Getting Back in the Saddle

I noticed a strange thing about getting back in shape after the last winter break. I was frustrated and, to be honest, a little frightened at how long it took to retrieve my “norm”, and wondered if it was a dire sign of things to come. I decided to blog about it, not only because most of us have a winter break before us, but to find out if I am the only person to have come up with the solution that I did.

My problem was sound, so I worked on all the “sound” things I was taught. Sonority, harmonics, melodies, whatever I could think of. Even articulation exercises, as sometimes if I to some forward tonguing, my lips are really encouraged to focus and relax. But that didn’t really help. Nothing seemed to really get the fuzz out. However, after a week or so (yes, it was that long!) I decided to ignore my sound and at least not let my fingers lose their condition as well. So I worked slowly on 2nd and 3rd octave chromatic exercises (from P. Edmund Davies’ book) and strangely enough, focusing on really coordinating my fingers somehow got my mouth to do what it had to do to get a good sound, and ping! I could play with my normal sound again.

Today*, due to delayed travels and chaos, I picked up the flute for the first time in a few days. Same yuckiness, but I remembered last year’s trick and it worked again. Was it my imagination, or could I actually feel the neural network involved in coordinating complex fingering activity actually communicating with and instructing my breathing apparatus and embouchure network on how to make an optimal sound. That is really what it felt like. Is there some neurological explanation for this, or is it psychological?

*Actually today is Christmas day for many, but here in Russia, it is just another Monday.

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Pierre Boulez Dialogue de l’Ombre Double for flute/bass flute

Adapting, recording and releasing the flute/bass flute version of Boulez’ Dialogue de l’Ombre Double has been a ten year labor of love (and frustration). The mischievous flutist inside me listened to this clarinet piece and thought, why doesn’t Boulez write for flute this way? Not to disparage his wonderful works for flute, but his Dialogue has such contrasting characters who are so articulate and moving in ways that his flute characters are not.

In 2007 I received permission from Boulez to attempt a version. After completing the score and several performances, the version never received acknowledgement, but it received no prohibition, which I took as an OK to continue. Now the necessary permissions have been received for the recording, which I am proud to announce is available here:

Pierre Boulez, Dialogue de l’ombre double, version for flute and bass flute

The score is not available commercially. Please contact me if you are interested in taking a look at it. It has not been fully edited, there are some odd enharmonic spellings of notes due to transposition.

Some comments about the flute/bass flute version: I originally wanted to make a version for just the bass flute. While I think this may be technically possible, I was too frustrated by the instability of the intonation of the upper register. Maybe on today’s bass flutes, with narrower bores, this would be less of a problem. The bass flute has also less scope for dynamics than the clarinet. This is not surprising, clarinet making and performers have had generations to develop their art. Bass flute making and playing is still in its early generations – although Eva Kingma and Kotato are making wonderful headway. So I decided to switch from flute to bass flute between movements (although I attempted to do so in a way that is not monotonously predictable, I hope) in order to play in tune and to emphasize the changes of character.

I would like to take the opportunity here to thank Melvyn Poore, who recorded the initial, final, and the transitions, and performed the electronic parts in concert with me. He also made the recording which is now available. Thanks also to Hendrik Manook who did the final mastering. A big thank you to Mark Steinhäuser, who transcribed and transposed the score for me.

 

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Preparation – again

For me there are still three levels to gain once you have practiced a piece.

First, you can read it through
Second, you can actually play it
Third, you can start to make music with it

Next week I will play the premiere of Rebecca Saunder’s Bite which is a 15+ minute piece for bass flute solo. If I am lucky, I will reach the third level. Watch this space, I would really like to write about it. I just hope I find time before the year is over.

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