Project Overview and Introduction
The 21st Century Solo Flute Project explores solo flute music by composers born in the United States and composed during the 21st century. I was inspired to pursue this music after performing in an international master class comprised of collegiate and professional flutists. While I was impressed by the high level of performance from the other flutists and the variety of music they performed, there was a severe lack of music from the 21st century—most of the flutists performed music from the 20th century or earlier composed primarily by composers born outside the United States. I had prepared a piece from an American composer from the 21st century and it was met with positive reactions by the other flutists, sparking a series of conversations about new music and specifically about newly composed flute music.
Through these conversations I discovered a need for more accessible 21st century music, especially for solo flute. Many of the flutists I conversed with knew of only a few works from this era, leading me to ask composers how they make their music available to performers. Many composers self-publish their works, making it difficult to find their music outside of their city or community; for example, I found many of the pieces on my list through word of mouth. I also searched for solo flute repertoire through other resources such as flute performance competition websites, composition competitions, publisher catalogs, and the personal websites of well-known composers. While there are many places to look for music, there is no single focused place for flutists to find new music for their instrument. My goal for this project is a lofty one, but also a greatly needed one in my field. I have created a list that will bring flutists and composers together, helping collegiate through professional flutists find new works for their instrument and facilitating communication with the composer as they program and prepare these pieces. The list itself is a living project and will continue to grow and expand as my journey to find the great 21st century solo flute works in the United States has only just begun. I hope to eventually include more categories such as chamber works and works for alto flute, bass flute and piccolo.
I decided to focus primarily on music from the United States because many of the flutists from other countries that I have met have limited knowledge of music from the United States, especially from the 21st century. I am also intrigued by the exploration of an “American sound” specifically in flute music. In the past, American music has been identified with composers who painted musical pictures of wide-open plains and the Wild West. Our country has grown and changed dramatically in the last 100 years and while we are still relatively young in our music history compared to European countries, I believe there must be some quality or element to our music that is uniquely American. The 21st century holds composers that for the first time have been born and raised and musically trained on United States soil without traveling to foreign countries to study for the majority of their higher education, excluding workshops and masterclasses. While there is no way to escape an international influence in music, especially in the United States, I have focused solely on American composers for this project in an effort to discover similarities of sound, musical design, and style that might be uniquely identifiable as an American Sound. What is the American sound in flute music of the 21st century? For this recording I have selected pieces that I believe identify this sound at least in part.
The 21st Century Solo Flute Project exemplifies my passion for working with composers, premiering new music, and exploring new sounds on the flute. The seven pieces chosen for this recording represent a variety of styles, sound experimentation, composition techniques, length, and overall musical structure. They incorporate a wealth of flute techniques and sound experimentation that would challenge any flutist. While diverse in many ways, each of these pieces utilizes the most vital element required for music making: air or breath. Whether it is a breath tone, a vocalization, or silence within the piece, a common thread throughout this project is the presence of breath as an integral part of the music. As a classically trained musician, I have worked hard to perform in a way that hides the fact that I do indeed need air to play my instrument. In contrast, the pieces on this recording not only embrace this need, but at times highlight breath/air as part of the life force of the music. The music within this recording is from some dear friends and wonderful composers. I hope that it inspires flutists to push the boundaries of their own sound, and encourages everyone to explore the United States, which is as vast and diverse as the music and composers featured here.