Saturday, February 21, 2015

Monophony, not monotony - Ego Trip 2013 post #2

More from Ego Trip 2013. If you missed the first post about it, it's here.

At my Ego Trip recital were two good friends of mine that happen to be wind players - Charmaine Bacon, a flutist, and James Robertson, a horn player. I took the opportunity of having those two individuals present to create unaccompanied works for their instruments.

Writing for solo instrument unaccompanied is an interesting challenge. How do you create a line that both conveys melody and harmony? How do you get movement through a lone line? With the flute and the horn, there's a second problem, too: how can I accomplish this and still give them a chance to breathe?

The Pastorale in D for solo flute is in four short movements, modeled after the Bach Pastorale for organ. The central conceit of a pastorale is that it's intended to imitate the sound of the shepherd's pipes calling to one another on the night of the birth of Jesus, which suggests that the musical language of uneducated middle-eastern shepherds two thousand years ago was an incredibly intricate and complex thing capable of some truly impressive levels of communication.

So. The four movements of this piece, which are intended to be played together as a single work, are a slow introduction, a three-voice fugue (yes, for the flute alone), a slow Intermezzo, and a final echo fantasy. I've heard Charmaine play this in concert twice now, once at my Ego Trip, once at one of her own recitals, and she handles the shifting voices and characters excellently. Of course, you don't have to take my word for it; here's flutist Charmaine Bacon, recorded live at my Ego Trip concert.

Score available here in PDF form.
Creative Commons License
Essay - Pastorale for unaccompanied flute by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Also on the list was a Minuet for unaccompanied French Horn. When I first sent this piece to James, he told me there were issues that needed resolution. So I asked to meet up and discuss the matter with him, not knowing what I'd done wrong (I'm not a brass player). Time went by, and we didn't connect, so I asked about it again as the evening approached, and James sent back that it was no worry and that he would handle it.
I found out afterwards that fully stopping the horn (indicated by the cross markings in the score) is usually preceded by several seconds of silence to allow the player to properly adjust hand position. So having one out of three notes stopped was something of a challenge, one which James rose to more than admirably.

You can hear that yourself, of course. James Robertson, recorded live at Ego Trip 2013.



Score available here in PDF form.
Creative Commons License
Etude - Minuet for unaccompanied French horn by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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