Jonathan Pitkin: Multi(poly)phonies

This piece is the result of another collaboration to explore new ways of writing for the Kingma system alto flute. Jonathan Pitkin’s approach here is to reverse the traditional roles of the flute and guitar duo; the guitar has the main melodic interest, including (at times) single line melodies, while the alto flute provides harmonic accompaniment through extensive use of multiphonics.

In writing the piece, Jonathan and I spent a lot of time exploring Kingma system fingering combinations to allow for fast moving quartertones and, above all, a variety of multiphonic trills. We found a lot of very interesting combinations, many of which are used in the piece to create textural effects, often speeding up during the duration of the trill. Jonathan’s language uses very specific pitch sets, so part of the challenge was finding combinations of notes that would fit within that, but the end result is coherently put together and, although difficult, is practically suited to the instrument.

I very much enjoy the alternative approach to using the flute and guitar that Jonathan has taken here. It provides variety within a concert programme, and gives my wonderful duo partner, David Black, a great opportunity to shine. The piece is full of variety of texture, which can be rare with this sort of duo, and fits a lot into a relatively short duration. As a performer, I love the challenges that these sorts of collaborations bring, and I am always enormously grateful to the composers for their work. I learn so much about what my instrument (and I) am capable of through trying to find solutions to the problems they present, and these solutions in turn expand the instrument’s technical capabilities for use in further repertoire.

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