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An Extended Journey, Part 2

Leonard Garrison | March 2013

    To explore the use of extended techniques around the world, Leonard Garrison used a sabbatical leave from the University of Idaho to visit with composers and flutists in North America and Europe. (Part 1 of this article was published in the February issue of Flute Talk.)

Kürten: Kathinka Pasveer
    I next traveled to the little village of Kürten, east of Cologne, the home of Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). The countryside is gorgeous, alternating forested hills and pastures. Here I met Kathinka Pasveer, the composer’s assistant and muse. He wrote most of his many flute pieces for her, which she has recorded. A student of Dutch flutist Franz Vester, she now performs exclusively Stockhausen’s music throughout the world and runs the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, which publishes all of his music and holds a summer course.
    We worked on Flautina (1989), a six-minute work for flute, alto flute, and piccolo (one player). The piece portrays a magic flute spirit, beautiful and enchanting. Like many of Stockhausen’s works, there is an element of theater. The performer must memorize the piece and wear a sort of quiver holding the three flutes. While changing from one flute to another, the flutist sings, clicks the tongue, or half-whistles. The score specifies lighting, amplification, and limited staging. Kathinka was kind and patient but demanding. She emphasized absolute faithfulness to the score and its four pages of introductory explanations. For instance, one must play at exactly the specified tempos (53.5, 75.5, etc.) and use the marked fingerings for a quarter-tone scale, timbral variations on a high A-flat, and the final flageolett, a very soft multiphonic between high A-flat and E-flat. The pacing of ritardandi and accelerandi is precisely notated, and there are distinctions between glissandi which start at the beginning of a note and those that begin only after a note is established. For a passage marked irregular kissing noises staccato, and simultaneously slap the keys with right hand, Kathinka suggested planning a specific but random-sounding rhythm to respect the overall timing. Stockhausen’s use of wind tones (Rauschen mit etwas Ton) is unique; it must be mostly noise, without much flute tone, and this is challenging in the upper octave. Pasveer suggested holding the lips as if whistling, focusing the air with a small opening, and blowing with an F sound against the teeth.

Syke: Carin Levine
    The next morning I headed to the small town of Syke (pronounced Zee-kuh), just south of Bremen. The American-born flutist Carin Levine met me at the train station, and we lunched at a delightful country inn, where I relished soup, veal, and an amaretto cream with hazelnuts. Afterwards, we went to her beautiful country home for a lesson.
    Carin studied with Jack Wellbaum in Cincinnati and with Swiss flutist Aurèle Nicolet in Freiburg. She is the author of The Techniques of Flute Playing (two volumes), a respected guide to extended techniques, and formerly taught at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. She has premiered and recorded many important avant-garde works from Brian Ferney-hough to Giacinto Scelsi.
Since she studied with Nicolet, the dedicatee of Takemitsu’s Voice, I asked for her ideas on interpretation and specific techniques in this work. We also worked on techniques used generally in modern music. She uses various types of pizzicato, from a dry one to a more resonant one, in which the player pronounces Tah, dropping the jaw and opening the mouth as wide as possible for maximum resonance. Support is also important. There is also lip pizzicato, pronounced Pah with an explosive attack. In multiphonics, she suggests experimenting with the angle, rolling the flute in and out until one finds the greatest success. She also blows between two notes and thinks of expanding the embouchure horizontally as well as vertically.

    After our lesson, I ate at Bremen’s famous Ratskeller and admired the charming Schnoor quarter with its narrow cobblestone streets. The next day, I traveled to Vienna, attending exquisite performances of Richard Strauss’s Arabella at the Staatsoper and a Mozart Mass at the Augustinian Church, sampling a delicious cake at Demel’s, and touring the Schönbrunn Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Györ: Gergely Ittzès
    I next went to Györ, Hungary, where Gergely Ittzès (pronounced Gehrgay Eetsesh) is flute professor at the Univer-sity. He arranged for me to perform a recital in the University’s concert hall, a former synagogue, teach lessons, and give my Visualizing Vibrato presentation. From there, we proceeded to Budapest, where I enjoyed beautiful historic buildings and vistas, the Gellért Baths, and food spiced with paprika.
    Gergely and I became fast friends, and he is generous and funny, a brilliant flutist and an insightful teacher. He graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, but his main influence has been the innovative Hungarian flutist István Matuz. In several long lessons, we focused on Gergely’s Totem for solo flute (2012), commissioned by the NFA for its Young Artist Competition, a compelling and well-written work. The piece is based on twelve pitches, each presented in a given register. Its many multiphonics grow out of and embellish a melodic line, and their fingerings and response are challenging to the uninitiated. Gergely’s method of producing clear and resonant double stops, however, is effective and secure. For normal flute playing, flutists tend to coordinate the jaw and the lips, but for multiphonics, Ittzès drops the jaw and shapes the lips, especially the upper one, forward, making a surprisingly tall but narrow opening. The focus should expand vertically to include both pitches but build a wall on each side to prevent the sound from spreading. Each multiphonic has a unique airspeed and angle, so experiment with rolling the flute in and out. Gergely carefully tunes each chord through small adjustments in blowing angle and the amount that fingers cover their holes.

