Icicle for Solo Flute
By Robert Aitken
Publisher: Musicales Transatlantiques
Editions Transatlantiques Paris commissioned Aitken to compose a work for young flute players, and the resulting work was Icicle (1977) for solo flute. Though the idea for the piece came on a winter day in New Hampshire and the shimmering effects in the work evoke images of glistening icicles, the title was retrospectively conceived. The composer insisted in a 1981 interview that Icicle “isn’t terribly, terribly, intellectual” and subsequently revealed that one of the principal techniques used in the work— playing without the thumb key— was meant to be a fun and out-of-the-ordinary trick for the intended young performers. However, regardless of compositional intent, the novel and colorful timbral effects in the work have solidified its place in the contemporary flute repertoire.
The dedication, which simply states “For Dianne,” reveals a bit of humor hidden within the framework of the piece. Aitken explains:
I dedicated it to my daughter Dianne who also plays the flute. Her younger sister played the double bass at the time, and every morning Dianne would come downstairs and play the theme from The Pink Panther just to tease her. If you look at Icicle, you can see the same rhythmic motives of the theme. There is some Pink Panther in it. However, the actual melody relies on the color changes.