House of Doors: Concerto for Flute
Composed by Sarah Bassingthwaighte (2016)
For flute and piano
Published by Alry Publications
Includes score and flute part
The title, House of Doors, comes from a meditation exercise in which you imagine walking through a hallway full of doors, choosing one, and exploring what's inside. The exercise is designed to increase creativity and the ability to make positive changes. To me, this meditation is fun, like being in a dream where I can make some choices. The starting point for the Concerto came from three different “rooms” I encountered, and each is translated into sound. The piece is divided into two continuous movements.
The opening of the piece reflects the first room visited. The first door opens into a room that at first appears to be a study, but instead of a back wall, is a jungle that goes on for miles. In the Concerto, this is heard as growing, twisting melodic lines, some of it beautiful, and some a bit dark and unknown. The very opening of the piece is straightforward; after the strings and then a clarinet solo, the flute enters, bringing its own theme that is upward reaching and long, and then spiraling downward with sudden intensity. The music swells and then subsides a few times, slowly building in intensity, adding texture and pulsating rhythms, a sort of primal ostinato beating underneath. The close of this movement signifies a return to the door that led in and exiting the room.
The second movement is urgent and excited. It combines two very different rooms: one door leads to a dark, hot cave, coated in a red light and feeling very ominous and heavy. The other door opens into the blue sky with a cool breeze, welcoming and expansive. The strings begin the movement with a jagged, almost metalic, gesture, which the flute imitates. Extremely short motives and accents in the high strings and the flute are exchanged over a low, slow melodic line in the low strings and brass. The second theme is carnival-like and reminiscent of Prokovief's Peter and the Wolf at the same time. As the movement progresses, the soaring and flying of the open sky begin to emerge: the melodic gestures in the flute become longer and longer, until one final extended 16th-note passage brings the piece to its climax, and to the flute's cadenza.
Here the flutist finally gets to break free, and expresses itself through singing, wind sounds, and microtones with themes taken from throughout the concerto. The full range of sound possibilities, including range, dynamics, and extended techniques, is explored here. The cadenza slowly relaxes into long wind sounds, and the orchestra gently brings the piece to a close as the flute rises and floats into the distance.