Aperghis fourth octave humor piccolo practice technique

What is your Superpower?

Having a kid and playing modern board games where it is teamwork against the forces of chance or evil (not everyone for him/herself like in my day), it is easy to fall into this kind of thinking.

Because these days, everyone is special, right? No one is supposed to get left behind. Everybody has their own, special superpower. So what is my, personal, superpower? I am hoping I don’t have just one. However, for the time being, since I am spending a good amount of time each day on the piccolo, it is easy to imagine my superpower is that of playing high B’s and C’s. This is my special weapon, to produce blasts that measure over 100 decibels. Do I use it to combat evil? Well, maybe in my imagination only. But since this is not a game, it is my actual job to produce these notes, I have to deal with the situation in my own way. If I delude myself in order to produce what a composer writes, well, we all have to do whatever it takes, right?

The thing with superpowers is that they do not happen automatically, you have to train them, refine them and learn to engage them exactly when needed. ZAAP!! Bullseye!

In “The Dong with a Luminous Nose” by Georges Aperghis, on page 18 (of 21), after playing loads of low, airy sounds, singing and speaking, there are suddenly a few high C’s that pop up. And to boot, the piece ends on a high C. Now, high C’s are supposed to be my superpower, but they often fail me here in this context. Among the Jumbly Girls, the wail of the chimp and snipe, I forget that I have a lethal weapon in my hands. So my practice has to involve a lot of psychology. I have to remember to engage this power, to never lose sight of it. For this, microseconds help. Taking that microsecond in the leap to high C from the D below, not to say “Oh $§&”*”, but to say “Engage!” This takes practice (for me).

So I share this so you all can think about your own superpowers, hone them, and practice engaging them. See if it works for you.

bass flute fourth octave practice technique

(Bore) Size Matters

Several times this year I have had other flutists asking me about my bass flute and whether I was able to play easily in the upper 3rd and into the 4th octave. My Kingma bass flute has a mid-size bore (sorry, don’t know the exact specs) and is able to play up to high C comfortably, high C# and D with effort. When I recorded Mark Barden’s Personae for bass flute and bass clarinet last year, I resorted to borrowing a Pearl bass flute that had a narrower bore, because I could never reliably hit a high E on my Kingma (which is otherwise an awesome instrument!). This passage is an example:

I am posting this to reassure you that if you are a seasoned bass flutist and are having real difficulty with these notes, don’t bang your head against a wall or berate yourself. Check your bore size. If you have one of those lovely large-bored instruments I really envy you – they sound marvelous! But I don’t envy you when you have to play in the 4th octave. Carla Reese sums things up nicely in her guide for buying large flutes:
“In general, a big bore instrument will have a stronger low register and a weaker high register than a small bore instrument. Bigger bores also tend to have a slightly slower response and more difference in tone between registers. Big bores are ideal for playing in flute choirs (especially for the bass) but can be heavier and need more air. Small bores are ideal for solo repertoire, where the demands can require more agility and a stronger high register.”

A colleague of mine who is a woodwind doubler has an extra small-bore Kotato bass flute, he says a high D pops out with hardly any effort.

I wish someone would invent a bass (or alto) flute that has an adjustable bore size!

acoustics Advice for Composers basics fourth octave harmonics or harmonic multiphonics humor instrumentation low register pet peeves

The True Range of the C Flute

Back in the USSR, when information was really suppressed, many people were hungry for the truth. Now governments hide the truth from us under a deluge of information. I think composers suffer from this deluge, but it is not a government conspiracy.

The true range of the concert C flute is a matter of public domain, published in text books, on the internet, and God knows where else as a cold, hard fact. It is neither a state secret nor rocket science. Yet why is it ignored?

Sometimes I can understand why. We often work with composers of electronic music who transfer their sound world into “scores” and leave the instrumentation up to us. There are also arrangers who don’t sweat the details of register, and tell me up-front that I am free to choose which size flute I want to use when. That’s cool.

But when that’s not the case, how to bring this issue out from under the deluge information? I considered several options. Swear words, Russell Brand revolutionary rhetoric, sexing-up – what can I do to get your attention?

Here is my first attempt. Download it here as a PDF, or view it here. Suggestions are welcome, but please keep it family-friendly.