics fixed media funny hard high voice improvisation marimba medium voice noisy percussion piano poem poetry pop quartet sci-fi scifi setup short song song cycle speaking spiky spoken strugatsky timpani trigger triggered trio unpitched weird white zen

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