Paris: Pierre-Yves Artaud
    I returned to Paris a second time for a lesson with Pierre-Yves Artaud, flute professor at the Conservatoire Supérieur National de Paris. He is the author of Present Day Flutes and several other books, editor of much music, and widely recorded artist, especially in contemporary music. We met at his home in the southwestern suburbs, and although his English is good, the lesson was entirely in French. He considers Takemitsu’s Voice to be the strongest work for solo flute in the last half century, so I was intrigued to receive his input. His interpretation stems from the bilingual poem that the flutist recites during the piece:

Qui va la? Qui que tu sois, parle transparence!
Who goes there? Speak, transparence, whoever you are!

In the first half of the piece, the color of the flute sounds and its gestures echo the staccato and marcato French words. Transparence serves as a transition into the much less explosive English text, and the second half of the piece is generally much more legato. In Jolas’s Episode Second, he explained the importance of tuning the quarter tones precisely and of exaggerating the dynamics to introduce an element of surprise. He mentioned that the Conservatory stopped commissioning morceaux de concours in the 1980s. Lastly, I played Saariaho’s Couleurs du vent, and he emphasized the importance of fluidity.

Farnham: Ian Clarke
    Across the Channel, I took a train from London to Farnham, Surrey, a far-flung suburb and the home of flutist/composer Ian Clarke. Genial and full of humor, he teaches flute at the Guildhall School of Music and Dance in London, and his works draw upon a huge array of influences, from World Music to jazz, blues, and modern flute techniques. We worked on Zoom Tube for solo flute (2001). He related that musical notation is an imperfect representation of the composer’s ideas and that especially in his style, a performer must free oneself of reading the notes to achieve a free, improvisatory air and a rhythmic groove. Clarke encourages but does not absolutely insist on memorization. If performing with the music, the score should be used only as an occasional reference. He suggested practicing half-bar fragments in a loop to find the right style (articulation is often punchier than classical flute playing) or improvising freely with the elements of the piece. His theory of performance is philosophically grounded, and he suggested reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary, a dense volume about the interactions of the left and right brains. Contrary to most Western thought, the right brain is the master and left brain the servant.
    Clarke shared an effective method for learning multiphonics. He pointed out that no competent flutist reads fingerings while playing Debussy’s Syrinx, so nobody should read multiphonic or quarter-tone fingerings in modern music, but rather know them with the same facility. When first learning these, Clarke suggests looking at the fingers and verbalizing an explanation for each. For instance, a double stop combining middle D and high F is high F with the second trill key. He also suggests practicing multiphonic passages with the lower voice only, as it tends to be weaker.
    For the opening glissando of Zoom Tube played with wind tones, Clarke suggested an approach opposite to normal flute playing; one must kill the resonance by bringing the teeth almost together and the jaw forward, but still focus the air with a small opening. After our lesson, Ian, his wife Caroline, and I shared a delightful lunch at a nearby pub, accessible by footpath.

Brooklyn: Robert Dick
    Fighting jet lag, I found myself in the Brooklyn apartment of Robert Dick, the leading exponent of extended techniques for the flute since the 1980s. Straddling many musical worlds, Robert is a brilliant improviser and performer with influences extending from jazz, blues, and rock to classical avant-garde.
    His books The Other Flute and Tone Development Through Extended Techniques and flute solos Lookout and Fish Are Jumping are now classics. His numerous excellent compositions, mostly for the flute, expand its boundaries while being eminently practical – all of his techniques work. He has explained these techniques clearly and thoroughly in instructional CDs, DVDs, and YouTube videos.
    My main focus with Robert was Gravity’s Ghost. He lifted the title from an unnamed science fiction story in which a character is suddenly thrust into warp speed, feeling “gravity’s ghost.” Thus, the title has no literal connection to Otha Turner but rather captures Robert’s image of what Turner would produce had he escaped the constrictions of his primitive flute and gone wild with multiphonics. The piece exudes intense happiness.
    I had struggled to produce some of the multiphonics on my fine orchestral wooden conical bore piccolo. Although he designed the piece to be played on a variety of piccolos, Robert plays on a 1920s-era silver cylindrical Haynes, which produces the effects easily, and he generously loaned me his backup silver piccolo until I could find one myself.
    I also worked with Robert on Takemitsu’s Voice, as he played the piece for the composer several times. He was able to speak with authority about the exact techniques Takemitsu intended and its ghost-story atmosphere and Noh theatricality. Using his thorough knowledge of the acoustics of the flute, Robert suggested numerous fingerings for multiphonics, quarter tones, and glissandi in my other repertoire.

