Audition videos and tapes – presentation advice and warnings

Here are some of my insights into presentation as someone who watches and listens to many auditions. Please feel free to add to this in the comments below. I won’t talk about equipment or software now, an internet search will provide lots of advice on this subject.

Audio or Video? If given the choice, I prefer video, or at least a mix of audio and video. Good audio is a pleasure to listen to, but it is easier to get an idea of your musical personality with a video. If there are many excellent candidates to choose from, this can be a deciding factor.

Visual Aspects for video auditions:

  • Lighting. If you find a good acoustic space, please make sure you are not back-lit by a window or any other light source. The main source of light should be from the front and sides. It is very frustrating to watch someone but not be able to see them properly.
  • Music Stand. Keep it as low and flat as possible. A rule of thumb is to have a flute length’s distance between you and the music stand. Make sure to do a trial-run to see if your musical movements sometimes get hidden by the music stand. If you are someone who ducks down a lot while playing, put your stand even lower.
  • Unless otherwise stipulated, videos can be edited (montage) with fade-in and fade-out between orchestral excerpts or repertoire pieces with what are called “jump cuts” in film jargon. However, even if jump cuts are allowed, it is very impressive if one can do a complete unedited video of all one’s orchestral excerpts and do it well.

Audio Aspects: make sure you record in stereo and that your mix is in stereo. It is a bit strange to hear a candidate through only one ear of my headphones. Somehow I feel something is missing, even if it is only psychological.

Make sure the recording levels are decent. Some devices will flash green to indicate a good signal, with others you will have to watch a meter, or rather have someone watch it for you. An internet search will give advice on ow to achieve good recording levels for your device.

Cheating: Audition tapes and videos usually stipulate unedited materials. This really means no post-production manipulation of your sound signal such as splicing or enhancements. Simply mixing your audio and video together does not fall under this category. Other exceptions may be adding “jump cuts” (see above) and titles to your video, but check the requirements.

Really good digital manipulation is very difficult to detect, even by professionals. But you would be surprised at how often I come across it done badly. If you don’t want to make your auditioner suspicious, watch out for the following:

  • If you are making a video, make sure your audio has realistic reverb decay and pre-delay times that correspond to the size of your room.
  • Make sure there are no sudden changes in the noise-floor level. This is a dead giveaway that indicates the dynamics have been manipulated. Some microphones that are optimized for recording speech have built-in compressors that automatically change recording levels according to the level of input. However, with these you will hear an increase in the noise-floor level during quiet dynamics and a decrease when louder. With post-production digitally manipulated dynamics you hear the opposite.

File Formats: this may depend on the requirements. For me personally, a streaming platform is better for audio and video such as YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud. This is more convenient than waiting for a file to download on your computer.

Be aware some formats and platforms are Apple specific. It is better to avoid those and choose cross-platform formats.

Putting your last name in your file: For example, “LastName_Repertoire.doc” or “LastName_CV.doc”. This is particularly important for supporting materials such as resumes, letters of recommendation and repertoire lists. Auditioners may have many documents open at once, and it is easier to navigate them if the file name has your last name in the heading.

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Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Mondfleck errata

Here is quick reference list of errata in the flute part for those preparing for piccolo auditions or performance. The score and parts are available if you search IMSLP, and the manuscript can be found here.

This movement is palindromic, but there are several inconsistencies which raise questions, and there are discrepancies between the part and the score (I believe I have UE 33794). Examination of the manuscript has settled some of these questions, but perhaps there are more that I have missed. Please feel free to add.

  • Measures 2 and 18 should both have D natural, not D sharp.
  • Bars 7 and 13 should both have F natural, not F sharp.
  • Measure 9, 4th beat: some editions have the A flat C written as 32nd notes, they should be 16ths.
  • Measure 13 has a discrepancy in rhythm between the score and part. If one follows the palindromic principle, the flute part is correct; that is the A flat in bar 13 should correspond to the G sharp in bar 7 and be a 16th note rather than a 32nd. Problematically, the manuscript does not follow the palindromic principle (it shows the A flat in bar 13 as a 32nd note). Is the manuscript wrong? Was the mistake copied to the score and then corrected in the flute part?

It has been suggested to me that this last anomaly might have been to avoid having octave D’s between the piccolo and the piano in bar 13.

Thoughts, anyone? Does anyone have a copy of the latest edition (UE 34806) that they would be willing to show me? I’d be curious if there are any differences.

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Our Mythical Past

Time to vent another pet peeve: “there are no great ____________ today”. Another take on the adage “kids these days….!”

“The standard of flutists has declined. There are so many good flutists today, but none can compare to the giants of the past” is a statement I have actually heard in several contexts by flutists of the older generation.

Stephen Jay Gould

I am truly convinced what we are witnessing is a statistical phenomenon of human systems, not the implied degeneration of our collective abilites. Scientist Stephen Jay Gould referred to this type of degeneration as entropic homogeneity 1. He argued heavily against its being the agent of seeming decline. To paraphrase him, over time (1) human performance (here, flute playing) approaches its outer limits of human capacity, and (2) systems tend to an equilibrium as they improve. What has actually declined is the standard deviation in average ability, which is a natural result of flutists having gotten better over the years.

” Paradoxically, this decline [of the standard deviation] produces a decrease in the difference between average and stellar performance. Therefore, modern leaders don’t stand so far above their contemporaries. The myth of ancient heroes – the greater distance between average and best in the past – actually records the improvement of play through time.”

Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in The Free Library

You could get into a lot of arguments here. Were the past heroes of flute playing relatively better, but absolutely worse (or equal)?

1 Gould, S. J. (1986, August). Entropic homogeneity isn’t why no one hits .400 anymore. Discover, pp. 60-66. Republished in Gould, S. J. Full House, Three Rivers Press, 1997. Gould applies his argument to the subject of sports, namely, baseball. I admit to directly stealing some of his wording and translating it into flute-speak.

Read about my other pet peeve “Too Many Flutists

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