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Flute & Company
Flute Music by Katherine Hoover

Dances & Variations (1995) was commissioned by Dr. and Mrs. James P. Carey and Marshall University for Wendell Dobbs. The flute and harp are both ancient and beautiful instruments, and their sounds complement each other in unique ways. I have explored some of these combinations in this piece. The light-natured Entrada has shifting rhythms in both instruments, and quotes some children's tunes now and again. The Adagio is rather stark, with a measured ostinato in the harp and contrasting, rhythmically free gestures in the flute. These eventually come together in a slow melodic section. These two movements comprise the "Dances" of the title, for they are both involved with various kinds of motion, and I would love to see them choreographed at some time. The third movement is a series of variations on a lovely tune written in 1759 by Francis Hopkinson, a Philadelphia lawyer and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The song is called My Days have been so wondrous free, with a text by Thomas Parnell from Love and Innocence. The variations are rather "wondrous free" themselves, having been influenced as much by the words as by the melody, and moving far from the original, though returning for a straightforward rendition of the tune at the end.

My days have been so wondrous free,
the little birds that fly
with careless ease from tree to tree
were but as blessed as I.

Ask the gliding waters if a tear of mine
increased their stream,
and ask the breathing gales if e'er
I lent a sight to them.

Winter Spirits (1997). In a picture by the marvelous artist Maria Buchfink, a cloud of kachinas and totem spirits rises from the flute of a Native American flute player. Winter Spirits was inspired by this flute player, and it is indeed influenced by Native American music. The idea of the flute invoking beneficial spirits, be they kachinas or any others, is a very natural one. Such spirits are an accepted and valued part of life in most of the world, and the flute has been used to honor and invite their presence for countless ages.

Divertimento (1975) is, as its name implies, a light work, and one that was written with the enjoyment of the players much in mind. The musical sources are international ­ French, a touch of Russian, a bit of jazz. The fast section of the second movement has short "character" motifs for each instrument, which are sometimes played alone, sometimes mixed, rather like individual steps in an exuberant country dance.

Reflections (1982) is a series of free variations on a short sequence from the ancient Norwegian Olavs-fest in Nidaros. Most of it was written during a performing residency at Artpark, near Niagara Falls, New York. I played for an hour out-of-doors twice a day, usually alone, but sometimes with mimes or storytellers. Each day I wrote a variation and performed it still in pencil sketch. Later, in New York City, I reordered the set and added a contrasting variation and a final section.

Canyon Echoes (1991) was inspired by a book called The Flute Player, a simple and beautifully illustrated retelling of an Apache folktale by Michael Lacapa. It is the story of two young Apaches from different areas of a large canyon, where the streams ripple and the wind sings in the cottonwoods. They meet at a Hoop Dance, and dance only with each other. The next day, as the girl works in her father's field up on the side of the canyon, the boy sits below by a stream and plays his flute for her (flute-playing was a common manner of courtship). She puts a leaf in the stream which flows down to him, so he knows she hears. This continues for a time, until the boy is awakened one morning and told he is of age to join the hunt leaving momentarily ­ a journey of some weeks. The girl still listens each day for the flute until, feeling abandoned, she falls ill and dies. When the boy returns, he runs to play for her ­ but there is no leaf. When he learns of her death, he disappears into the hills, and his flute still echos when the breezes blow through the cottonwoods and the streams ripple in the canyon.

-Katherine Hoover



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