Brooklyn: Greg Pattillo
    Also in Brooklyn, I visited Greg Pattillo, world’s leading flute beatboxer, to study his Three Beats for flute solo (2011), commissioned by the NFA for its High School Soloist competition. Beatboxing is a musical style in which artists use various mouth sounds to imitate hip hop beat patterns. Greg said that most beatboxing derives from imitation of the Roland 808 drum machine and suggested listening to James Brown’s song, The Funky Drummer, and Gregory Sylvester Coleman’s drum solo The Amen Break from The Winstons’ 1969 recording of Amen, Brother, two seminal performances that are the source of many beatboxing gestures. One of his favorite voice beatboxers is Rahzel M. Brown. Greg was particular about the quality of basic beatbox sounds from the bass drum kick (B), demanding a deep, resonant tone, to the snare drum sound (Ps).
    Greg’s method of teaching, appropriate to his idiom, differs from traditional classical pedagogy. To explain a concept, he loops a gesture and invites the student to join in, often improvising over a basic pattern. The best way to learn Three Beats is looping basic units of two measures and even smaller gestures of two notes or two beats – at first at a slow tempo, and always with a metronome. To retain the rhythmic flow Greg only breathes during rests and inhaled sounds. Memorizing the piece allows a performance with  an air of spontaneity. He suggests using a standing microphone for performance and tweaking the EQ to favor bass over treble.
    Pattillo is admirable for his willingness to share his special abilities. His goal is to make flute beatboxing widely known and continues to develop videos and printed materials and give classes to show us how it is done.

San Diego: John Fonville
    In November, I met with John Fonville, currently chair of the Department of Music and professor of flute at the University of California, San Diego. As a composer and flutist, John has forged new paths in the language of the flute. His many recordings of his own music and pieces by Brian Ferneyhough, Bernard Rands, Roger Reynolds, Jojji Yuasa, and many others include the CDs Temporal Details (1995), Living in Fire (2000), and Flue (2010).
    We worked on common extended techniques in my repertoire and his solo flute pieces, Venus Noodles (1996) and Music for Sarah (1981). By this point, my tongue pizzicato was well developed, but John helped me develop more fluency and effortlessness.
    He recommended less involvement of the throat (some flutists even say to close the throat to cut off resonance). One approach to learning double stops is to start with the first open or partially open hole and then add additional fingers one at a time, thus working gradually from the highest to the lowest note of a double stop. For simultaneous singing and playing in octaves, he advocates rolling out slightly to minimize interference in the third partial.
    John wrote Venus Noodles for the NFA’s High School Soloist Competition, and it deserves to be more widely performed, particularly among advanced high school and college-level flutists. Music for Sarah is more ambitious and derives from a series of six improvisations, each focusing on a different technique. The most novel of these are in the third piece, where “the foot joint is removed and the body of the flute stopped to produce E below middle C, which is overblown while singing, creating difference tones,” and in the fifth piece, where “the headjoint is removed and the top edge of the body of the flute is blown across, like a shakuhachi.” The score of Music for Sarah, written by Leslie Olson, is a set of rules for improvisation based on what John plays. Details are left to the performer, but the outline of each piece is defined.

    Before beginning this project, I sensed that flutists in Europe were generally more advanced than those in America in playing modern music with special techniques. Now I am not so sure. Certainly Europe provides greater support for new music and more established festivals and ensembles. On both continents, a few cutting-edge players stand out, but in general, many flutists and teachers lack proficiency in multiphonics, quarter-tones, etc. A common theme in my discussions was that young flutists are now ahead of their teachers, due in part to YouTube videos and other resources where they can learn these techniques, and in the next generation, modern techniques will finally become more widespread.
    It was particularly valuable to work directly with composers, as there are always fine points of style and expression not conveyed in scores. I have discovered a common language and developed abilities that translate from one work to another; the quarter-tone scale in Clarke’s Zoom Tube is an ascending version of the one in Stockhausen’s Flautina, and the same multiphonics crop up in several different pieces.
    This ambitious project is only a beginning. I would like to work with other flutists and composers that I was not able to see this time around. All flutists shared enticing repertoire ideas, and I look forward to tackling yet more challenging works (Brian Ferneyhough’s Cassandra’s Dream Song is a rite of passage) and teaching newly found pieces that serve as gateways for students learning extended techniques.