Milne - Mozzie (from Easy Little Peppers)
Elissa Milne, an Australian composer and piano teacher, wrote a series of music collections called “Little Peppers” to provide a grounding in jazz styles and techniques for her students.
Different aspects and problems are addressed in different pieces. Read an overview from the composer herself into the purpose and range of her compositions in the Little Peppers series.
Pupil Match & Suitability
Mozzie will suit a pupil who can combine a cheeky and lively performance with a very disciplined approach to practice. There is no room for approximation or sloppiness in this piece and yet it needs flair and a sense of drama in performance. A strong sense of rhythm is vital. The dynamics are wide-ranging and the pupil needs to be able to make them clear.
A pupil with a weak sense of pulse and difficulty with syncopations may benefit from attempting this piece, however you should be aware that if they continue to struggle with the rhythms a different piece may be less stressful for performance.
Pupils who would enjoy the strutting, jazzy rhythms will need no persuasion to try this piece. Shy and cautious pupils will need plenty of encouragement to step up to this piece’s challenges in terms of its humour and “attitude”. However, if successful, they could well discover something new and exciting in the possibilities of piano playing.
Style & Tempo
The mood is set by the title (an abbreviation of “mosquito”) and the unorthodox but witty tempo marking “Persistently”.
Anybody who has shared a space with a determined and elusive biting insect can draw upon their memories to enhance their playing! However, I suspect the composer is at least partly on the side of the insect, in which case there are plenty of opportunities for imaginative story development (see Teaching Strategies).
Phrasing & Articulation
The first two phrases are very clearly four bars long, and the second half of the piece is also a pair of 4-bar phrases but more linked together.
The dynamics in the second half reflect this more subtle phrase structure, with rise and fall within bar 9 and then a crescendo to the ff final bars.
The drop away to mp or the final low D is vital for its effect and quite easily overlooked by a student who has just spent four bars hammering away at top volume.
Tone & Texture
The angular lines and offbeat accents, especially of the bass, should not be taken as a licence to play harshly.
Perhaps the most technically challenging moments are in bars 5-7 where the RH must play staccato over a legato LH.
For this, ultra-slow practice lays good foundations.
Most of the given fingering is good for all hand sizes.
Bars 4, 8 and 12: The acciaccaturas need not be too “Classical”. They are close cousins of the “hammering-on” in bar 11.
The LH rhythm used in bars 1-4, and the tricky RH syncopations in bar 12, need to be taught slightly differently depending on the way the student learns.
Some will pick it up by ear, perhaps with a strong foot-tapping beat to keep them on track. Others will need to count in crotchets or even quavers to learn the correct placing of all the off-beat notes and rests.
Try clapping small sections of the rhythm and getting the student to echo it back; clapping whilst marching around; clapping whilst counting aloud; and using words to speak the rhythm.
Here is a suggested “lyric” for bars 1-4 - no doubt you will think up your own:
“Where is that mozzie?
Where is that mozzie now?
Where is that mozzie?
Up over there!”
From the start, practise to get the rhythms accurate and keep a strong crotchet beat as the foundation even if counting quavers.
Bar 3 accent in the LH may be misplaced because in previous bars it was played by finger 2 on G sharp/A flat.
Read what the composer, Elissa Milne has to say about learning a piece of music:
An excellent performance will be full of life and mischief, with a strong sense of pulse, well-marked accents and clean breaks for all rests. The use of the full range of dynamics will add to the drama. Articulation will be clean, ornaments will add personality and the final quiet note may even raise a laugh among the audience.
A good performance will be fully secure in its notes and rhythms, with all the dynamics and articulation in place and a sense of character. It may not have all the sparkle and wit of an excellent performance but will show an understanding of the style and the possibilities of this music.
A sound performance will similarly have the rhythmic and technical security to begin to communicate something of the humour of this piece. However, it will be more plainly executed and there may be moments of raggedness in the articulation. The dynamics may be less well defined, with accents and ornaments perhaps not as neatly placed as they could be.