Publisher Profile: Tetractys Publishing

Tetractys Publishing is the brainchild of Carla Rees, home to her own compositions and arrangements as well as the many pieces that have been written for her. The range of material on offer here is vast. Obviously the catalogue is heavily weighted towards contemporary music for low flutes as this is Carla’s main area of expertise, but there’s much else to tempt you as well.

Her adaptations in two volumes of the JS Bach Cello Suites [volume 1]  [volume 2] for alto flute are a wonderful way of developing skills whilst using great music. Breathing and stamina are often a problem on low instruments, but if you can manage these it will really help. Aside from suggested articulations, the music is left for you to edit as you wish and you will be able to return to them many times, always finding something new. There are versions [volume 1] [volume 2] adapted specifically for bass flute too.

One of the most interesting pieces of contemporary music for solo alto is Adam Melvin’s Hyperlodic Interpretations written in 2003. Influenced by the jazz musician Eric Dolphy, the format is slow introduction (poco rubato – aggressive) followed by a rhythmic main section which is always driving forward. A much slower jazz melody follows before the momentum increases to the end. The fluctuating time signatures allow for flexibility in the interpretation and the basic multiphonic and portamento techniques are very approachable. If you are feeling adventurous, give this a try.

Another winner is Moss Garden by Michael Oliva for bass flute and electronics. This wonderful piece is all about texture (‘an exercise in simplicity’) with the slow moving flute writing merging into the accompaniment to create the magical world of a Japanese garden. The electronic part is supplied as a download and you will need some basic equipment for performance. It’s so worth the effort though as this unusual piece would enhance any flute recital programme.

If you fancy something a little more mainstream whilst staying with living composers, Attitudes by Jon Jeffrey Grier for 2 alto or C flutes might fit the bill. This is a very striking duet which aims to ‘capture the states of teenage people’. In three movements, the writing is quirky, and at times virtuosic. Although there are no advanced techniques to master and the rhythmic footprint is mainly straightforward, the challenge is in the dovetailing of the parts to blend as one. ‘Flirty’ is rather fragmentary with short rhythmic figures dancing around each other, whilst ‘Pouty’ uses tremolando and trills to provide the colour. ‘Ansty’ is an exciting whirl of notes which will bring the piece to a rousing conclusion.

Another work for virtuosos but from a completely different world is Carla’s own arrangement of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov for piccolo, flute and alto flute. This is a brilliant romp which is just so great to play!

Quatraine II for 3 piccolos and alto flute is one of Carla’s original compositions. Her aim was to pit ‘the chattering piccolos’ which are given angular leaps and short phrases against ‘the sonorous tone of the alto’ with its mainly melodic line The result is a perfect fusion of sounds that perfectly conveys the differing characters of the instruments. Whilst seeming ultra-modern, Quatraine is very approachable to play, giving you the best of all worlds!

 

Recent publications have included a large range of mainstream works that Carla has transcribed for ensemble. Again, the emphasis is on low flutes, so the result is completely different to that of more conventional arrangements. Crucifixus in 8 Parts by Antonio Lotti is scored for 6 altos and 2 bass flutes with contrabass if available, but three alternative C flute parts are also included. Tuning, balance and stamina are the issues here, but this simple work can sound really effective if played well.

More conventionally, the Quantz Concerto in G for two flutes is scored for 2 solo flutes, 2 flutes, 3 altos, bass and optional contrabass. The concerto grosso feel of this has been captured skilfully. The beautiful slow movement in particular contrasts unison tutti passages with intricate solos accompanied by a simple bass line.

Another winner is the arrangement of the Donizetti Flute Sonata for solo flute, 2 flutes, 2 altos and bass. Again Carla has transcribed sensitively, spacing the parts to allow the solo flute to carry over the main group. The solo part is original, and all the intricacies of the piano writing are seamless integrated into the other flute parts. This is an incredibly good way to showcase a lovely but rather neglected work.

If you would prefer to play an original work, Rainbow Measures by Rob Keeley, (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, and 2 altos) is another effective work that will challenge your ensemble skills. Lasting 9 minutes and ‘imagining each player as the colour of a rainbow’, the swirl of notes, rhythms and textures coupled with varying tempos and extreme dynamic changes results in a very colourful piece that will be a joy to accomplish.

The Tetractys catalogue also includes many of the works written for Carla’s flexible group Rarescale. One of the most compelling of these is Andrew McBirnie’s Mechanical for alto flute, cor anglais and bass clarinet, a short 2 minute piece in which continuous semiquavers passed around the group are punctuated isolated notes and rhythmic cells. The exactness of the writing really conveys the predictability of the machine and is utterly mesmerising.

 

Tetractys is so much more than just ‘niche music’. Delve further and you’ll uncover gems galore and there’s something for everyone.

The Whole Musician: Becoming Happy, Healthy Musicians

Are you inclined to criticize yourself for the smallest things? Are you overly concerned about what others think of you and your playing? Are you fearful of getting it wrong? Are you stuck in a rut? It is very likely that we all have some emotionally charged reactions to these questions in some form or another. Their effect on our musical lives can shape our playing and alter the pure enjoyment we can attain from one simple note.

