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Elementa quinque : for fifteen to thirty flautists

by Andrián Pertout (2016)

Elementa quinque


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Elementa quinque : for fifteen to thirty flautists / Andrián Pertout.

Library shelf no. 785.83219/PER 2 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

'Elementa Quinque' or 'The Five Elements' was especially composed for the Unbound Flute Festival (July 1-3, 2016, Brisbane, Australia) and the 'SILVER SWARMS' project. The basic premise of the work is that it is "a text-based instructional score; suitable for any level of flute player, from beginner to professional; that instructions must be as clear and concise as possible, and easily memorisable (there will be no music stands, props, other instruments or equipment, and no conductor/leader); and that it may include directions for sound, movement, pacing, rhythm, articulation, or any other relevant musical or performative element."

The work explores 'The Wu Xing' (五行) and the Chinese 'Theory of the Five Elements' - Wood (木 or mo), Fire (火 or huo), Earth (土 or tu), Metal (金 or jin), and Water (水or shui) - a theory that encompasses a number of concordances and "associated properties or aspects of each element" that together "form the integrated whole" of 'The Theory of the Five Elements', which "describes the interaction and relation between Yin and Yang." There are essentially two types of cycles (represented in the work via both clockwise movement around a circle [formed around the audience by the players], and diagonal movement across to the opposite side of that circle): (1) 'Creation' or 'Generative' cycle, or 'Sheng', whereby "Wood feeds Fire, Fire makes Earth, Earth creates Metal, Metal collects Water, and Water nourishes Wood;" and (2) 'Destruction' or 'Overcoming' cycle, or 'Cheng', whereby "Wood breaks Earth, Fire melts Metal, Earth absorbs Water, Metal splits Wood, and Water extinguishes Fire."

'Elementa Quinque' also represents the concept of 'The Wu Xing' and the elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water via its musical correlations: the 'pentatonic' pitches E (角 or jue), G (徵 or zhi), C (宮 or gong), D (商 or shang) and A (羽 or yu); by its colour correlations (the dress code of the players): Green (青 or qing), Red (红 or hong), Yellow (黄 or huang), White (白 or bai) and Black/Blue (黑 or hei / 蓝 or lan); by its correlations to positive and negative emotions: kindness versus anger and resentment, joy and love versus sadness and hate, fulfilment, thoughtfulness, reflexion, empathy and sympathy versus obsession and worry, hope versus grief, guilt, regret and lamenting, and will versus fear and anxiety; and by its correlations to sounds: calling and shouting, laughing, singing, crying and deep sighing, and moaning and groaning. Other associations of note include the five virtues (五常 or Wu Chang): benevolence, propriety, sincerity, righteousness and wisdom.

Work Details

Year: 2016

Instrumentation: 15-30 concert flutes.

Duration: 15 min.

Difficulty: Easy

Commission note: Composed for the Unbound Flute Festival (July 1-3, 2016, Brisbane) and the ‘SILVER SWARMS’ project

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
The Wu Xing’ and the Chinese ‘Theory of the Five Elements’


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