Repertoire Notes: Ghost Dances by Elizabeth Winters

Composers on their own works
Ghost Dances was my first try at writing anything for both alto flute and guitar. Therefore, I did quite a bit of research into practicalities and techniques before putting pencil to paper. I hope I managed to capture the different characters of the alto flute and guitar in my writing as this is what I was aiming for. Before I started the piece I had made a list of various techniques and sounds that I wanted to try out; however, I hope that these are built into the piece as musical ideas and not simply as sounds or effects. I tried to limit myself to the sounds I really needed for the music. In collaboration with Carla, I wrote some performance notes which I hope will help with the alto flute part:

Flute Harmonics
All Flute harmonics are overblown from the octave below, unless otherwise indicated.

Grace Notes
All grace notes should be played before the beat.

The Flute glissandi in bars 15 and 86 are pitch bends, and should be controlled by the breath.
An arrow over the score means gradually move to…

Flute trills in bars 92, 95 and 98 are trills to the same note, played with an alternative fingering.

The two Flute multiphonics in bars 19 and 21 are optional, as they only work on an open holed or B Foot Alto Flute. The fingerings to produce these are:

Bar 19: 234 23*4C (*= rim only)
Bar 21: 1 3 234B

Although I used some quarter tones in Ghost Dances, my second piece for quarter tone alto flute, White Bird – blackbird, explores quarter tones much more fully. The reason for this is that White Bird – blackbird is a solo piece while any quarter tones used in Ghost Dances needed to be compatible with my use of the guitar, which is not a quarter tone instrument.

The piece should feel quite intimate. There is plenty of dialogue between the instruments although they each have their own separate roles. The flute obviously dominates at the start of the piece but when the guitar comes in this marks a change in mood and ends the domination of the flute. The first ‘dance’ section begins at bar 48 and here the guitar dominates. Each of the dance sections should be played rhythmically, in contrast to the opening. The final ‘dance’, at bar 175, should be very spacious and can be much freer.

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