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.

Tomorrow’s music in practice today

As a researcher at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp – AP University College, it is my goal to develop a general contemporary performance practice method. This method will help students and professors at different conservatories to establish a contemporary music department and to offer a large variety of new music to the concert scene.

The method will include with different strategies, methods and tools, necessary to decipher (complex) contemporary scores. Key works for this method are the flute solo works by Brian Ferneyhough, where the necessity to analyze and isolate different musical parameters is the highest. But these tools and tips can be used for every contemporary score on the stand.

Research group ‘Creation’

Read more about the newest artistic research group at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp – AP University College, Belgium.

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