Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On being forced to play the flute by Roger Wootton....

Until I joined Comus, I had managed to avoid ever having to play a flootie, an instrument I generally characterised - with an appropriate display of fastidious horror - as the preserve of sulky legions of wan, pre-pubescent girls called things like Petronella and Chlamydia.

That said, on the qt, I had previously wielded a tenor recorder on a couple of album tracks with an earlier project, B So glObal, but I had articulated and phrased the recorder parts in a style drawn (very loosely!) from listening to an old vinyl album by the astonishing Japanese hocchiku player, Watazumido-Shuso.

I was given this album as a didactic Christmas present ages ago, and I was greatly taken with the intricate use of articulation, micro-pitching and timbre as structural devices; meaning and virtuosity, it seemed, could be expressed as much by the complexity of one note as by the speed with which it could be chained to others - a cautionary reminder in the then-current era of jazz-rock...........

but, time passed, and.......

....so much that is useful or important is lost in forgetting, in the neglect of observance and silted over by subsequent focus; I lost touch with Watazumido-Shuso.

I learned the changes, and constructed coruscating chord progressions over which, when called upon, I could deliver change-hugging flights of saxophone.

But, thank you, Roger - picking up the flute has renewed the connection with Watazumido-Shuso, and this has dovetailed into a re-ignited interest in 20th century 'art' music, where I have always known the flootie lurked, siren-like, waiting for me.

And the moral of the tale is; never say never; a metaphorical flootie might lie in wait for you too.

Anyway...here's a (non-exhaustive) selection of flootie / shakuhachi / hocchiku stuff that might be of interest:

'Syrinx' (Debussy) and 'Density 21.5' (Varese) - 20th century solo flute icons - Amazon or itunes downloads.

Bruno Maderna's 'Hyperion III' & 20th/21st century solo flute works played by Richard Craig - free FLAC downloads from the Avant Garde Project. Brilliant, brilliant site and repository for a huge number of out of issue 20th century works. If you want to dip your toes in 20th century art music, this is probably a good place to start.

Shakuhachi works played by Kifu Mitsuhashi - you can listen @ Last FM. Both of the albums are on download @ Amazon.com.

My vinyl by Watazumido-Shuso was called 'The Mysterious Sounds Of The Japanese Bamboo Flute'. It doesn't appear to be available anywhere now - beware of similarly named offerings!.....You can get a flavour of his playing here, though: Watazumido-Shuso

'Apparition & Release' a recent work by Michael Oliva for quartertone alto flute and electronics. You can listen (or buy!) here; Michael Oliva.

Any other suggestions? No. Not bloody James Galway, thank you very much.......

pip pip,


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