Jenn and I were both curious about repertoire for the final recital we’ll be giving in December, so we started class by talking about some possibilities. That discussion led to the decision to include improvisation sessions in the rest of our meetings. So we did a few rounds of improv as a group. After each bout, we would talk about the music we just made, as many times the discussion can be just as beneficial as actually improvising.
Then it was Sequenza time. One of Robert’s practice suggestions was to play the piece as if we were in Bizarro World, exploring opposite ideas of dynamics and overall feeling. Through this process, your interpretation of the piece in real life may be better informed and your musical ideas for the piece may be strengthened. Of course, Robert also had suggestions for when playing the piece as written. For the crazy tonguing part (you know, at the end of page 2 onto page 3), if you roll the flute in, you are essentially transitioning to a hard reed by shortening the air stream, resulting in a more powerful sound.
I’ve only really worked on the first few pages of Sequenza, but looking ahead shows that there are a few techniques that I can be preparing now. There is a multiphonic on page 5 based on a natural harmonic fingering. To prepare for this moment, it would make sense to practice natural harmonic multiphonics in general. Robert suggested starting with octaves, then fifths, and then the smaller intervals of fourths, thirds, and seconds. Practice these both tongued and slurred; when slurring, you will find some really great potential colors between playing the individual notes of the multiphonic and those notes together. And a tip for the octave multiphonics: start on C and work your way down the chromatic scale, gradually rolling out as you add the right hand fingerings (F-sharp and below). Rolling out lengthens the air stream, which results in reducing the high frequencies.
Whisper/whistle tones are another technique to practice for Sequenza, especially the ability to play a whisper tone immediately after playing the normal note (which is what appears in the piece). For this, you can trick the listener’s ear by playing a resonate normal note, and then actually having a small gap between the note and it’s whistle echo. As long as the normal note’s sound carries, you can use that carrying time to set up for the whistle tone.
With these techniques, it is important to practice them in ways outside of how they appear in the piece. For example, practice multiple whisper tones, not just the B-flat that’s written. Having a broader level of control over a technique will help with the ease of execution in context.
We also had the chance to play on a Gazzelloni headjoint, which is basically a C-flute headjoint with an alto flute embouchure hole. This is the type of headjoint that Gazzelloni played Sequenza on, so it’s interesting to see the different challenges and ease this change in embouchure hole can bring about. But let’s just say I’ll be sticking with my normal headjoint/embouchure hole combo.
- Robert was talking about 72 bpm being common in human music because it is closely related to the tempo of our heartbeat. Well, guess what? An elephant's heart beats around 28 times a minute, and when given the chance to make music, elephants tend to hover around 28 bmp. So, yes, the Thai Elephant Orchestra is a real thing. You’re welcome.
- I ended up on the same train, on the same car even, as Robert on the way to class. Small world, even in NYC.
- Sarah and I saw a performance and talk with composer Meredith Monk and poet Anne Waldman. Everything about it was amazing. The venue was Housing Works Bookstore, an awesome organization committed to ending homelessness and AIDS. After being introduced, Meredith and Anne performed two pieces, and then just talked to each other, inviting one another to share their thoughts and experiences. There was a question and answer session to conclude the talk. The last question regarded a prediction that in the near future, 80% of the world’s population will be older and will be women. Meredith’s response was a hope that that will be a time of kindness. #amen. Sarah and I waited in some very confused lines, but then WE GOT TO TALK TO MEREDITH. Sarah asked her about femininity informing music, specifically in rhythm (we were thinking of Janika Vandervelde and cyclical rhythms here #ThanksDrWallace), and Meredith said she thinks her femininity informs everything. She shared that she believes women have a direct connection to The Source (which can be threatening for some men…but that’s a different subject..) and that this connection can be responsible for some wonderful things. Overall, this event was the definition of womanpower. It was inspiring. It was beautiful. It was empowering. It rocked.
Until next time!