Saturday, May 27, 2017

Exploring the whole musical package at the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza

I am super excited to see a new (to me) state as an Altus Handmade Flutes-sponsored guest artist of the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza June 3, joining Andrea Fischer (Fluter Scooter) and Katy Dorrien in a day of workshops and performances in Cumberland. I've been charged with the duty of talking for one tiny hour about tone, breathing, and expression, which seemed an impossible task at first! But when you think about the linear development of any piece of music, from the basics of sound production to the final musical product, it makes sense.  Here's what I'll be presenting, and if you're local, I hope to see you there! (PS--you're always welcome to use and adapt the materials I share here for your own purposes, and I appreciate your crediting me on any original material you reproduce of mine.)

Spoiler alert: there is a book coming. As soon as I can rub two minutes together to get something more accomplished on it!

Breathing, Tone, and Musicality: Developing the Whole Package!
Dr. Nicole Riner
Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute, University of Wyoming
Altus Performing Artist

1. Breathing: You should fill up from the bottom, all the way up until you can’t find any more space to store air. Utilize those little pockets of space in your sides and back, too. Practice isolating different zones to ensure you are completely filling up. Online exercises: search “Breathing Gym” on You Tube.

2. Tone: Move the center of the lips forward as you go higher on the flute or to get quieter, while forming the syllable “ooooo” in your mouth. To go lower and/or get louder, open your mouth by putting more space between your back teeth and pointing the air, with the center of the lips, down into the hole, forming an “oh” or “ah” syllable in the mouth. Keep your corners flexible at all times. Don’t roll the flute inwards or outwards to achieve different octaves or pitches, but make your lips do it instead. Practice octave slurs, “diamonds”, and harmonics every day for maximum flexibility in addition to chromatic long tones.

3. Expression: A clear idea of where each phrase begins and ends, with one goal note per phrase in mind, is a good starting point. Then, let your dynamics, tone color, depth/speed of vibrato, etc. communicate that phrase shape. For example, by itself, this is a pretty boring passage:

But with some help from you, it can become quite meaningful:

Notice how the crescendos give a sense of climbing to these ascending arpeggios. Put a (*) over one goal note per phrase, indicated by a complete set of < >. Make sure that note is your sonic peak, in color, dynamic, and depth of vibrato. And what about?...

Accented phrases have a muscular feel, while staccato (and later slurred) phrases create a more playful counterpart, as if the soloist is alternating between a march and a light waltz. Be very thoughtful to consistently perform the dynamic and articulation that’s written.
Now it’s your turn: go back up to the first example and pencil in some of your own original markings. How will you clearly communicate them to your audience?

The following material is excerpted from my forthcoming Book, The Flutist’s Expression Workbook. Please contact me at nicole [dot] riner [at] gmail [dot] com to purchase a copy. All material on this hand-out is ©2017, Nicole Riner.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

lessons from Robert Dick

World-renowned new music specialist and all-around genius Robert Dick did a three-day residency at University of Wyoming last month, and he was inspiring on so many levels.  As the host, I got to spend the most time with him drinking wine and driving between Denver and Laramie (not at the same time), so what he said in front of the students and what he said to me has gotten all mixed up in my brain.  But it was all a consistent message, and I will just leave a few of the most precious bits here for you to do with what you wish...

*Playing the flute and making music are not necessarily the same thing. There is a level at which you are merely a technician, and then there's the level beyond that, in which you use your technical skills to actually say something with the sounds you are making.  You must always strive to be at this level. 

*We are all actors on the stage (and I would add, to some extent, in the studio).

*Listen, listen, listen.  Not just to that one piece you are learning, but to all things related to it, however tangentially.  Listen for pleasure, but with awareness.  Listen because this is your art.

*Learn who you are and what you want from your musical life and make it happen; don't just force yourself to fit into a ready-made, imposed formula.

Also, please listen to his latest CD, The Galilean Moons.  It is amazing. Can you wear out a CD?  I might be halfway there. 

Thanks for everything, Robert!!

Robert performing Flames Must Not Encircle Sides at University of Wyoming, April 23, 2017.