Looking forward to giving a workshop at Ballarat High School tomorrow. Topics include embouchure, posture, hand positions, technique and of course breathing, with a good dash of ensemble playing in the mix.
The final set of program notes from Alicia McGorlick. Thanks Alicia!
Takemitsu is an internationally recognised composer who composed music with a distinct fusion of traditional Eastern styles, in this case Japanese style, and Western forms in his pieces. His ‘avant-garde’ work ‘Voice’, dedicated to Aurèle Nicolet, revolves around the use of the voice, through humming, singing and speaking into the flute. Extended techniques from Bruno Bartolozzi construct the basis of the work. This includes Noh flute attacks (a breathy attack from a Noh kan flute used in the Japanese Noh Theatre), pitch bending, microtones, double tremolos, key clicks, multiphonics and whisper tones. The concept of ‘ma’ 間depicts a Japanese aspect of time and space and is used in this piece through the use of sound and silence coexisting with one another. The poem spoken both off and on the flute is written by Shuzo Takiguchi from his “Handmade Proverbs”:
Qui va la? Qui que tu sois? Parle transparence!
Who goes there? Speak transparence! Whoever you are!
 Hwee Been Koh, East and West: The Aesthetics and Musical Time of Toru Takemitsu, Ph.D diss, Boston University, 1998, 1. (CHECK THEORY AND METHODS ASSIGNMENT IF YOU WISH TO REWORD A BIT)
Some more program notes from Alicia McGorlick.
The 1889 Paris Universal Exposition was a stage where groups from around the world displayed the best of their countries’ architecture, industry, culture and arts including music. It was here where the influence of Eastern music was first heard by many French composers such as Claude Debussy and quickly spread to other French flute composers such as Georges Hue. Dedicated to Paul Taffanel, a flautist and professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Fantaisie displays Asian tones and the virtuosity of the modern Boehm flute. As a classic French Romantic piece, it includes long lyrical lines and impressive technical passages with playful chromatic melodies exchanged between the flute and piano. The piece also requires a masterful use of extreme dynamics and tone, and as such, Hue’s Fantaisie was set as a competition piece for the end of the year exams at the Paris Conservatoire
 https://www.gettysburg.edu/dotAsset/d013a2dd-1cce-442b-9723-7538f3cb846a.pdf page 5, check it’s your own wording
Here are some more program notes. Reinecke’s Undine Sonata written by my student Alicia McGorlick for her recent honours recital. Might be of use to anyone learning or performing this piece. Notes for Hue Fantasie and Takemitsu Voice to follow shortly.
Undine Flute Sonata Opus 167
Carl Reinecke’s Sonata in E minor is based on the German romantic tale by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque. The tale depicts Undine, a water spirit, who longs for an immortal soul which can only be obtained through true love with a mortal man.
The first movement portrays Undine in her underwater world with flute melodies that give off watery sounds. She leaves the water kingdom in search of love with a mortal man and is discovered as a child by a fisherman and his wife who have recently lost their own daughter, who then decide to raise Undine as their own.
The second movement paints a picture of Undine’s cheeky nature as she is growing up, which is depicted through the piano and flute melodic lines that chase each other. The piano’s proud folk-like solo section represents the knight Huldebrand who seeks shelter at the fisherman’s house from a raging storm. He then falls in love with Undine.
The third movement represents the couples’ happy marriage. They then both befriend Bertalda, who is revealed to be the true daughter of the fisherman and his wife. The peacefulness is interrupted when a fountain is uncovered and Undine’s uncle, a water spirit, rushes out and beckons to Undine not to continue this relationship with a mortal. All is stilled suddenly by the dropping of a boulder over the fountain.
In the fourth movement, all three good friends take a trip on the Danube, which rouses the anger of the water spirits. Huldebrand states he wishes he never married Undine, for his life is constantly in danger from spirits. In shock, Undine falls overboard and sinks to the bottom. Thinking she is dead, Huldebrand makes plans to marry Bertalda. On the night of Huldebrand’s wedding Undine returns as a spirit and kills him with a kiss.
In the previous two posts I wrote about the common problem of over covering the embouchure hole that detracts from producing a great sound. The correlation of the right hand thumb position on the flute and the coverage of the embouchure hole is often overlooked by flautists.
I encourage the three point balance to hold the flute; under the bottom lip, between the second and third knuckle on the left hand pointer finger and the right hand thumb. (Have a look at my article Flashy Fingers under Articles on this site for a more detailed explanation of this) The job of the right hand thumb is to move the flute in a forward, slightly upwards position producing a gentle counter-resistance against the left hand. Instead, many players place the right hand thumb under the flute and use it to lift the instrument. The problem with doing this is apart from jamming up your fingers (see the afore mentioned article) it causes the flute to roll inwards and hence causes over covering of the embouchure hole. You then end up with all the sound problems discussed in the previous post. So try to remember that your hand positions are not only related to your figure technique but can also have a big impact on your tone quality.
Following up on my previous post, the first reason that can cause flautists to cover too much of the embouchure hole is compensating for a lack of air. Instead of focussing on a good consistent airstream that is pliable and appropriate for what is being played, the flautist rolls the flute inwards, overworking the lips, attempting to produce a better sound. The higher up the flute they play the more the flute gets rolled in and the tighter the lips become. This produces a thin tone lacking projection as it reduces the harmonics present in the sound. Intonation becomes very unstable and has a tendency to become very sharp as you ascend through the registers. Additionally an over covered embouchure hole limits the dynamics that are possible; especially at the forte end of the range. So the thing I often tell my students is more air, less face.
When you listen to a flute player what is the one that you want to hear the most? For me it is a great sound. Yes, lots of fast notes are fun but it is the tone quality that makes the biggest impression on me.
One of the biggest detractors from producing a stunning sound is over covering of the embouchure hole. Many flautists allow the flute to roll too far inwards and cover too much of the embouchure hole which in turn produces a small sound lacking in projection. I’ve noticed in my teaching there are two main reasons why players over cover the sound hole. In the following two posts I’ll be looking at each of these problems.
Sometimes when talking about articulation it’s easy to get caught up with what the tongue is doing and to forget something quite fundamental about playing.
The tongue produces no sound on the flute. So irrespective of what your tongue is is up to, in order to produce a good flute sound you have to have good air.
Remember my motto ‘Air is Sound’ or ‘Sound is Air’. So whatever you are focussing on with your tongue don’t forget to blow!
Just following up on my last blog regarding basic articulation. I talked about beginning each note with the syllable ‘too’ or ‘tee’. I think it’s very important to remember that once you have articulated a note, the tongue remains relaxed and down in the mouth until the very moment you are going to re-articulate.
‘too’ rather than ‘toot’
- When you pronounce ‘too’ notice that you tongue remains down in the mouth once you have finished the syllable.
- When you say ‘toot’ notice that your tongue finishes back up on the alveolar ridge.
It is preferable to use ‘too’ rather than ‘toot’ as leaving the tongue down in the mouth between notes promotes a more continuous airflow which in turn produces more legato playing. The same goes for ‘tee‘ as opposed to ‘teet‘
Apart from chopping up the air unattractively, the ‘toot’ syllable also produces that audible ‘back flapping’ sound of the tongue at the end of notes which for me is not an appealing part of the flute sound.