Tom Armstrong: To The Measures Fall
For a while now I have been playing the baroque flute. It was a steep learning curve to get used to the different fingerings and intonation, but it has been a fascinating project and I hope to incorporate the instrument more and more into my recital programmes. One of my fascinations with this beautiful instrument is how it can be used for contemporary music. While it is ideal for baroque repertoire, there is also much potential for its use as a viable new music instrument, offering a different tone colour and a new range of extended techniques. I have only begun to scratch the surface of what might be possible, but I was delighted to find this piece for baroque flute and guitar by Tom Armstrong.
The piece is in six movements and lasts around 13 minutes. When I first saw the score I was struck by how carefully, and skilfully, Tom has approached the baroque flute. Usually when I try to play new music on it there are often small problems (like fortissimos on weak notes) which can make the musical message difficult to get across. However, despite some agile fingering challenges, the flute part is mostly based around D major (the strongest key for the baroque flute) and Armstrong seems to have an instinctive sense of what the instrument does well. This makes it an utter delight to work on, and I am very much looking forward to the performance.
The guitar part is challenging, and the rhythmic energy of the piece (one of the things that drew me to it in the first place) can make the ensemble a little tricky in places, but the diverse influences that can be found here (including prog rock, funk and baroque dance forms) come together with a sense of vivacity and even fun at times. The piece can also be played on modern flute, and I suspect the wider dynamic range of that instrument would create quite a different performance, but I am very happy to be able to premiere this piece on the instrument it was originally intended for.
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