Composed by Timothy Hagen
for Three Flutists
Published by Owl Glass Music
Includes score and parts
Player 1: Flute/Piccolo
Player 2: Flute/Piccolo
Player 3: Flute/Piccolo/Alto Flute
I. Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you
II. All goes onward and outward
III. Find out for yourself
IV. Vivas to those who have fail'd
V. Time alone is without flaw
VI. I contain multitudes
VII. That we call being
VIII. Keep encouraged
About the Piece:
Leaves is the result of a conversation I had with Benjamin Smolen, Principal Flute of the Pacific Symphony, in September 2018. Ben suggested we submit a session proposal for the 2019 National Flute Association Convention around the commissioning of new music for flute. Called Tomorrowland, the proposal was accepted and covered topics including partnering with composers and commissioning practices. The session included Ben's performance with pianist Jeong-Eun Lee of Chrisopher Theofanidis' new work Lakshmi and the Seed of Divine Desire, which Ben commissioned, and the two premieres with me performing Nocturne-Lullaby for alto flute and piano, also performed with Jeong-Eun Lee, and Leaves, performed with Ben and Seth Allyn Morris, Principal Flute of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
2019 marks the bicentennial commemoration of Walt Whitman's birth. As one of the preeminent poets in our nation's history, Whitman's distinct use of free verse and topics ranging from spirituality to sexuality challenged and changed the public's conception of poetry forever, much like his contemporary Emily Dickinson.
Because part of the premise of Tomorrowland was to create the flute repertoire of the future, I wanted to write a serious piece of chamber music for flute trio, and instrumentation that is sorely neglected in this arena, while honoring Whitman. I turned to Whitman's seminal powm, “Song of Myself,” and wove together his words with original music. It was fortuitous that Whitman began work on the epic poem when he was 37, the age I was when I wrote Leaves. I used this opportunity to turn the piece into a series of ruminations on Whitman's poetry and the many personal and musical influences that have shaped me into the person I currently am. Speaking specifically about the music, the listener might hear echoes of composers ranging from Gyorgy Ligeti and Elliot Carter to Ludwig van Beethoven. I have also used quotes from the American composer Stephen Foster, whose “Gentle Annie” (which I quote in the sixth movement) was one of the biggest US hits of 1856, the year Whitman began work on “Song of Myself,” and Henry Purcell, whose famous ground bass used in “Dido's Lament” from his opera Dido and Aeneas can be heard in the final movement.
I thank Ben for suggesting that I write this piece, which is the most ambitious compositional project I have pursued to this point. Thanks also to Ben and Seth for premiering the work with me.
All three performers must speak Whitman's words throughout Leaves. In some places, I have notated the speech rhythmically, using X noteheads. Though I have attempted to notate the speech the way it might be declaimed, the performer does have some freedom in these places to ensure that the speech does not sound wooden or stilted.
Performers have more freedom in places where speech is indicated but not musically notated. Much like playwrights frequently do not indicate tone of voice for how their words should be performed, I have left a great deal up to the performers regarding the speech. Pitch and tone, for example, are always left to the performers' discretion (even in places where the X notehead is used to indicate rhythm). The words are as essential to the piece as the music (indeed, they are part of the music), so an appropriate amount of theatricality is encouraged. Performers may even want to consult a theater director or public speaking expert for feedback as they prepare the piece.
In addition to speech, three extended techniques are used in the piece:
– Residual tone (air only, sometimes with notated syllables, sometimes not)
– Lip pizzicato (produced by placing the tongue between firm lips and quidkly withdrawing it to create a pop)
– Jet whistle (produced by fingering the pitch indicated and blowing directly into the blow hole)