Rooster Rhapsody

for Narrator, Rock Quartet and Orchestra

Arthur Cunningham

Text: Text by Barbara Brenner
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

There was once a cat named Cunningham who made music.
He made up songs for singing and songs for dancing, and music just for listening.
First he would hear a song in his head, then he would play it on the piano.
After a while he would write the notes down in his big black note book, so he wouldn?t forget how the tune went.

They were fine songs, too.

The only trouble was, nobody heard them, because Cunningham lived all alone except for his goldfish, and everyone knows that a goldfish has no ear for music.
It was beginning to get Cunningham down.
?What good is a song if there?s no one to hear it?? he asked himself.

One day as he sat playing the piano and wishing that a goldfish did have an ear for music, there was a pecking sound at the sliding glass door ? he looked up to see who it was.
It was a rooster.
?My name is Kenneth,? the rooster announced. ?I was passing by, I stopped to tell you that I really like that song you?re playing. It?s mellow.?
Cunningham couldn?t have been more pleased. ?There?s more where that came from. Why don?t you step inside??
Kenneth did, and Cunningham played him every song he had ever made up.
?Stay with me Kenneth! You?ll give me inspiration!?
?Well,? said Kenneth, ?I?ll certainly try to give you some. What will you give me??
?A roost of your own and all the brown rice you can eat.?
?It?s a deal,? said Kenneth. He picked out a roost in Cunningham?s bookcase and went to sleep.

Now every day found Cunningham happily at work making up songs and then writing them down in his big black notebook. Every day found Kenneth sitting under the piano, or scratching around out in the yard talking in riddles to the bugs before he ate them.
?Do bugs look like notes of music or do notes of music look like bugs?? That was a riddle Kenneth never tired of asking.
One day Cunningham said ?I have an inspiration.
I will make up some music about Kenneth.
It will be a musical poem ? a rhapsody
And I will call it the ?Rooster Rhapsody.?
He sat down at the piano and began.

The first part was about how Kenneth looked and the things Kenneth did and what Kenneth was like.
The notes in it were as golden as a rooster?s tail
It was music as light as feathers and as happy as a roster crowing in the morning.

When Kenneth heard that music he loved it.
?It?s me all over,? he said.

Cunningham decided to take the music downtown and show it to an important music person. Before he left, Cunningham filled Kenneth?s dish with brown rice and had a serious talk with him.
?Kenneth: there?s a hungry possum, who lives back in the woods? she has fifty teeth and likes nothing better than to eat plump chickens! So promise me that you won?t go out into the yard after dark!?
Kenneth promised.
All went well during the day, but toward evening moths began to gather on the screens. The fireflies winked at Kenneth from outside. The moon rose and made the trees look like shadows and the shadows look like trees.
Kenneth began to feel restless.
He longed to talk in riddles to the fireflies.
And he wanted to visit his old barnyard friends?

At last Kenneth said, ?This is the sort of night when a roster could break a promise.?
He slid the glass door open with his beak and stepped out into the darkness.
He clucked softly to a firefly, ?Is a bug like a note of music or is a note of music like? ? but before Kenneth had even gotten to the end of his riddle, the hungry possum crept quietly out of the shadows
And pounced!

Cunningham came home feeling cheerful. The important music person liked his song. He said he wouldn?t be at all surprised if when the Rooster Rhapsody was finished it made Cunningham famous.
Cunningham couldn?t wait to tell Kenneth.
But Kenneth was nowhere to be found.
Cunningham went into the kitchen.
The brown rice was there but Kenneth wasn?t.
And he wasn?t in the bookcase or under the piano or in any of his usual places.

Finally Cunningham took a lantern and went out into the back yard.
There on the ground were the tracks of possum and four golden feathers from a rooster?s tail.

It didn?t take Cunningham long to guess what had happened.
It was a sad cat who walked back into the house that night.

He sat down at the piano.
Slowly he began to make up a new song.
It was a song as restless as a spring night and as mysterious as shadows.
Some of it sounded like an animal pouncing and some of it was slow and low and full of the sadness of losing a friend.

?This is the second song of my Rooster Rhapsody,? said Cunningham with tears in his eyes. ?But it is the last song I will ever make up.
My inspiration is gone.
And what is a musician without his inspiration??

He closed the piano,
He put away the big black notebook
And put the cap on his pen.
Then Cunningham lay down in his bed and pulled the covers over his head.

The days passed.
Algae formed in the goldfish bowl.

One morning there was a tapping at the sliding glass door.
?Come in,? called Cunningham weakly, not even bothering to open his eyes.
The next thing he knew, someone was pulling the covers from his head.
Cunningham opened one eye.
It was Kenneth!

?Hey man,? cried Cunningham, ? is it really you??
?No one else but,? clucked Kenneth.
?I thought you?d been gobbled. There were possum tracks and rooster feathers.?
?Dig, old friend,? said Kenneth soothingly. ?No harm done. Remember?
A possum can pounce
But a rooster can roost!
I went up a tree for safety,
Nothing lost except a few tail feathers.?

?Why didn?t you come back sooner?? said Cunningham.
?I should have, but I wanted to visit some old barnyard friends.?
Cunningham didn?t have the heart to be angry with Kenneth.
He was too happy to have him back again.

The first thing he did was to open the piano.
The next thing he did was to begin to play.
It was a new song and what a song it was, full of mellow chords.
It was a song about a friend coming back and the happiness that comes with him.
After Cunningham wrote down the notes, he said?
?Now the Rooster Rhapsody is finished.?
And Kenneth said, ?Dyn-o-mite!
Play the whole thing for me!?
So Cunningham did.

All the animals came out of the woods to hear the Rooster Rhapsody.
The birds came,
the squirrels came,
the rabbits, the raccoons, even?
the possum came!

Soon the backyard was swingin?.

As for Kenneth, he almost burst with pride.
He threw back his head and
Crowed for joy!

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Composition Date 1976
Duration 00:15:00
Orchestration 1 1 2 0 - 3 3 3 0; 2Perc. Str.Rock Quartet: Drums, El.Gtr. El.Bass, El.Pno.Sound Effects