Music and the Flute
by Thomas Nyfenger
with a Forward by Samuel Baron
The purpose of this work is to compile concepts which have come to me through tradition, by word-of-mouth, from fine teachers, from my own imagination and experience, and most importantly, through listening. Twenty-five years of teaching as well as goading my many students and colleagues gradually propelled me to the inevitable write-or-fight, leaving only the choice of approach. Having been on the (non) receiving end of a dull, stultifying early education, I have leaned toward “show-biz” tactics in developing pedagogical procedures for applied music. These tactics, I feel, serve to enhance and personify the art of music. In order to remain relatively succinct while allowing freedom to ramble when appropriate, I have attempted to avoid unnecessary duplication of material well covered by other authors. There are no photos of embouchures or oscilloscopes of tones, both of which are well represented in Roger Stevens’s excellent book The Artistic Flute, nor is there in-depth coverage of contemporary techniques as in Robert Dick’s The Other Flute. Mine is not a method book of which there are so many and yet so few. Routines are largely the prerogative of the teacher, who should notate less and demand more from the mind – the term “by ear” too often denotes a hunt-and-play game.
Before I attempt to cast the first stone, however, a few thoughts concerning my vantage point are appropriate. Having been far from “without sin” and having committed every possible technical malpractice in the repertoire of insidious misdemeanors available to the unwary student instrumentalist, I developed my teaching methods from the inside out, that is, by correcting myself with little outside assistance. If this identifies me as as a malfunctioning fool, it also endows me with qualities of understanding and forgiveness, both of myself and others with similar problems. Should my language smack of overnegativeness or appear too condescendingly cautionary, it is merely the stylistic outgrowth of a slow process of development which I feel may be accelerated in future generations by the efforts of this and other pedagogical writings.
The words in this book most often appeared to me in complete thoughts and were immediately noted in a complete form, often while waiting at a red traffic light or enduring a poor rendition of a boring exercise. Attempts at rewriting usually destroyed the pungency, humor, or other expressive aspects of the originally spontaneous presentation. Therefore, much has been left as it was first conceived. Please read these words not as law but as alternatives to other methods of doing the same things, many of which I admire and respect. The larger one’s repertoire of possibilities, the more imaginative and personal can be one’s contribution to the art.
Many years have passed since I first began to write down these ideas. The work was delayed while I went through the difficult but essential process or recognizing and coming to grips with feelings of accomplishment too often misplaced or squelched in childhood. A deep-seated fear of reproach, criticism, and failure kept this work from reaching a presentable stage until enough reinforcement had been stored to overcome these blocks. This reinforcement arrived in the form of chastisements or expressions of concern from friends, colleagues, and students, and most importantly, my work in psychotherapy proved vital in releasing the energies and self-love needed to complete this book. To all those who have goaded me on, each in their own way, to every musician who directly or indirectly inspired this effort, and to the students whose curiosity and/or density has precipitated these concepts and methods, I dedicate this book with eternal gratitude. For indeed, I hope always to be one of the students. —- Thomas D. Nyfenger New Haven, CT August, 1986