Brian Ferneyhough wrote six challenging and complex pieces for flute solo: Cassandra’s Dream Song (1970), Unity Capsule (1975-1976), Superscriptio (1981), Carceri d’Invenzione IIb (1985-1986), Mnemosyne (1986) and Sisyphus Redux (2011). Besides understanding Ferneyhough’s compositional vocabulary, every piece also requires a different practicing method. This dissertation is a musical, interpretational, analytical and motivating guide for flutists who desire playing Ferneyhough’s oeuvre. After many years of practicing and researching these six pieces, I developed a performance practice method that may help aspiring flutists in the future while discovering this rich oeuvre.
Where Cassandra’s Dream Song is a modern and complex transcription of an ancient myth, Superscriptio is a mathematically complex fight against the nature of the piccolo. Sisyphus Redux holds a real risk of experiencing Camus’ ‘philosophy of the absurd’, while Carceri d’Invenzione IIb confronts both the performer and the audience with the limits of unbearably high and loud registers. Unity Capsule puts the performer to proof because of the extreme length of such a complex piece, while Mnemosyne transcends the limits of information in notated music.
This performance practice method includes mythological, philosophical, mathematical and musical analyses, as well as a technical explanation and instrumental tricks that will enlarge the performer’s creativity and freedom in interpreting this complex oeuvre.
In this lecture I’m describing a non-gender related interpretation of Cassandra’s Dream Song. This ground-breaking piece by Brian Ferneyhough has been an interesting discussion topic for decades now. In the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, the contemporary music scene was dominated by male performers. This trend is also obvious in the early interpretations of the piece: a mathematical and analytically ‘correct’ interpretation was to be aimed for.
In the 90’s, female performers claimed their own voice and the piece became the subject of a feminist movement.
Anno 2015, I think it is time for a more contemporary approach of the piece and music in general. I like to think of the Cassandra Complex as an ever changing global concept, adapted in many research fields.
As a researcher at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp – AP University College, it is my ambition to develop and document a general performance practice method for contemporary music, in order to make contemporary music scores accessible and understandable for every student at the conservatory in a pragmatic way.
The results of my doctoral research from 2016 at the University of California, San Diego, where I developed a specific performance practice method for the solo works for flute by ‘New Complexity’-composer Brian Ferneyhough, function as a starting point for this method. By re-analysing, collecting and explaining the different strategies, methods and tools I developed to decipher Ferneyhough’s music – but now specifically customised for performers without any or not much experience with contemporary music – I want to improve student’s independency regarding practicing and critically performing contemporary music on stage – whether it is for an exam in an academic context or for a public performance in a larger concert hall.
For more info: Tomorrow’s Music in Practice Today
Composer Jason Eckardt wrote his first mono drama for flutist in 2015, The Silenced. The score is not only a musical challenge – it also requires a profound emotional narrative, dramatic elements, a basic choreography and scenography. With this research, I want to further develop the musical mono drama in 3 different areas: the improvement and notation of a musical mono drama (creation), the progress of the performer (education) and the possible and challenging aspects of artistic (video)archiving (documentation). Which individual parameters are necessary to classify a piece as a mono drama? How can the emotional live-experience of a mono drama be better captured on video? Is it possible to increase the performance and interdisciplinary qualities of students and stimulate their creativity by researching and performing mono dramas?