The Musical Colors of “Colours”

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The Musical Colors of “Colours”

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Music and Color go together–music has that magical ability to make us both “see” and “feel” when we listen. We might experience motion, dance, story, and vivid images–images we needn’t or can’t even put into words.

This week I’ve been working on setting up my CD, to be available as a digital download through It’s there!

I decided to name this self produced, debut CD, Colours because of the harmonic and orchestrational colors of the original orchestra works represented. The orchestra is always described in terms of color and thought of as a giant painter’s palette in the hands of a gifted composer.

My original working title was “Orchestra in a Bottle”–the idea being that Scott Holshouser and I were taking all these great, colorful orchestral works, like Afternoon of a Faun, and doing our best to distill them, bottle them and take them with us. (perhaps attempting the impossible!)

Color is also something flutists admire and strive to produce on their instrument when they practice. The basic sound a flutist aspires to could be described as rich in color. It is said one must have a broad spectrum of overtones in order to have a satisfying, well projecting flute sound. From there, being able to varying the sound by changing this composition of overtones, is a desirable skill to have. It can help vary the mood and emotional content of the music.

For me, thinking about the sounds of other instruments, as I did when, for instance, switching from flute lines to oboe lines to violin to clarinet, in the Afternoon of a Faun, has always helped me to unlock the possibility for change in my own sound, and is what made Faun and the other works on this recording such fun to play.

One of my favorite things about being an orchestral musician is sitting in the middle of all the sounds, and making a conscious attempt to imitate or blend–in particular with the other woodwind instruments. I have a some stock settings I go to when playing different orchestrations–flute in unison with oboe, in octaves with oboe, flute plus clarinet, flute with flute in harmony, flute making itself heard as one voice among the violin section. The choice always involves some experimenting in each instance, and I do my best to gauge, from my chair, whether it is the right tone and right volume. Some of the “colors” I’m making probably would not make sense out of context, with me playing alone, they might sound either dull or harsh, as they are meant to be an ingredient. I don’t know whether I would “find” them if I didn’t have the opportunity to play with the other instruments of the orchestra on a regular basis.

1 comment

  1. So nice to get a lesson from you, again! Really helpful blog post. I like the idea of using the colors for projection. Rather than simply trying to play louder, expand or change your colors.

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