Research Output

De contemplationis digitis.

  In this piece, my research aim was to develop the contrary relationship of the flute (blown, sustained sound) to piano (struck, decaying sound) in the context of a playful formal scheme relating text and music.

Initial conversation with the flautist revealed that the complex rhythmic language of Lovesongs would not be appropriate for her technique or repertoire, and initial exploration of the existing repertoire for the medium failed to illuminate concerns of how to express the inherently problematic relationship between the two instruments. Building on work by Barrett, Feldman and Ferneyhough, this piece aims to accentuate the differences between the instruments, not resolve or ignore them.

This piece employs a novel formal scheme based on the transliteration of a text (Cage's Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake) into music. I used the 'slider' technique employed by Chris Dench in many works, but explicated most convincingly in Richard Toop's analysis of Dench's funk, in this case using the names of James Joyce and John Cage, to control the smaller scale structure of the piece. In the first movement (Mesostics I), these structural outlines engender a strategy of parallel, strongly related, processes in a very direct manner. In the third movement (Mesostics II), only one level of process remains (in the flute part) but the writing goes beyond the strict metrical structure of the first movement to demonstrate a more lyrical and improvisatory side to the same material. These two movements are separated by a lighter movement (Tanzbuch), which depicts the two performers playing through a Bach suite in a comically uncoordinated fashion.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    19 July 2003

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Funders:

    Cheltenham International Festival


Hails, J. (2003). De contemplationis digitis. Cheltenham, UK



Duet; Flute; Piano; Contrasts sound production; Investigates rhythms;

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