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Five Miniature Sound-Paintings for Bass Flute and Piano

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  • Uses extended techniques
Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society

Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society

This review first appeared in Pan, the journal of the British Flute Society and is reproduced with permission. Join the BFS: membership starts from £25 a year.

These five short pieces for bass flute and piano were composed between 2011 and 2013, and are dedicated to new music ensemble Sounds Positive's pianist, Sally Mays.

Simon Desorgher is a man of invention, and each of the pieces is designed to capture the atmosphere of an imagined image, with evocative titles (such as Bells in the Mist, Kandinskoscope and The Darkling Flame) designed to encourage the listener to fuel the imagination. Each piece lasts around 2 minutes, and they all make use of an array of extended techniques which push the bass flute into unconventional sonorities. The pieces can be played in any combination.

The techniques themselves are clearly explained, with fingerings provided as needed. I found that some of these sounds, such as the upper range harmonics, had a varied response depending on the instrument used; these were more problematic on an instrument with a bigger bore, as one might expect. Similarly, there are many singing effects which require singing low in the range of the bass flute; while the instructions say that women can sing an octave higher, the male singing voice (at the lower pitch) has potential to add a richer range of harmonics in the sound. These sorts of variations, though, are to be expected when bass flutes (and their players) are not all identical in size. Performers should approach this music with the sense of adventure with which Desorgher wrote it, and find solutions through invention and experimentation.

I particularly enjoyed the spookiness of Bells in the Mist, combining air sounds and multiphonics to create some wonderful sonorities. Waves explores harmonic sweeps and the upper partials to come from modified fingerings, and is played largely independently from the piano part. The Darkling Flame is the shortest of the pieces, and works its way though a limited range of pitches to explore the microtonal variations that can be found. This is a close examination of the instrument's sonority which has much to offer. The remaining two pieces, Sparks Fly and Kandinskoscope focus on high register pitches and harmonics and are both full of energy and vivacity.

The piano parts often serve to expand the flute's line and there's plenty of opportunity for an interesting interplay to develop between the instruments.

These are fascinating pieces at times challenging, surprising and full of imagination. They require a bit of an investment from the player in terms of getting to grips with the sounds and techniques, but they're not difficult as such - it's more a question of spending time to really explore the instrument; which is often, of course, a highly rewarding experience.

Carla Rees

From the Publisher

These miniature "sound-paintings" represent imaginary paintings that the listener can create in their minds from the music. The titles of each are descriptive to aid the imagination...

  • "Bells in the Mist" - it might be an image of parish church bells echoing across a meadow in the mist or warning bells during a fog at sea...
  • "Kandinskoscope" - a contemporary painting of colour and vibrancy by Kandinsky.
  • "Waves" - could be a painting of waves at sea - or the waves of a sand-dune - or waves of light or sound......
  • "The Darkling Flame" - an old oil painting - glimpses of old faces by candle light - ancient instruments - wood - varnish.....
  • "Sparks Fly" - maybe a painting of fireworks - or a blast furnace - or sparks of electricity - you decide

Five Miniature Sound Paintings uses a large range of new flute sounds - tongue pizzicato, breath sounds, circular breathing, singing, harmonics, glissandi - plus new piano techniques of harmonics played on the strings.

Performance duration (approx): 10'

Difficulty guide: 9
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is total beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).


  • Bells in the Mist: Duration 2'15
  • Kandinskoscope: 2'15
  • Waves:  1'50
  • The Darkling Flame: 1'20
  • Sparks Fly: 1'50

Item Details


  • Part 1: Bass Flute
  • Part 2: Piano
Category: Bass Flute Music
Publisher: Just Flutes Edition
Publisher's reference: JFE031
Our Stock Code: 1634174
Media Type: Paperback (20 pages [score])

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