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16 June 2016

Unbound: a flute festival for the 21st century

Unbound: a flute festival for the 21st century

The inaugural Unbound Flute Festival, 1-3 July in Brisbane, is a brand-new initiative on the Australian music calendar. The brainchild of flutist Janet McKay and flutist/composer Michal Rosiak, the festival will deliver interactive sessions for all levels of flute player and teacher, with a firm focus on the music of our time. [Edit: results of the Unbound composition competition were announced on 17 June.]

The concept for the Unbound festival emerged from a realisation that, at this point in time, there is no significant opportunity for flutists in Australia to engage with the music of our time and place. We noticed that at many flute events the contemporary recitals and workshops were often sidelined in favour of a focus on more traditional repertoire and techniques. As flutists in the 21st century, we are passionate about the need to embrace contemporary techniques from the earliest stages of flute playing. Rather than seeing them as 'strange', 'crazy' or 'difficult', we believe that contemporary techniques (extended techniques, working with electronics, reading graphic scores, improvisation, etc.) should be normalised, and incorporated into every flute player's experience.

To this end we have devised a festival program that delivers accessible and interactive opportunities for all levels of flute player, as well as flute teachers. There are workshops on teaching extended techniques, reading graphic scores, learning about new instrument innovations (Robert Dick's 'Glissando Headjoint'; the Kingma System quarter-tone flute; alto, bass, contrabass and sub-contrabass flutes), integrating software and apps into the flute teaching studio, and a special mini-symposium for selected higher degree students to present papers that focus on aspects of contemporary flute repertoire and techniques.

We are excited to welcome two headlining guest artists for this first festival: Claire Chase (USA) and Australia's own Laura Chislett, both of whom have carved out careers emphasising new music and instrumental innovations and excellence. They will each give a solo recital, as well as leading workshops for novice and advanced players.

Laura Chislett has long been renowned as a key figure in the development of an Australian experimental flute repertoire. Laura will discuss waveform and simultaneous singing and playing, a topic close to her heart and one that will be reflected in her recital on the evening of 2 July. Laura's program includes the world premiere performance of Brisbane composer Stephen Cronin's work Sacrifice for solo bass flute, in addition to two Australian premieres - Lovesong by Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes (flute and violin), and Marco Molteni's La bieca burla a prua del Mayflower (solo flute). Also on the program are works by Reza Vali (Song, 1987), Brett Dean (Demons, 2004), Andrew Ford (Becalmed, 1993) and Michael Smetanin (Backbone, 2015).

Claire Chase is renowned not only as a soloist, but also as the artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble - one of the world's top contemporary chamber groups. Claire's festival recital will be drawn from her visionary project entitled 'Density 2036'. The concept of the project is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composition of a key work in 20th-century flute literature - Density 21.5 by Edgard Varèse. Chase will commission a complete new body of work for flute, performing these at the culmination of each year and in a 24-hour marathon at the conclusion of the project, in 2036. Following the recital, Claire will lead a workshop to delve into some of the fascinating details of her recital program.

We were delighted to introduce the Unbound Composition Competition as a part of this year's festival. Composers were invited to submit text-based instructional works, and to think outside their compositional boxes. We were thrilled with the response, which covered three tiers (open, tertiary, school), and entries came from Australia, Asia, North America and Europe. The winning entries will be performed by Silver Swarms during the festival - Silver Swarms are flute 'flash mobs' of around 15-30 players, of all skill levels, that perform in unlikely public spaces. This concept began as an offshoot of Super Critical Mass (directed by Julian Day, Luke Jaaniste and Janet McKay) but now exists as a separate entity. If the feedback from previous Silver Swarm experiences is anything to go by, we are sure that participants will have a fantastic time stretching their concept of performance and collaboration.

It is so exciting to see Unbound evolving, and see it as just one way we can help nurture and support a vibrant contemporary flute scene in Australia.

Further links

Laura Chislett - recital as part of Unbound: 2 July at 6pm, Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Brisbane

Unbound Festival (http://unboundflute.com)


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