Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse

1987 6 minutes
Flute and Tape
Text Based on Oskar Kokoschka's picture Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse
 Winterthur, Switzerland
 Zurich, Switzerland
 Zurich, Switzerland

One imagines Oskar Kokoschka's picture Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse (Flute Player and Bats) cut into six horizontal strips: I - VI (see right hand picture), and these strips joined end to end to make one long piece whose length corresponds to the length of the musical piece (6 minutes). The sounds on the tape were created using the images on this long strip: the pictures were copied onto the UPIC screen and using a variety of sounds inspired by an analysis of bat cries combined with these drawings. Thus, for example, one hears on the tape starting at about 25” sounds that remind one of wooden shoes and the same again 10” later for the second shoe. One can indeed follow the whole of the tape music reading this picture like a graphic score.

Each of these one minute sections is divided again into 6 ten-second subsections: 1 - 6. The musical material of these subsections is arranged according to my Abelian Form: i.e. material from subsection III/5, for example, appears again in subsection V/3. In this piece, however, the corresponding subsections are mirror images of each other.

Whereas the tape sounds follow the picture almost exactly, the flautist depicts the feelings of the flute player in the picture as follows: At the beginning, he stands erect and performs with military precision. He feels himself master of the situation. He has already caught one bat, and while the tape shows the sound of his wooden shoes dancing, his own flute lures more bats towards him. At section IV/5 the situation starts to change: The deep threatening sounds on the tape (V/2 to V/5) announce the onslaught of armies of bats. He becomes more and more unsure, and at each “star”-sound he looks round anxiously to the direction from where it comes. By subsections VI/3, VI/4 he is noticeably beaten, his knees slightly bent, shoulders sagging and head down.

The performer stands in the middle between the two loudspeakers. His position remains constant, only his posture changes.

Oskar Kokoschka's Flötenspieler with grid overlay
Oskar Kokoschka's Flötenspieler with grid overlay

The work was originally written for Heinrich Keller who played it only once (while I was in New Zealand!) but it was later played several times by Dominique Hunziker.

Flötenspieler und Fledermäuse
Dominique Hunziker (Flute)