Music For Fast Journeys

Posted by Philip Sheppard on July 29, 2015 at 3:42 PM

The Bluebird, one of the fastest cars on earth

The Bluebird, one of the fastest cars on earth

I always seem to write my best music when I’m on an airplane (well, that’s my excuse for travelling a lot!). Sometimes, the places you’re travelling through can give you a great idea for a piece. But sometimes the way you’re travelling can give you an even better idea. Did you know that there are lots of amazing pieces for orchestra that are about trains, buses, cars and boats?


Here are some pieces about different ways of travelling (there’s a playlist here so you can listen to them while you read):

Music about a train journey:

This is a piece about a short train journey through the little villages and jungles of Brazil, written for symphony orchestra. It’s called The Little train of the Caipira and it’s by a fantastic composer called Heitor Villa Lobos. This film is of a children’s orchestra performing it. See how many of the instruments you can name!

Music about a car journey:

The American composer John Adams wrote a fantastic fanfare for orchestra called A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. It’s about taking a trip in a super fast sports car, and I love it! It starts with just a woodblock (a small box-like percussion instrument) before quickly building into swirls of notes (I think it sounds like the plumes of dust behind the tyres of a fast car). I’ve worked with John Adams and he’s a wonderful, fun guy. You can probably tell from his music that he has a great sense of humour.

If you like music for fast cars, there’s a brilliant one for you to listen to in the playlist called Aubade. It’s by Jean Francaix and depicts a Grand Prix motor race for twelve cellos!

Music about a bus journey:

I have to put this one in, because it involves Harry Potter and one of my favourite composers, John Williams. This is the crazy Knight Bus journey that Harry and his friends take to get to safety in Harry Potter and the The Prisoner of Azkaban and it’s by one of the greatest composers in the world, John Williams. He’s writing the new Star Wars movie music at the moment. How cool is that?!

There’s more…

In the playlist I’ve also included some very different types of travel music for you. There’s one about a gentle trip in a boat called En Bateau by a French composer called Claude Debussy. If you like his music (and I love it!) you might want to listen to a short set of pieces he wrote called Children’s Corner.

Other pieces in the playlist include the Serenade in D Major by Mozart, also known as ‘The Posthorn Serenade’ which is about a horse-drawn carriage which used to carry the post from one city to the next. The posthorn was a long trumpet used to warn people it was coming around the corner at great speed.

Whilst we’re thinking about fast horses, there’s an amazing Gallop by Aram Khachaturian which depicts a horse race. To finish with, and while we’re talking about fast horses pulling vehicles, there’s Ice Drive. This is a piece for all sorts of glassy instruments that I wrote with my friend Evelyn Glennie – the star percussionist! It’s meant to sound like a nighttime race across an icy lake in a sledge pulled by horses.

I've recently been involved in making music for the new trailer for Star Wars, and this new piece, Speeder Chase, inspired by the film, is meant to sound like a frantic chase through an alien landscape:

Action Point

Think about a type of transport you could write a piece about. Maybe your school bus? A plane journey to a foreign adventure? A trip on a space rocket?

Topics: Kids And Creativity, Creativity