Repertoire Notes: White Bird Blackbird by Elizabeth Winters

Composers on their own works
White Bird Blackbird is like a musical picture. As the White Bird and the blackbird are present in the picture all the way through (as though viewed by an imaginary audience), I wanted to give this impression in the music too. However, translating this into a musical idea for a solo line instrument was an interesting challenge.

The ‘White Bird’ music is introduced at the beginning of the piece and the first playing of it ends at bar 13. The ‘blackbird’ music first appears at bar 19. From then on, these two musical elements alternate throughout the piece, with the ‘White Bird’ music gradually disappearing and being replaced by more ‘blackbird’.

The ‘White Bird’ music could be played in an almost over sentimental way at the opening of the piece. By the end of the piece, the music has been played so many times that the listener may be tired of hearing it! It is quite fragmentary by the end, as there are only a few notes, but it should be quite blatant.

By contrast, the ‘blackbird’ music should be played as vividly as possible. It can be free in tempo, while I imagine the ‘White Bird’ music would feel more rigid. I only used quarter tones for the blackbird material as this is based on the harmonic series.

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