Confined walls of unity: The reciprocal relation between notation and methodological analysis in Brian Ferneyhough’s oeuvre for solo flute

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.

Cassandra’s Dream Song – Let’s (not) talk about gender

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.

Tomorrow’s music in practice today

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-analyzing, collecting and explaining the different strategies, methods and tools I developed to decipher Ferneyhough’s music – but now specifically customized 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.
This research project is a present day continuation on methods and research results for contemporary music, developed from the 1960’s onwards. Traditional hand books, like ‘The Present day flute’ by P.-Y. Artaud, are still excellent and accurate technical resources. But in this method, I especially focus on general parameters, applicable to every instrumentalist: My ‘Advanced Rhythm Tricks’, based on ‘Rhythm and Meter’ by Edwin Harkins, unravels the technicalities and difficulties of complex rhythm; an introduction into ‘Just Intonation’ gives an insight in the profound and sometimes far-fetched harmonic choices of composers; my ‘Color Code Extravaganza’ can serve as a general mnemonic and partner in crime to find a clear path in that jungle of complex music writing and the ‘knitters vs. sculptors’ method will help students to develop their personal practice strategy.
With this method I emphasize on the fundamentals of contemporary music, that later on might evolve into a structured contemporary performance department at conservatories and music schools.
The actual end goal of this research is to increase the amount of ‘contemporarily informed performances’ (CIPP) on stage and to embellish the present day concert scene with critically funded contemporary concerts, by informing and training the next generation of musicians.

Research group CREATIE

‘Creating’ is the keyword for the research group ‘Creation’: researchers and research projects with a fresh, interdisciplinary, intercultural and/or inclusive viewpoint on the phenomenon ‘creation’ will find the necessary support within this research group.
Starting from a creating perspective, which can include music, drama or dance, we encourage researchers to also think outside the familiar boundaries of their own discipline: other cultures, a variety of performative disciplines, new media forms, exciting locations or cutting-edge technology.
This research group aims to collect as much pragmatic output as possible and prioritizes coloring and influencing the present day performance scene. We support researchers in their quest for brand new performances, exhibitions, video-installations, compositions, websites, etc… We also provide help and support with writing the necessary files, applications, articles and papers.
Not only is the hip and artistic environment of the International Arts campus deSingel a source of inspiration for the researchers themselves, it also offers them plenty of opportunities to meet and invite international artists from every artistic branch.
The research group CREATIE focuses on contemporary creations within and over the different artistic disciplines and has the goal to be a pioneer in contemporary arts education. We encourage students of the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp to participate in as many activities as possible with and from our researchers.

Make sure to check out our events on our Facebook-page.

Chair: Ine Vanoeveren
Board members: Frank Agsteribbe, Mathias Coppens, Wim Henderickx

Location: Royal Conservatoire Antwerp
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All content belongs to Copyright © 2016 Ine Vanoeveren – flutist.