10 Nov 2017

John ELMSLY: Partita for solo flute

From Resound, 9:01 pm on 10 November 2017

Ingrid Culliford (flute). Recorded by RNZ Concert, 10 August 1995.

John Elmsly

John Elmsly Photo: Darryl Foong

John Elmsly was born in Auckland on 1 July 1952. A graduate in mathematics and music from Victoria University of Wellington, he studied piano with Barry Margan, composition with David Farquhar, and began electronic music with Douglas Lilburn. From 1975 to 1978 he held a post-graduate scholarship from the Belgian Ministry of Culture. In 1977 he was awarded a First Prize in Composition by the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where he studied with Victor Legley, and in 1978 continued study in Liège with Henri Pousseur, Philippe Boesmans and Frederic Rzewski. In 1981 he was awarded Mozart Fellowship at University of Otago in Dunedin, and in 1984 he was appointed lecturer in composition at the School of Music, University of Auckland where he was Associate-Professor and head of composition and director of the Karlheinz Company contemporary music ensemble until 2015. In 2015–2016 he was Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music’s Creative New Zealand/Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence.

Partita, commissioned by flautist Ingrid Culliford in 1995, is in six movements. ‘Prelude’ is anticipatory: little flurries hint at the later pieces. ‘Tongue and Groove’ explores some rhythmic patterns, punctuated by fast double-tonguing noises. ‘Light and Shade’ and ‘Wind-Sway’ are gentle explorations of some of the more exotic colours in the flute’s sound palette: fingerings with microtonal alterations, percussive effects, percussive pops below the normal flute range, and harmonics. ‘Air with Graces’ combines a simple repetitively structured melody with the idea of using obsessive grace notes to create a parallel harmonic line. The final ‘Incantation’ begins and ends with chromatically descending tongue sounds, which could be thought of as an imaginary ostinato to a ritualistic dance.

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