Chant de Linos by André Jolivet (1944)
André Jolivet was a French composer who had an interest in atonality and and the evocation of ritual in his music. Chant de Linos was composed by Jolivet as a competition piece for the Paris Conservatory in 1944. Inspired by the ancient Greek “chant de linos,” a lament for the dead, the piece is based on several unusual modes and a six-tone scale suggestive of antiquity. Chant de Linos opens with a fiery recitative-like cadenza, followed by a plaintive funeral lament. After an agitated wailing section, another cadenza introduces a dance in 7/8 time. A light and fleeting ben cantando section gives way to a reprise of earlier wails and the dance section, and the work ends with a rush of fast triplet passages, grace notes, and trills. Chant de Linos tells the story of Linos, who taught Orpheus how to play the lyre, but was killed by Hercules for criticizing him too much. It also, however, tells the story of the relationship between music and war. Music in France in 1944 was restricted by occupying Nazi forces. Chant de Linos attempts to express the inexpressible, juxtaposing subdued feelings of loss with violent expressions of pain.
Concerto for Flute by Jacques Ibert (1934), Mvt. III
Jacques Ibert, not being a part of any stylistic school such as the Les Six, has become somewhat of a peripheral figure in twentieth-century music, slipping into relative obscurity since his death in 1962. However, Ibert prized his independence from the many “isms” of his time, once having said that “all systems are valid, provided that one derives music from them.” The Concerto for Flute, composed in 1934 for Paris Conservatory flutist Marcel Moyse, is a prime example of Ibert’s strident originality, theatricality, and humor. The third movement, marked “Allegro scherzando,” was likely influenced by American jazz. Alternating measures of three and four beats lend to a rhythmically complex jungle gym of angular melodic passages that tease the listener with their every twist and turn. A desolate, mournful middle section leads to a reprise of the opening material stated a half-step higher and concludes with a virtuosic cadenza by the soloist.
Flute Sonata No. 6 in E Major by J.S. Bach (1741)
At 56 years old, J.S. Bach had left his position as director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig and was soon to complete two of his greatest works for keyboard: the Goldberg Variations and Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier. In August of 1741, Bach made a 75-mile trip from Leipzig to Potsdam to visit the court of Frederick the Great, where his son Carl Philipp Emanuel has recently been appointed principal harpsichordist. Completed just before this trip, the Flute Sonata in E Major was dedicated to Frederick’s valet Michael Gabriel Fredersdorf, an amateur flutist. This flute sonata was the last of the three sonatas Bach wrote for flute and basso continuo and consists of four movements, all but the first in binary form. The opening Adagio ma non tanto functions as a short prelude, with ornate melodic lines that gently blossom into a lively 2/4 Allegro in the galant style. The slow third-movement Siciliana gives way to C# minor, with the opening aria-like theme in the flute treated in canon a bar later in the bass line. The finale, Allegro assai, suggests a spirited polonaise that closes out the piece in a virtuosic flourish.
Vermont Counterpoint by Steve Reich (1982)
Vermont Counterpoint is a minimalist piece for amplified flute and tape, written by the American composer Steve Reich in 1982. Vermont Counterpoint is scored for a live soloist and a prerecorded tape of three alto flutes, three flutes, three piccolos and one solo part. During the piece, the live soloist plays flute, piccolo, and alto flute, participating in an ongoing counterpoint between themselves and the tape that creates an ever-shifting stream of emergent extended melodies. Divided into four sections with four different keys, the piece builds up canons from the simplest of elements, forming short, recurring patterns that substitute notes for rests. A listener can experience an altered perception of time and space upon stepping into this piece, becoming hypnotized by the building up of patterns that question, challenge, influence, and merge into one another. In my own process of recording the tracks for this performance, Vermont Counterpoint has come for me to represent the frustrations, but ultimately the joy and discoveries that come out of collaborative relationships between the acoustic and the electric, and between technology and human.
Raga Terah by Derek Charke (2012)
Raga Terah is a high-energy piece for flute quintet premiered at the 2014 National Flute Association Convention and composed by Derek Charke, flutist and professor of composition and theory at Acadia University in Canada. In Indian classical music, a raga is a self-contained melodic system that serves as the basis of all the materials in a given performance. More than a melody, a raga is a multidimensional framework that encompasses the music’s scale, rhythms, and even emotional associations like mood or time of day. Raga Terah is not based on an authentic raga, but it does attempt to create a “meditative character” and has a sense of barhat, the growth that occurs through the course of a raga. Perhaps the most raga-influenced aspect of Raga Terah is its rhythm. Terah is the Hindi word for “thirteen,” and the piece is in 13/16 time, with the different parts playing several recurring polyrhythmic patterns. Flutes 3 and 4 imitate the tabla drum, sounding a percussive “cha” sound in the flute to create isorhythms akin to a raga’s talea, or metric pattern. If Raga Terah were to be associated with its own mood, it would be one of zealous intensity and driving momentum.