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Cross-pollination

I am lucky to have collaborated with many inspiring visual artists and musicians over the years. Our work cross-pollinated and grew in different ways. But when Jan Kather told me her student Sarah had made a tribute video to me, this was new! Thanks Sarah! Jan teaches video art and her students had to make a tribute video to a sound or video artist. Sarah’s first choice was John Cage, but in the end I won out. I have to say, that’s the first time that’s happened!

I find Jan’s video work captivating, particularly, this video — which draws our attention to how we ‘see’ women’s thighs in different epochs. In Lyric Visions, the artists respond to poetry, but Jan also responds to sound, remixing existing pieces. Finally, there is an agglomeration of word, video and sound-music. Meaning collects and pools. 

 

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Flute resources

Just updating some flute resources I’ve used recently.

The Virtual Flute — search for alternative fingerings, microtones and multiphonics (more than one sound at a time). For me, the most valuable element, is being able to click on the flute keys. This often brings up a range of multiphonic combinations, such as C#7 & E7 and A#6 & C#7 & E7, with their ease of ‘note distribution’. This is useful for improvisation and composition.

Herbert Lindholm’s Basic Flute Technique is freely available. If you are teaching and need another source to build technique in young to intermediate players, this is a fantastic resource. If you are returning to (advanced) flute playing after a long hiatus, as I’ve been recently, it’s also got a lot of value. There’s a lot of short material besides the scales where you can really tune in to your body, your sound and your body as resonator in tandem with the flute. I usually improvise or play long notes in different registers, but a short whole tone exercise in thirds or octaves, for example, is refreshing, and also disciplines the fingers. As a bonus, Lindholm includes a trill chart for difficult fingerings, tremolando and microtones.

Flute players are often told to ‘support’ their sound with ‘air’, the ‘diaphragm’, the ‘airstream’. But this ‘support’ comment is rarely defined or explained. Perhaps the most detailed understanding I received was from my high school flute teacher, a Buddhist, who gave me a book to read called, “Why Breathe? A Handbook of Illustrated Exercises for Correct Breathing” by Irwin Kellogg (1929). The exercises drew my attention to the role of the chest cavity, the ribs, the lungs, the diaphragm and the abdominals in breathing — inhaling and exhaling. Still, what do we mean by ‘support’ in relationship to flute tone, the process of controlling sound over time, embouchure, and bodily technique? For a more intricate questioning of this, see flutist John Wion’s discussion on breath support (scroll down his sections….).

Regardless of defining support, clearly the body is involved in playing the flute, and I am thankful for flautists such as Jane RiglerRobert Dick, Jennifer Cluff, and Robert Aitken who draw attention to the role of the flautist’s physical body as a resonator. There is more work around these days that looks at how flute players use mechanisms in their bodies that are similar to singers and actors, who engage their vocal chords. This is great because identifying something and breaking it down makes it easier to learn and re-learn.Through conversations with Jane, I’ve also re-considered the Alexander Technique as a strategy for dealing with seizures that sometimes occur when I play the flute.