FLYWAYS

(2008) for a minimum of four harps – 8-20 Minutes

Work Description

Commissioned by: Eira Lynn Jones and Chethams Shool of Music for the ‘Harp Days’ Festival
Category: Works to 2-6 Players, Large Ensemble
Year Composed: 2008
Duration: 8-20 Minutes
Orchestration: for a minimum of four harps
Notes on score: 4×4 A3 sheets. A full score will create a map of 16 sheets. Each harpist needs 4 sheets
to perform.
Availability: For Sale
Performances:
First Performance:
15-16 November 2008 at HARP DAYS at Chethams School of Music, Manchester (Eira Lynn Jones and 48 harpists)WP
Other performances:
27 February 2014 at the Holden Gallery Manchester School of Art
19 June 2010 at the Natural History Museum (Eira Lynn Jones and Rhodri Davies with harpists from the RNCM)
28th April 2018 at Rosanna Moore’s harp festival at Nazareth College, Rochester, New York. US premier.

Notes:
Flyway is the term used for the flight paths in bird migration.

The score consists of a map made out of 16 landscape A3 parts (as shown in miniature overleaf). The performers are divided into four groups with each harpist having four parts of the complete score. One member of each group will be chosen as the ‘leader’ of that group.

The score can be interpreted as ‘flying’ from North to South (order A-B-C-D), from South to North (Parts D-C-B-A) or, as a there-and-back migration, North to South to North and so forth.

The map comprises 3 different types of landscape: ‘land’, ‘sea’ and ‘islands’. Each landscape has its own tuning and playing techniques.

‘Land’ is found in the areas containing staves with musical material. This is where the ‘birds’ gather for their journey, where they ‘walk around’, ‘find food’ etc. The performers move from pitch to pitch or phrase to phrase. This does not need to be fast and the result can be quite sparse and minimal.

When ‘flying’ over the white ‘sea’ areas, the harpists will emulate different rhythms of flapping wings:

– Flapping Flight: Lightly tap the strings with both hands flat in a rhythmic pattern or in a regular or irregular beat (as if for instance imitating the rhythm of a heartbeat).
– Bounding Flight: Introduce longer pauses between bouts of flapping.
– Gliding and Soaring: This technique is used by the birds to save energy as they take advantage of winds and hot air pressures. When ‘gliding and soaring’, the harpists play glissandi.

‘Islands’ on the other hand are possible resting areas for the birds. The performers can choose to either land on such an ‘island’ or ‘fly’ past it. On each ‘island’, points of interest for the ‘birds’ are marked by a cross with special map coordinates written next to it reminiscent of a treasure hunt. Once deciphered, these coded coordinates provide an opportunity to use extended playing techniques and other fun sounds.

There is no upper limit as to how many harpists participate in a performance of Flyways, but there has to be a minimum of four.

Flyways is dedicated to my brother Benji Kontz, a passionate birdwatcher. It was commissioned by harpist Eira Lynn Jones and Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester for ‘Harp Days’ in 2008.