Photos from the recording sessions in Columbus OH
Jacquie Christen is an amazing flute player who was in school with me at Ithaca College. She used to work at Mahogany Grill, a restaurant I used to frequent after I graduated. It was there that Jacquie told me she would perform a piece of mine if I wrote her one. That winter I was working on Crystal Cruiselines playing piano, which gave me plenty of down time to write. I remember finishing on a beach in Mexico near Acapulco.
As a jazz musician, I was always frustrated by the idea of a piece having “jazz influence” simply because it used the blues scale. To me, bebop is the heart of jazz, so I incorporated aspects of that music, such as moving in and out of the chord changes.
My familiarity with the music of Ian Clarke inspired the use of myriad extended techniques. — Josh Oxford
Composition Date – 1977
Soliloquy was composed after my sister, who lived in London at the time, met world-renowned Irish flutist James Galway at a record-release and autograph-signing event in a local record shop. As he signed his autograph, she told him "My brother lives in California and he's a composer." Galway, without missing a beat said "Tell him to compose a piece for me!"
So I did. I made the youthful mistake of writing something in a style that I should have known he would have no interest in playing. Although I sent it to him, it just wasn't his kind of piece. Opportunity lost, lesson learned. But, over the years, it has become my most performed piece.
Soliloquy (from the Latin solus “alone” and loqui “to speak”) at its most basic level refers to the act of talking to oneself, and more specifically denotes the solo utterance of an actor in a drama. In this piece the flutist is the actor and the conversation is both spirited and reflective.
The piece consists of one movement, is generally tonal, and explores all registers and dynamic levels of the flute. The first half is unmetered, while the second half contains both metered and unmetered sections, and allows each performer to assert their individual imprint on the music. — Bruce Babcock
Marsyas was a character in Greek mythology who met a cruel fate at the hands of capricious gods. Athena obtained a reed flute, and finding it beyond her ability to play, discarded it on Earth. Marsyas found and mastered the instrument. Filled with hubris, he challenged Apollo to a musical contest to be judged by the Muses. He lost, and as punishment was flayed alive.
Musically, Marsyas is based on a tone row of which I make frequent use. It is reminiscent of Webern in its formal brevity, consisting of six short sections. It also makes use of isorhythm, flutter tonguing, and tongue pizzicato. It makes a great recital piece for the alto flute, and is challenging in that it makes use of the full range of the instrument. It would make a great companion to works such as Density 21.5 or Syrinx. — Jason Taurins
Have you ever felt frustrated with everyone and everything? Gadfly is a brief musical depiction of this feeling. The title refers to the stinging insect which pesters livestock. The piece makes extensive use of extended techniques and is a short rondo. Techniques include timbral trills, key clicks, tongue pizzicato, microtones, flutter tonguing, and multiphonics. It would make a great recital companion to works such as Density 21.5 or Syrinx.— Jason Taurins
sweet soulless solstice
sweet soulless solstice was written in 1975 for an extraordinary flutist, Jan Pompilo, when we were both graduate students at the University of Iowa during the heyday of its new music ensemble, composition program, and orchestra conducted by the legendary James Dixon. One description of this composition is that of a romantic tone poem influenced, in part, by some of the classic 20th-century flute solos (Berio, Varese) and post-WWII Italian serial composers. We worked as a team, testing the then new doublestops for flute from Thomas Howell’s landmark book as well as trying out different phrases and overtone passages that appear in the composition. The ability to work directly with a performer is a rare but ideal luxury, so the discovery and unfolding of this composition is a great memory. Technique and compositional strategies ultimately are solely background forces, however, in support of what simply is dramatic musical expression. — Steven Block
Butterfly Within explores moments of chaos and peace after a health crisis in 2006, which allowed me to appreciate every moment more distinctly. The idea of the pulsing intensity of a butterfly's quickly beating wings relates to the subtle noise of the flute sounds, the blow bottle sounds, and the rhythms of the shakers. Sound was created with RTcmix and STK (Synthesis ToolKit) physical models. Additional movements were created in 2012 and 2014.
Watercolors of the Master Who is Accustomed to Paint Oils
This piece, which consists of 4 concise movements, was composed in 2001 for Bianca Garcia, at the time a 14-year-old prodigy flute player who was accepted at age 14 to Curtis Institute. I consider this composition a musical portrait of Bianca—different facets of it are represented by four contrasting movements. The first movement is pensive, melancholic, and fragile; the second is humorous and slightly teasing; the third is gentle and dreamy; and the fourth is playful and joyful. As Watercolors... was written for the child—very talented, but still a child—the musical idiom is less sophisticated than in my other compositions. I would describe it as "trans-tonality," I don't use there extended techniques, and I avoid harsh dissonances. The piece was premiered in 2001 by Bianca, with me—the composer—at the piano, in concert at the New England Conservatory, Boston. — Alla Elana Cohen
In memoriam (GH & FMB)
Year of Composition: 2008
In memoriam is the final piece from a collection of Three Duos for Alto Flute and Violoncello. The duos were commissioned for the “Kulturelle Landpartie,” a festival held annually in the Wendland region of Lower Saxony.
Work on the Duos began not long after my two main composition teachers died, and I still felt a profound sense of loss that two people who had deeply influenced my early development were no longer here. So when I began composing the Duos, I already had a clear idea that the final movement would be a memorial, largely focused on two contrasting kinds of movement. On the one hand, there would be slowly-moving, almost static ethereal sounds, to be complemented on the other hand by lighter, dance-like passages. Of the contrasting material, the more ethereal sounds might have been closer to the heart of one of the dedicatees, whereas the dance-like music is more a reminder of the other (who had composed a considerable body of music for ballet). In the course of the piece, instruments with bell-like sounds are introduced, serving both as a mediation between the two contrasts and to further develop the musical ideas. The piece ends with a return to the original instrumentation, providing not only a sense of eternity with an extended fermata over a single tone, but also abrupt reminders that we, as performers and listeners, are still very much alive.
In memoriam is dedicated to the memory of Gerald Humel (1931–2005) and Frank Michael Beyer (1928–2008). — Peter Castine
Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas
This is the piece I have wanted to write since 2002 but thought I was never cool enough to write it. Around that time my friend Andrew Plewe introduced me to some songs by The Meters and a tune by Ernie and the Top Notes Inc. called “Dap Walk.” In fact, I wanted to name a future piece of mine “I Know the Ghetto Has Got You Down,” a line taken from the song itself.
When I was asked to write a piece for the MusicX festival, I thought this would be the perfect time to write this piece. To prep, I only listened to music by James Brown for a couple of weeks. Some of the rhythmic motives of this piece were taken from the motives found in some of his hits.
I think James Brown’s coolness may have rubbed off on me a little, insomuch that my Leviathan Trio friends think that Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas is indeed a badass piece in its own right. And they really make it groove.
The title is taken from the first lines of the Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. — Jennifer Jolley
CONNECT with Lindsey Goodman
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