The first part of the Chthonic Flute Suite commissioned by Areon Flutes in 2012. This suite has two main inspirations: ideologically it draws guidance from the book The Dream and the Underworld (1979)by James Hillman (1926-2011) and musically it explores the textural possibilities of a flute ensemble within the context of the “heavy chamber music” style I have developed with Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet since 1996. This style draws virtuosic precision from the classical realm; innovation and texture from jazz; and power, rhythm and overall perspective from rock and metal. The term “chthonic” [thon-ik] generally means “underworld.” However, Hillman thoroughly elaborates that its true meaning extends “below the earth and beyond it” into invisible, non-physical and far distant psychic realms: the deeper mysteries of the invisible.
The journey to the underworld is a solo undertaking of the self, towards the unknown, yet still rooted within. The low bass tones invoke mystery and point the direction.
As an explorer, licensed teacher of and composer for the shakuhachi (an ancient Zen flute crafted from the thicker root-end of bamboo) I have become initiated into the sense-characteristics of playing a flute that has actual roots as part of its structure. Physically this changes the balance, sonically it presents certain “deepening” qualities, and aesthetically it alters your connection to the dead and dried piece of nature. I have composed 27 solo pieces and études for Taimu (a very thick, bass variant on the traditional shakuhachi flute) and tapped into the same dense, slow, timbral approach for this movement. However, the chromatic, metal, modern bass flute offers a whole new set of possibilities and so the movement explores a wide realm of sounds and tempos. Being rooted in the actual ground is an appropriate starting point for the underworld exploration of the whole suite that only goes deeper from this point downwards. The primacy of the “root pitch” in tonal music is another contributing facet to the root aspect of this title.
solo parts included; Bass Flute