Jonathan Pitkin

MULTI(POLY)PHONIES for quarter-tone alto flute and guitar (2015-6)

Duration: 7 mins
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The central idea of Multi(poly)phonies is to subvert the traditional expectation that in an ensemble of this kind, the polyphonic instrument (guitar) will do most of the accompanying, whereas the (usually) monophonic instrument (flute) will most often be found in the melodic foreground. In fact for much of the piece, the opposite is true. In several places I have taken advantage of the quarter-tone alto flute’s capacity to produce an extended range of multiphonics; in others, rapid tremolos allow the instrument to make more than one note ‘active’ at a time, or quick flurries of grace notes leave a sort of harmonic afterglow. The guitar, by contrast, is asked to sustain lines which are more obviously melodic in character, sometimes in contrapuntal combination with itself. As both instruments’ material is developed, their roles in the piece become more alike, with a more equal partnership gradually being established (albeit not without elements of competition) before a brief reversion to a more traditional kind of combination in the final moments.

The flute’s facility with quarter-tones is treated not as a special effect but as a way of adapting and expanding pitch structures which I am already in the habit of using, with the aim of making them sound freer, but still coherent and consistent. Awkward fingering transitions were avoided with the help of a specially-developed app which is now freely available for other composers to download (visit the Tools/Software page).

Audio extracts:

You can hear extracts from Multi(poly)phonies in the background to this video tutorial for the QTCheck app: