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World premiere of 13 flute pieces by OCA students

It was a great honour to be invited to lead the first OCA Music Workshop on 12th November. The day focused on compositions for solo flute, and students were asked to submit short pieces which would be discussed during the workshop.

Oriental Butterfly score
Excerpt from ‘Oriental Butterfly’ score by Elaine Goodall

A fantastic group of 16 music students descended upon the OCA’s Head Office in Barnsley, along with Andrew Watson, the OCA’s Director of Operations (and resident harpsichordist!). Two other music tutors, Patric Standford and Douglas Seville, also attended and gave helpful comments through the day.
My work as a contemporary music performer means that I often encounter new pieces in various styles and by composers at different stages in their careers.  My experience shows that very often composers in the early stages of their development are surprised at the range of contemporary sounds that can be achieved on the flute, so I began by introducing the composers to the standard C flute and the alto flute, demonstrating a range of techniques including multiphonics, whistle tones, key clicks, microtones, articulations and air sounds.  Later in the day we also explored three seminal solo flute pieces from different eras, by Bach, Debussy and Berio, to try to find some common elements which would answer the question as to ‘what makes a good solo flute piece?’ A lively discussion ensued, providing a few answers and areas for further exploration.
The main part of the day, however, was given over to the new works by OCA students. For some of them, it was their first opportunity to hear their music played on a live acoustic instrument (rather than just a computer-generated performance on notation software), and it was interesting to note the differences between a ‘real’ instrument and a computer, in terms of both practicalities, and sound.  The pieces (13 in all) were of a consistently good standard, and each of the composers gave a distinctive and interesting introduction to their works.  The informal atmosphere allowed for constructive feedback, and each of the live run-throughs of the pieces was videoed.
An example of one such piece is Elaine Goodall’s Oriental Butterfly. This is a very well constructed piece, with an evocative title. Elaine has used pentatonic scales to create an oriental feel, and the gentle movement at the beginning of the piece creates a mesmerizing image of a butterfly gently fluttering in the sun. Instrumental pieces are often connected with animals, and the flute is often associated with birds and butterflies, and often in ways which demonstrate the agility of the instrument.

I like the way that Elaine’s piece breaks away from the stereotype by keeping within a gentle mood, but still retains a sense of character and uses the flute’s rich sound to good effect. The music has a lovely sense of direction, moving towards the more animated section in the middle, with shorter note values increasing the pace and making use of the full pitch range of the instrument. The opening mood returns at the end, and strong melodic features in this piece help to make it memorable.
For me, the workshop day was a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the students, and to explore their work. A sense of community seemed to develop very quickly, and I have no doubt that the students will benefit from making new contacts and from learning about each other’s compositional journeys.
I hope very much that this is the beginning of a new phase of the OCA’s music provision, and that there will be many more workshops in the future.

Posted by author: Carla
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9 thoughts on “World premiere of 13 flute pieces by OCA students

  • My wife is an OCA student and passed me a link to this page. I’ve taken up the flute relatively late in life and am really enjoying it as a contrast from my main instrument (bagpipes!) i really enjoyed your playing of “Oriental Butterfly”. So much so that I would love to get a copy of the score; is Ms Goodall planning to publish it?
    With best regards
    Bob Low
    North Wales

  • I am contemplating taking one of the OCA courses in composition, and this posting is encouraging. It seems to me that the OCA Blog is the ideal place for student to show what they can do, and its disappointing that so little music (perhaps none?) by students has appeared before. I hope that there will be many more.

  • As one of the participating students, I can say wholeheartedly that this was a fantastic day. I learned so much, and was fully absorbed the whole time. It was a time of great creative endeavour. More days like this, please! To anyone contemplating taking a music course, I would say go for it.
    Thanks to Carla who seem to be playing non stop, and to all at the OCA for organising this special day.

  • Thank you very much Carla for featuring my piece, which really came to life when you played it. As you said in your blog, a lot of music students rarely have the chance to hear our music played on real instruments, and I had only heard the computer-generated version of Oriental Butterfly before the workshop, so it was lovely to be able to hear a live performance.
    Bob – thank you so much for your comment above. I’ve been using Score Exchange to publish some of my compositions and have now added Oriental Butterfly. I hope you enjoy playing it!
    Thank you again to everyone who was involved in organising the workshop – it was an amazing opportunity for us to hear our music played by Carla and to learn about the variety of sounds that are possible with a flute, and it was also great to be able to meet everyone involved with the music courses at the OCA and to get to know other music students. I hope there will be more music workshops in the future.

  • Fionagh and Elaine, you have both spoken for me too. The workshop reinforced my belief in wanting to go forward into this magical world of ‘painting with sound’ and after listening to Carla’s sensitive rendition of my part-finished piece, I am inspired to complete it to the best of my ability.
    I recommend to anyone who is thinking about taking the composition courses to go ahead and have fun. It is great and backed up by such a supportive team in Composition at the OCA.
    Yes please, may we have more workshops in the future? It is just what we need to boost the creative juices and stop them drying up.

  • A most accomplished piece, Elaine, well done. I like the oriental feel and warmth of the low notes. I also would like to play it and will have a look at Score Exchange, if that is OK.
    I like solo flute pieces and would certainly encourage you to continue with your composing. The problem often is, of course, time, as composing cannot be rushed.

  • Looking back through weareoca.com I came across this treasure! Lovely evocative music …congratulations, Deborah

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