Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Music
Beginning with Varese’s Density 21.5 in 1936, composers have been experimenting with extended techniques to expand the flute’s range of sound. In an attempt to increase the timbral possibilities of the instrument, contemporary composers are writing for the prepared flute: adding objects on or inside the flute, or subtracting parts of the flute to alter its sound.
is the first written document to focus on the prepared flute. Deborah Fethers, in her major project discussing contemporary flute design in 2005, mentions the use of prepared flute by Michael Pestel, and states that “to my knowledge the only use of such ‘preparation’ of a flute is by Pestel” (Fethers). My research shows that there are, in fact, numerous other examples of composers’ use of preparations when writing for the flute, and this document serves to compile those examples. With compositions for prepared flute written as early as the 1980s, the flute community is in need of a detailed account of the pieces available, how to tackle the technical intricacies, and a reference for composers to consult. As the above quote indicates, most musicians in the flute community are unaware that the prepared flute genre exists, let alone know the major players involved in this area.
Limitations of this study include the difficulty to obtain copies of all pieces written for prepared flute because many are either hard to find or unpublished. Correspondence from the composers is deficient, due in part to language and location barriers or lack of response.
This document presents the history of the prepared flute through the examination of ten pieces, and discusses objects commonly used to prepare the instrument. In addition, this project involved commissioning a new work for prepared flute and prepared piano, a combination lacking in current repertoire. The preparations for the flute provide new realms of sound possibilities for the instrument, offer new avenues for composing unpredictable music, and inspire new chamber music that includes prepared flute. With greater awareness of prepared flute, the author hopes that more flutists will become aware of the possibilities, composers will be inspired to add to the idiom, and audiences will be inspired by the music that results.
Also included in this document are tables that list repertoire and preparations specific to each piece, and two appendixes that provide listening possibilities and locations to purchase the compositions mentioned in this document. Finally, my website (www.staceyleerussell.com) includes a section dedicated to new pieces for prepared flute, experimentations, recordings, and helpful tips.
Russell, S. L.(2016). The Prepared Flute: A Survey of its History, Techniques, and Repertoire. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/3795