Christopher Lee: On Accuracy and Freedom

Christopher LeeWhen I first started playing in orchestras I remember it being one of the most stressful things in my life at that moment. You see, at the beginning, I (and I imagine lots of young musicians) felt I had something to prove. That I was worthy of sitting in that chair. So, I focussed on being an accurate player, and what that meant to me at the time was putting all the right notes in the right spot at the right dynamic and in tune. With that mindset, I never achieved this goal. There was something inside of me that made me want to play a phrase a certain way which in turn made it more difficult technically. Therefore, as every concert came up I’d be determined to have an accurate night. At the end of the concert I’d decide that the next night it was going to happen and so on.

Then, something changed somewhere. I forgot about my long-standing challenge and all it took was one concert where that focus wasn’t in my mind. It worked. It was an accurate concert, and also, musical! I realised then that my one-sided focus to be accurate was not going to work for me because my musical side was one to take risks and react to what others were doing in concert. Once my mind had switched to simply enjoying the music-making I found that the accuracy also became consistent.

This led to a freedom of feeling and thinking which runs through all the repertoire that I play. It takes me a long time to come to an interpretation of a piece simply because it’s always changing as I discover more and more sounds, colours and moods. At times I incorporate so-called “extended techniques” in old repertoire because it gives light to a more musical sound. These are not things I learned from school, or from reading a textbook. These are things that came from imagination, and, happy accidents in the practice room. So from there, every “mistake” I make in practicing is merely an opportunity to see if I hear something else in a phrase.

This constant search for colours in sound can be somewhat addictive! Yet, for me, it is the way to tell my story when I play for others. A natural extension of this is my belief that everyone has something to say. For some of us it could be bottled up inside and we may not even know what it is yet! I use some acting techniques in workshops to help free this creativity in others. For we are all actors the minute we step on stage to deliver our story.

Meg Griffith: On Perfection and Perception

Meg GriffithAt a crossroads in my musical life, I sat trying to decide which direction to take my career. With so many inspiring opportunities surrounding us all, one would think this would be an exciting pastime. Unfortunately, I was filled with negative energy – there was a lack of passion towards music and disappointment and sometimes disgust directed toward myself and my playing. I thought I had no idea how to get to my goals efficiently and positively so I just stared at the seemingly unattainable, building my own walls around me and giving myself permission to expend less energy towards my goals. I thought of quitting.

Then I began to consider why I chose the flute in the first place – simple enjoyment of the instrument and the music itself. This idea had become clouded during the busy years of musical schooling in which I focused on what I ought to sound like and what others thought of me. I dusted the idea off, made it the basis of every aspect of my teaching and playing, and let it guide me as I determined how to approach problem solving on the road to my goals. The difference in both my attitude and the attitudes of my students was incredible – we still worked hard, still competed, still performed, still obsessed over small mistakes, but the approach, both intellectually and emotionally, was hugely different and far more positive. We spend so much time trying to attain perfection (whatever that really is in the long run) that we forget to look at the beauty we offer in each moment.

That is all well and good you say, but easier said than done. For me, things began to come together when I stood back to watch my reactions during my practice sessions and then ask questions to better understand those reactions:

  • After intense criticism over the smallest things, how do I feel? Is this helping me get to my goal? Why am I being so critical?
  • Are my reactions helpful and detailed in ways that lead to decisions that can help me get to my goal? Or are they overly general? (That sounded bad. VS I liked the musical approach, but I lost control of the register and it became airy. What tools do I use to solve the sound aspect while keeping the musical idea?)
  • Why do my reactions tend to be negative or critical? Am I afraid of getting something wrong? What happens if I do? (Nothing – except that I find a new understanding of my mental or physical approach to playing which helps me avoid the same mistake in the future.)
  • Is my fear of getting something wrong based in shame or embarrassment within the view of others? Where does this comparison come from? Do I feel my offerings are not worth as much as others? Why should another’s offerings define my own?

Asking these types of questions, even if you find out you don’t know every answer, is the first step to understanding yourself and therefore having compassion for your challenges rather than frustration and shame. One of my favorite teaching moments after walking through questions like these is seeing the emotions on a student’s face when he or she fully realizes that not only is there nothing to be ashamed about (relief) but that they do know the answers and have every tool to lead them to success (pride).

On Where to Turn

Whole MusicianOpportunities for one-on-one coaching in topics dedicated to these challenges as well as discussions with people just like us who can provide anecdotes like the ones above make up one of our favorite aspects of being musicians: the support within our community. Expand your network and open your mind to new approaches by surrounding yourself with positive energy and supporting yourself in mind and body. Whole Musician retreats bring all these aspects of musicianship and more into our awareness with the aim of making us all happy and healthy musicians. We will be presenting workshops on these ideas and more in London from August 26-28. If anyone is curious about what goes on at Whole Musician retreats, by all means look for our registration information online at WholeMusician.net.