Growing up playing the flute, I had performed the works written for the NFA competitions my whole life. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to write one myself. It was a complete joy to have the opportunity to compose for the NFA, and I look forward to doing so again in the future.
I love our solo repertoire, and my intimate knowledge of the repertoire served me well while composing ‘Black Swan’. It brought me back to my college flute studio when I would complain about violinists playing Prokofiev D Major Sonata. “Don’t they have enough repertoire to keep them from ‘taking’ ours?”, I complained to my friends. Remember those days? Ha!
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This work was commissioned by the National Flute Association for their annual High School Competition in 2013.
My intent with The Black Swan was to mimic what someone might hear while hiking through any wilderness area in the United States. The piano takes the role of hiker, while the flute takes the role of the various birds heard throughout the hike. During my research for the work, I came across The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its recording of 250 North American Birds In Song. Inspired, I notated the calls from roughly 15 different bird species, then wove them together motivically, melodically and rhythmically to produce the majority of musical material from which to draw upon.
The piece begins with a short introduction by the piano and is quickly followed by a rather long cadenza by the flute, which introduces all of the bird songs that make up most of the musical material used in the piece. Flute and piano then come together in a haunting melodic section, which is interrupted by different birds whose songs are more agitated. This A B C design (Cadenza, Moderato, Piu Mosso) is repeated, with the last Piu Mosso depicting the birds becoming more and more agitated until the piece climaxes at the very end in a wild flourish of birdcalls.