PIFR Blog: Day 2 – “The flute is made of plastic”


27th  June 2016

Today was the first full day and we experienced a wide variety of classes and workshops.  I will talk about each of the classes below.

Heather Campbell’s class – Awareness.  9-11am

This was a very interesting workshop which focused on identifying and validating the self.  We each picked an item of nature from outside and described what we saw, felt and smelt.  It was working on sensory awareness.  Heather made everybody simplify their statements and make sure we all started with “I feel/  I see” etc  (not  “it is”).  This made our thoughts more vivid and succinct.  We were able to draw parallels to music and teaching.  Making one’s thoughts and directions clear is very important for one’s interpretative idea.  Often simplicity is better.  In conflict of opinion, it is essential that you each value your own opinion and truth first and then try to find common ground in each other’s view.  This was easier when the objects were the same. For example, two people picked pine cones and it was easy to find common ground-  both had a similar smell or texture.   When the objects were different, it was harder to find a truth in both, but surprisingly there was something that linked each object and that was true for both of them.  One could see this as a metaphor for playing with others in chamber music.  Playing with other flute players and matching their sound is easier than playing with a group of other instruments, yet there is still something that connects each instrument to make music together.

Alexander Tecnhnique class with Gabriella-Minnes Brandes 11-12pm.


This was a great introduction to the Alexander Technique and how it can relate to music-making.  We started with a walking exercise and making ourselves aware of our movement.  We directed our bodies to release any undue tension and to notice our breath.  Following that, there was a ball game.  Many balls were thrown and we were to notice how we responded to incoming throws.  Was there tension in our responses?  Did we tighten any muscles?    We then moved on to using wooden sticks in pairs and trios to work on leading and following.  The best movement came about when we were not actively leading and following, but allowing the movement to happen.  Often it was a thought that created tension, but just by allowing things to happen our bodies were more free and less constricted in movement.    This is true of flute playing.  Gripping the flute too tightly sets up a series of bad habits which constrict our sound.


Wibb’s masterclass  1-4pm


I was up first (fair enough- I didn’t have jet lag to contend with!).   I played Bach’s G minor sonata.  Wibb was concerned with making the first movement’s character virile and avoiding edited articulations which did not match the piano.  A lot of the time, Wibb posed the question, “How do you sing it?”.  From that, I could feel which articulation was natural and suited the character of the music.  Wibb’s famous use of words like “elephant” and “taxi” were present, but the main thing I got from the class was delivering an emotion.  The first movement of the G minor has a certain strength, which is why short note values and echo effects were not suitable.

Next was Faure Fantaisie (first section) played by John.  Wibb worked on getting a good soft attack for the opening B2.  He used harmonic fingerings and the word “wa” to invoke the character of “a sexy South American singer”!  He improvised a Latin accompaniment to the opening, which gave the music a whole new dimension.  Wibb’s famous colourful playing was evident – depending on the harmony, the colour should be different.  For example, some interrupted cadence points required a gassy sound, where as some passages needed a more nasal colour.    Rubato was also discussed using imagery of a bicycle going down a hill and then making your sweetheart wait for you.

Language and its inflections were discussed in Schubert’s Trockne Blumen, played by Alex.  He worked quite hard on getting the theme sounding like a singer.  Lengths of notes were dictated by the text-  no short Mickey Mouse notes!  “Dot means long!”  Some other  good quotes include:  “It’s a gloomy piece, but you’re not allowed to be flat”.    About breathing between phrases:  “I’m going to die.  I’m already dead” –  you have to breathe in between!  He then suggested we all listen to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recording.  Here’s a link to the recording with the text.  Schubert

Last was Gaubert’s Madrigal, played by Courtenay.  Wibb talked about how Gaubert did a lot of rubato in this piece, even though nothing is marked.  He found a recording at a Paris flea market which influenced his interpretation.  Gaubert apparently breathed in between slurs and pushed the tempo on in more excited passages.  Alternative fingerings for the last two notes were suggested  (these will be in my book).    The colour of C sharp was discussed-  Wibb said this note needs more “bite” – intensify the air column and lip it down, or put “chicken shit” in the C sharp hole!  Another great quote:  “The flute is made of plastic -it will bend anywhere!”

Mindful Musician 5-6pm

This workshop, led by Gwen Klassen, was essentially about flow  – that unique feeling one experiences when “in the zone”.  We did the 8 Silken Movements of Qi Gong- which rejuvenated us and helped with the connection of breath and flow.  Gwen then moved on to discuss how to achieve flow in performance and how we can use Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence to reach that state.  This led on to talking about thoughtful practice.


Gwen’s evening class  7pm to 8.30pm

Gwen worked with students on topics such as their practising process, using tools to help train our ears better, finding the story in the music and injecting that into our performance, increasing energy levels, problem-solving and more.  It was a good way to end the day, drawing on different topics from all the classes.

Tomorrow is Day 3, including classes by Lorna McGhee and Wibb’s 24 studies workshop.  Can’t wait!

Thanks for reading and Happy Fluting!





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