So I entered the realm of beatboxing a while back and figured it was time to write about it. I can’t remember exactly when I started experimenting with it, but it couldn’t have been much earlier than this past spring. The name to know in flute beatboxing circles is Greg Pattillo, who is a performer and composer. He also performs with the PROJECT Trio. I think it’s important to note that Pattillo comes from a fairly typical classical upbringing – started music in school, went to college for music study, etc. He even lists Beethoven as one of his main musical influences. (The other he cites is Ian Anderson.) But then he took inspiration from beat boxing, which is a type of vocal percussion performed by hip-hop artists. This style is combined with flute sounds to create something entirely unique. And this is where my interest was piqued. I’m in love with the framing of sounds – all kinds of sounds – and this is a new sound to experiment with. I think it’s also a good idea for me to learn these new techniques because it absolutely stretches me as a performer. Part of my obligation is to keep up with new developments, and it’s also a great reminder of how difficult new things can be to learn. When my students are approaching something new that I take for granted at this point, and they’re having trouble with it, these types of things remind me what they are experiencing.
In 2011, the National Flute Association commissioned Pattillo to write “Three Beats for Beatbox Flute” for their High School Competition, which is a pretty strong indication that this style is fairly well accepted. Whether it will become mainstream or will die away as a passing fad remains to be seen. I don’t know how often it is taught by flute teachers at any level, but my students find it interesting and I certainly don’t discourage them from practicing it. (Are you a flute instructor who teaches this? Let me know!)
For further reading, check out this New York Times article. And check out his Youtube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/freedomworksfilms.
The videos are really helpful to learn the technique, and that’s what I’ve relied on. I’m currently working on the first part of his “Three Beats,” and who knows. Maybe it’ll end up on a faculty recital one of these days … ?