Carla Rees’ Flute workshop
Music 1 ~ Stylistic Techniques- Ms Suncica Lazic, Student ID: Suncica516098
LEARNING LOG – EXTRA PROJECT FOR CARLA REES’ FLUTE WORKSHOP. 7 MIN COMPOSITION FOR SOLO QUARTER TONE ALTO FLUTE.
PROGRAM NOTES: ‘PAWO’S PEAK’
Pawo’s Peak is a 7 min solo work for the microtonal ‘Kingma System’ alto flute, written for a learning project created by flautist, tutor and Programme Leader for Music at the OCA, Carla Lees.
Carla Rees helped in the supervision, advice and correction of the composition and scoring and also performed the piece which was recorded on January 27th, 2020 at the studios of the UCA at Farnham.
I had much help from Carla when it comes to the score, which went through many many re-writes. After the project Carla sent me an edit of the score to illustrate an accurate version of the notation. My Sibelius software skills have improved greatly since the project so I have cleaned up the notation and reformatted the page layout. The reformatted version of Carla’s edit is attached below.
The composition’s structure is based around the story of a 2019 Tibetan mountain hike, with some additional fictional imagery on my part.
The slow tempo of the piece is intended to match the slow pace of the lengthy and steady 6-day walk. The rhythms and asymmetrical accents are intended to highlight the way a normal person would walk unevenly rather than marching; sometimes lurching, sometimes skipping, speeding up and slowing down randomly to catch their breath.
The key clicks illustrate the crossing of a deep mountain stream, skipping from one steppingstone to the next.
The path up to the mountain peak winds along a very gradual incline passing two plateaus on its way. On the first plateau there is a herdsman looking after his yak herd and on the second we meet a bird of prey hunter playing, sometimes yodelling the call for his bird to return to him. The plateau melodies are supposed to mimic these herdsmen/hunter calls, sometimes playing the entire phrase, sometimes starting the melody on a different note of the sequence.
The scale of the melodies, and indeed the other melodies in the piece are based on microtonal Maqams. Every section uses a Maqam from a different area, some are Egyptian, some Iraqi and so on.
I’ve used the melodic interval distance between pitches to depict altitude changes. In sections describing relatively flat areas the melody remains very static, repeating the same note and occasionally fluctuating a quarter town up or down. As we approach the peak the intervals get wider and wider, climaxing in a multiphonic trill. At the top of the mountain we pause for a few moments to take in the view which leaves us breathless, illustrated beautifully with some airy whistle tones. Then the hike down the mountain resumes again.
I’ve included two versions for comparison, one is Carla Rees’ performance as it was captured in the studio on the day and the other version is mixed by myself, the way I would treat it if it was intended for the pop market.
My own background is from the pop music world and I intend to expand Carla’s solo performance with added instrumentation and effects and take the piece in a whole new direction. This effected flute mix is the first step of the process.
Because of the tendency to use a lot of effects and reverbs in pop or film music production I have had to reduce a lot of the natural ambient sounds of the recording and even reduce some of the breaths in order to lower the overall noise level. If I didn’t do this, the culminative effect of amplification and processing would make the sound very muddy and unbearably hissy.
I have also altered some of the natural dynamics and made certain parts like the key clicks and the whistle tones much louder than what is acoustically possible. I have also added an increasing amount of reverb and slap echo as the walk nears the mountain range, hinting at the sound bouncing between the rocks.
The art of mixing is not one of realism, but of a heightened sensory experience. The ‘mixer/editor’ is an instrument in its own right and the mixing/editing process itself can be viewed as an active participant or collaborator in the actual resulting work and is sometimes even the most stylistically significant factor.
When it comes to the ‘dry’ version I did the edit me and Carla had agreed on, slightly increased the volume of the key clicks and whistle tones and added a tiny bit of hall reverb in order to compensate for the unnaturally acoustically dampened environment of a recording studio.
Both versions are attached below for comparison.