Fabian Svensson (1980-)

Symphonies of Toy Instruments

  • Year of composition: 2012-2013
  • Work category: Chamber ensemble (7 or more instruments)
  • Duration: 22 min


10 performers.
Player 1: Toy Glockenspiel 1, Guiro, Vuvuzela 1
Player 2: Toy Glockenspiel 2, Football Rattle, Animal Castanets
Player 3: Toy Xylophone, Bicycle Horn
Player 4: Ukulele 1, Slide Whistle, Toy Cuckoo
Player 5: Ukulele 2, Jingle Bells, Vuvuzela 2
Player 6: Toy Piano, Train Whistle
Player 7: Melodica 1, Party Horn 1
Player 8: Melodica 2, Party Horn 2, Toy Tambourine
Player 9: Stylophone 1, Toy Bongos
Player 10: Stylophone 2, Tin Drum, Vuvuzela 3

In addition to the above, three of the players will also be required to play kazoos.

Examples of printed editions

BabelScores, Paris 2016

Description of work

One-movement work

Work comment

This is a 22-minute work for 10 performers, all playing toy instruments, and each performer playing more than one instrument.

Before writing this piece, I had already written a solo toy piano piece, a ukulele duo and a number of works involving melodicas. I felt that it was time to bring these different instruments together in the same piece, but also to expand the palette with a multitude of other, more or less related instruments, such as stylophones, toy percussion, vuvuzelas, bicycle horn, kazoos and much more.

The music is divided into five large sections, each one shorter than the one before. In between these sections are contrasting interludes that get longer each time. Before the first section is an intro, and after the last section is an epilogue. Harmonically, the piece is built on five-note scales that gradually transform over time. Rhythmically, the basic building block of the piece is the simplest of polyrhythms: two against three.

What attracts me to toy instruments, besides of course the unique, irresistible sound world, is the fact that they are free from the "burden", if you like, of classical/romantic tradition, that most common concert instruments carry with them. It is perhaps easy to dismiss the idea of a large work for toy instruments as silly or gimmicky, but I want to stress that this is in no way intended as a jokey piece. Instead, it is a demanding, strictly constructed, virtuosic and, despite the joyous and exuberant surface, very earnest work.