Personal Review

Of Same – Same – Different Workshop for flutists

Athina Chrysostomou

Things to improve on and things to improve on EVEN MORE [and score!!!]

I organised an online workshop for flutists in May 2020. I sent the participants my piece Fantasie Impromptu-ish and asked them to familiarise themselves with at least one or two phrases. The purpose was to produce the piece in different ways, as many ways as the participants I had. I also talked about exploring and accepting how our experiences form our choices. Some more information about it can be found here

The goal was to produce variations of the same piece by freely manipulating the sound colour. If we were to choose just one quality to work on and manipulate then playing with sound colours qualities would be it! I don’t feel I fully communicated this. I wanted to say: change the timbre of phrases, use the articulation and dynamic markings as guidance to help you identify which technique would produce the sound colour that could be described by said markings, narrow your focus on timbral changes. For example, if there is a legato jump you may choose to slide between the notes, if a fragment is staccato and piano you can try slap tongue or a key clicks and so on. In regards to  rhythm, slow down the ending of phrases, speed up some arpeggiated fragments. But I don’t feel I successfully conveyed this.

I should have concentrated only on sound colour and appoint a specific phrase everyone would be working on. Rather my instructions were a bit vague. I was giving recommendations and invitations, not instructions or guidance. I didn’t want my input and expectations to affect their decisions. This didn’t backfire but with different wording of approach it could have gone smoother. Nevertheless, all participants showed traces of embracing the theme and investigating what kind of timbral effects they can bring to the piece so it was a success.

Another thing I learned was to save time to pause and demonstrate. And to put it in context, pause and demonstrate a few ways of changing the timbre of a note like are air sounds, percussive sounds, singing…  Instead of having imaginary expectations and taking this knowledge for granted.

 I asked the performers to be free and interpret the score as they felt made sense to them. The problem here was distributing a highly specific score. The tempo, articulation and dynamics were given as well as the rhythms were very precise and not to mention a little bit difficult. This wasn’t unjustified as I feared that without the phrasing marks and such, the score wouldn’t easily make much sense. My own insecurities of giving an idea of how the end product may sound, led to an overloaded score that achieved the opposite results of what I wanted. Instead my score could have had less markings, fewer complex rhythms and the words free or ad libitum could be placed on the top instead of the metronome marking. 

At this point I would also like to blame Sibelius – the software – and how I work directly onto the software. I manipulate everything so that it sounds as close to what I’m looking for. I knew I did this, I never realised how negatively it impacted my creative process.

By now you can sense that I have trouble. What I always struggle with is communicating my thoughts especially when under pressure and with people I don’t know. It is something I am actively and consciously working on. Listening back to the short clip I remembered to record, I circle around the same words (interesting, interested) without adding a lot more information. If only you would learn something without the practice and the mistakes and yes, the feeling of humiliation…but alas!

A hidden gem from this was inclusivity and playing with other musicians. The performers did play together at times, we played games and they had a chance to exchange ideas and approaches. They loved it and I most definitely loved it. I also noticed how there is more new music written for professional players rather than amateurs and students. At least I write having a professional player in mind so this was a wake up call to write music for various levels and purposes.

So overall, this was a positive experience. The most important being going through it form preparing and planning the workshop, talking with my dear friend on how to make it happen, to writing the posts, marketing and promoting it – even the minimal marketing I did, answering the emails and everything that led up to the minute before clicking START MEETING, to finally clicking END MEETING. I feel I got my toe through the door of organising something and self promoting which was haunting me for a decade. And that was the best learning of all!

You will find the full score here ready to download!

Note to self: to add much more playing time in the next workshop.

* Expected: what do you think I mean by expected?

** Extended techniques monologue will come very soon!

Special thanks to Evi, Athina, Lauri and Kata for their support, inspiration, and kick!

All thoughts and ideas writen here are through my own experience and observation.

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020