Music Forum Lecture Recital: Images of Nature in 20th- and 21st-Century Works for Flute and Voice

Date(s) - 01/31/2014
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Rm. 3491 (Large Seminar Rm.), Graduate Center

The first Music Forum of the Spring 2014 semester features GC DMA students Mary Hubbell and Alice Jones, giving a preview of their upcoming lecture recital titled “Images of Nature in 20th- and 21st-Century Works for Flute and Voice.”
As instruments that simultaneously harken to the beginnings of human culture but whose technique has been subjected to great amounts of refinement, the voice and the flute occupy a unique position in the musical imagination.  The presenters hope to illuminate two contrasting works for this ensemble as depictions not only of nature and birds, but also of their respective composers’ sense of idealism as relates to those images.French composer Albert Roussel (1868-1937) uses the characteristic early-20th century French sound (close attention to contrasting vowel sounds in the voice and the flute as a purveyor of sensuous tone color) to depict nature as gentle, alluring, and a sympathetic companion in Deux poèmes de Ronsard (1924).  Perpetuating the 19th-century attitude of nature as redemptive space, Roussel chooses texts from a golden age of French medieval poetry that beseech nature for help in love, setting them with modal harmonies, marking nature, like the medieval past, as both distanced and pure.  The flute also mimics birdcalls, not in its late 19th-century role as a frivolous salon instrument, but as the voice’s companion.

In contrast, American composer Eric Nathan’s (b. 1983) setting of poetry by Walt Whitman and the composer himself celebrates birds and the outdoors with amazement.  Nathan uses extreme ranges, an avoidance of tonal harmonies, and extended techniques for both performers, including Sprechstimme and sounds directly imitating wind or rustling leaves, to capture the exhilaration elicited by nature.  Wing Over Wing (2009, rev. 2013) was dedicated to and premiered by the presenters.



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