coming up for air
I am so excited to announce the launch of a project that I've been thinking about for a long time called Coming Up For Air. The project's aim is to explore the creative possibilities that emerge when a piece of music is restricted to a single breath. The inspiration for the project was a collision of two things: firstly, learning Brian Ferneyhough's monolithic solo flute piece Unity Capsule during a nine-month period in 2013-2014. The piece requires an enormous control of body and breath (see above photograph; the last instruction of the piece 'last possible place at which to take a breath'). If the performer runs out of breath during the passage, they are to NOT inhale again and to mime the rest of the passage. This is an incredibly intense moment in the piece! The other thing was an ongoing and steadily worsening sinus/allergy issue which made it impossible to breath through my nose, smell, or taste for several years. This affected my playing in many ways. I would often have the feeling of not having enough air, yet not be able to exhale it quickly enough when playing. As a result, I would have a build-up of pressure around my ribcage. To summarise, playing was a pain! To manage playing during my Master's and International Artist Diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music, I developed the ability to control smaller amounts of air than usually needed on the flute. This self-imposed control borne out of my own physical restrictions, combined with the highly manipulated breath (and many other techniques) used in Unity Capsule, has made me want to creatively respond to breath restriction.
I was fortunate to receive support from the charity Help Musicians UK to have the operation privately and much quicker than I would have otherwise. They also assisted me during my recovery time and helped me attend Ensemble Linea Academy in Strasbourg last Summer so that I had time and space to navigate my flute with my new nose. The operation was a success and it has transformed my playing.
To start things off, I've asked a group of composers for one-breath pieces for solo flute. I will perform these pieces bookended by Alvin Lucier's Self Portrait for flute and wind anemometer and Unity Capsule on Wednesday 7 June at Islington Mill, Salford. I will use this first concert as an opportunity to raise funds to donate to Help Musicians UK. Going forward, I plan to expand the project further and will instigate an open-call for one-breath pieces soon.
I will be updating this area of the site more regularly with updates of pieces for Coming Up For Air.
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