UPDATE: Videos are ready! Check out the 'Gallery' section for links.
I recently performed a solo recital at the Whitworth Art Gallery. This was my programme:
15 November 2015
Whitworth Art Gallery - Grand Hall
Self Portrait for flute & wind anemometer Alvin Lucier
Les Folies d'Espagne Marin Marais
(Arr. Hans-Peter Schmitz) (1656 – 1728)
Tango Etude No. 3 Astor Piazzolla
(1921 - 1992)
Partita in A minor, BWV 1031 J.S. Bach
(1685 – 1750)
The Dance Along the Artery Larry Goves
Susani’s Echo for Alto Flute Karlheinz Stockhausen
(1928 – 2007)
Self Portrait Alvin Lucier
I chose my programme as an exploration into solo flute music intended for or created by movement.
Alvin Lucier’s Self-Portrait is one of a set of three works which explore the directivity of sound waves from musical instruments. The performer is to place a wind anemometer (a device used to measure wind speed) several feet away from their face, with a light shining through it on the opposite side to the performer. The light is used to cast shadows across the performer's face - and the performer can choose how much or how little to show of themselves based on their wind speed. The auditory decisions are left up to the performer and the resulting physical actions create a unique combination of sights and sounds.
I made the naive assumption that finding a wind anemometer would be a fairly easy task - I thought Amazon Prime could sort it for me. However, apparently modern wind anemometers are digital and I needed one that had large, sensitive blades and could stand up on its own, meaning I'd need a vintage one. I scoured eBay and found most of them were located in Germany or The Netherlands. Panic stations! I obsessively checked for new vintage wind anemometer listings, and with great luck I found one in North Wales! By this time, it was the day before my recital so I set off immediately to fetch it from a lovely gentleman who, apart from being a semi-pro rugby player and primary school teacher, sells antiques from his garage. I felt like a huntress bringing her prey back to the den (or in this case, the practice room). A photo from rehearsal:
I chose Marin Marais Les Folies d’Espagne, Piazolla Tango Etude No. 3, and JS Bach Partita in A minor to provide a basis for the exploration into music composed for/created by movement, since they were all composed for specific practices.
Larry Goves’ The Dance Along the Artery is part of an ongoing collaborative project exploring how observing and learning about the Dalcroze Eurhythmics method might inform an approach to composition. The piece has, at its core, a very simple physical limitation; it only features fingerings that either use all the fingers, all the fingers of the left hand, all the fingers of right hand or no fingers at all. In addition, the performer has to alter separately the embouchure, dynamic of key clicks, articulation, and sound dynamic. The variations on these elements of playing the flute and finger patterns produce an strong visual element to the performance. Larry wrote the piece for me this past summer and I premiered it at the Second International Conference of Dalcroze Studies, Vienna, in July. I had my Whitworth recital professionally filmed and when watching it back, I was struck by how different it was to watch it than to play it. That might sound obvious but the finger patterns came across much more than I realised. I'll have a video up here soon!
Susani’s Echo is the solo version of a duet between the alto flute and basset-horn from Montag aus Licht, from Stockhausen’s opera cycle Licht: The Seven Days of the Week. The performance includes physical staging, melodies filled with swirling tendrils and micro-tones, articulated by rushing noise-glissandi, tongue-clicks, wind tremolo, key-clatter, flutter-tongue, and whispered numbers up to 13. The instructions state that the performer is to play in darkness, facing away from the audience, wearing a nude-coloured bodysuit of lustrous material, and to have a spotlight of a pallid moon above the performer, as if she was playing this on the reedy shore of a lake. Now, that's a fairly tall order in this venue! I did manage to do all of these things in my International Artist Diploma recital at the RNCM last February. I had an artist create for me a reedy lake shore and had it projected above me and I managed to stop eating puddings and do sit ups every evening for two weeks in preparation for the bodysuit debut. For Whitworth, I did a simpler version of asking a friend to switch off the lights, donning a shimmery cardigan, sitting atop a table, and using a desklamp to create a moon effect. Luckily I kept my balance, the table didn't break, and the light cast some pretty gnarly shadows!
The Whitworth is such a wonderful venue and it was great to try this combination of pieces to help explore what a solo flute recital can offer (not to mention, test my stamina and balance!).