Wisp for unaccompanied solo flute; 7' (2004) (commissioned by Elizabeth Marshall)
performed by Elizabeth Marshall:
composer’s note: “Wisp” is a virtuosic piece for unaccompanied flute which uses a huge range of flute techniques and styles, all in service of a long dramatic arch that guides the music along. It begins with a cascading figure that outlines a pentatonic scale, hinting at non-Western flute styles in its tonality. That non-Western sound continues at the start of the melody, which is presented as quick grace notes over a long drone, the flute splitting itself into two voices. That melody soon opens up into a chromatic, more romantic sound, full of expressive details. The rest of “Wisp” plays out as a variation on these two themes: the “romantic” theme goes through a set of variations, incorporating a variety of unusual techniques. The “pentatonic theme” comes back between each variation, reaching higher and higher in the range of flute. By the end of the piece, these two themes finally come together for a wild last gesture that incorporates both themes (and a number of the variations) in a sweeping, exciting phrase that ascends all the way to the top of the flute’s range. So, in performing “Wisp,” the flute player both shows off the virtuosic capabilities of the flute and tells a musical story through theatrical gestures and bold dramatic choices.