Flute Friction is a series of flute duets in three books aimed at flautists from grade 1 to 8. 15 Flute duets. 10 Flute Trios.
In this first book in the series, ten flute trios are also included, which teachers will find particularly profitable when working with small groups, although the main emphasis in this series is on the interaction between two players similar in standard. In many cases each part is given equal importance, so it is the ease with which players can shift from pole position to a more supporting role and back again that poses the principle challenge. Elsewhere, the spoils are slightly less equitably carved up, and again teachers will quickly gauge for themselves which pieces best suit the abilities and personalities of their students. If teachers can get their students to learn both parts in each piece, then in a sense the books immediately double in value!
I like to think of these pieces as being useful from a number of viewpoints and would suggest using them in a variety of ways, not exclusively as light relief at the end of lessons. Duets are an excellent way of improving sight-reading, to be sure, as well as building confidence and assertiveness. But at least as importantly they nurture that most underestimated of skills, listening, without which musical accomplishment is doomed to certain failure. If the teacher is limited in pianistic ability, then duets offer a much needed chance for students to play in a small ensemble setting, which is the first stage to being able to 'hold a line' in a wind band or orchestra.
Above all perhaps, the sheer joy of being part of a 'winning team' can hardly be overestimated; played well, a duet is greater than the sum of its parts and may well have the potential to please in a concert setting. The business of matching intonation is of course especially important in duets, and similarly, taking breaths in suitable places is critical to the way an audience understands the overall musical texture.
Balance, and dynamic involvement generally, can quickly be seen as being critical to how the music springs from the page, while articulation in all its guises is absolutely key to creating a engaging musical effect. Gauging tempo, and particularly changes in tempo, becomes a process of negotiation in duet playing, and a happy outcome will require an awareness of the other player's technical challenges as well as artistic ideas.
These are short pieces, not unduly encumbered by structural cleverness, and as such they lend themselves easily to achieving fairly immediate rewards. Come back to them a few months later, and this time expect a little more from the performances.
My gratitude, as ever, goes to Gillian Poznansky for road-testing the pieces and ensuring the scores make good musical sense.
Mark Tanner, 2012