The Flute – The Great Train Race – Part 1


The Flute – The Great Train Race – Part 1

History Essay from Elder Conservatorium of Music by Cristy Wilkins

The Flute – The Great Train Race – Part 1

The Flute -The piece that I have chosen to analyse is The Great Train Race for flute and piano, written in 1993 by English composer Ian Clarke. This essay will provide history on this composer, the development of extended techniques on the instrument, and descriptions of instructions for each of these techniques.

Repertoire for the flute player in the 19th century emphasised a pure and sonorous tone as the fundamental approach to playing this instrument. At the beginning of the 20th century, effects such as extremes in dynamics and various articulations began to be introduced, coinciding with the Impressionist era. Works such as Syrinx by Claude Debussy (1913) and Density 21.5 by Edgar Varese (1956) were a bridge between traditional playing pre 20th century and the new techniques that developed beyond 1950. Paul Hindemith is another notable composer of works for this instrument, and is also the author of a treatise on 12 tone technique and Neo-classicism.

The jet whistle technique was first introduced in the suitably named Jet Whistle by Heitor Villa-Lobos in 1950, and henceforth more techniques were adopted. Luciano Berio included dynamics, flutter tonguing and harmonics in Sequenza in 1958 and John Cage used singing and playing, key slaps and vibrato variants in Solo, alto flute and piccolo also in 1958. Since then there have been an array of composers using these techniques, including Earle Brown (Hodograph 1, 1959), Kazuo Fukushima (Mei, 1962), Richard Meale (Clouds Now and Then, 1973), Kryzstof Penderecki (Fonogrammi, 1974), and Larry Sitsky (The Fourteen Days of Bardo Thodol, 1979).1 The composers and flute players Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Maggi Payne were other extended technique experimentalists of note. Elizabeth Koch in Contemporary techniques since 1950 provides a comprehensive list of pieces that include extended techniques.

Bruno Bartolozzi was the forerunner in documenting contemporary techniques, writing New Sounds for Woodwind in 1967, and John Heiss has the first documented articles specifically for techniques in Multiple Stops for Flutes and Some Sonorities for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon in 1966 and 1968 respectively.2 Other publications include The Avant Garde Flute by Thomas Howell (1974), A Modern Guide to Fingerings on the Flute by James Pellerite and Special Effects for Flute by Sheridan Stokes and Richard Condon. In 1975, Robert Dick published The Other Flute, the most significant and comprehensive book to date of contemporary techniques.

The traditional conceptual limitations of this instrument exclude it from many of the innovations taking place in the musical fields of the avant-garde, jazz and rock…Many flutists want to play in these idioms and therefore I feel it necessary to find ways of developing the instrument’s inherent capabilities.

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