Style and Performance Considerations in Three Works Involving Flute by Joan Tower: Snow Dreams, Valentine Trills, and A Little Gift

This lecture is intended for advanced high school flutists, college/conservatory flutists, professional flutists, and musicologists. It may be of particular interest to undergraduates who are considering attending graduate school to get an idea of what graduate-level research entails.

The purpose of this study is to examine three lesser-known compositions by the Grammy-award winning American female composer Joan Tower which involve flute: Snow Dreams, Valentine Trills, and A Little Gift.  Joan Tower’s compositional career, which began when she was an undergraduate at Bennington College, was later shaped by serial composers during her graduate work at Columbia University.  During the 1970s, Tower made the conscious decision to shift away from serialism and instead developed an “organic” style.  All three of the works included in this study represent her later, more individualistic style.

The currently examined works are not well-known but certainly deserve our attention as flutists due to Tower’s standing as a significant composer.  This presentation will discuss musical characteristics in each composition in order to create a framework from which musicians may better interpret them.  Some of the characteristics found include the articulation of form based on patterns of musical contrast, a “fate” motive alluding to Beethoven, patterns of density change, the use of trills, durational rhythms, and metrical changes.  Some of the characteristics can be found across multiple works, suggesting that they are part of Tower’s unique compositional style.  In addition, the show tune “My Funny Valentine” serves as inspiration for one of the works in this study; its influence will be briefly discussed.


How to Practice Efficiently and Effectively

This workshop is intended for students of all levels and will encourage participants at various stages of development. If there are flutists in the audience who would like to volunteer to illustrate these techniques in a masterclass format, that approach will be included in the workshop. Otherwise, simple excerpts will be provided for the audience to work on as a group to illustrate the effectiveness of the above-mentioned techniques.

In my teaching experience, the one thing that holds most of my students back is not lack of talent or ability, but in not knowing how to practice efficiently and effectively.

This workshop will use specific examples of ways to approach practicing so it is less frustrating, more efficient, and ultimately, more effective.

Techniques to be included in this workshop include:

–        Avoiding “run-throughs” in practicing.

–        Breaking down music into smaller chunks.

–        Altering the rhythm of trouble spots.

–        Recognizing scales, arpeggios, and other patterns.

–        Practicing trouble spots backwards.

–        Using the metronome effectively.



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