Melbourne-based flutist and sound artist Alice Bennett possesses a keen interest in contemporary Australian music and the low flutes, and has most recently developed a penchant for exploratory improvisation. After completing a Bachelor of Music with Honours at Monash University, Alice travelled to Austria for the Impuls 8th International Ensemble and Composers Academy for Contemporary Music 2013 where she studied contemporary flute techniques with Eva Furrer, and improvisation with Manon-Liu Winter and Frank Gratkowski.
Alice has had the privilege of premiering works by Houston Dunleavy, Peter Senchuk, Vaughan McAlley, Mitchell Mollison, and Katia Tiutiunnik, and has received funding from the Australia Council for the Arts. She is an active committee member of the Victorian Flute Guild, and performs with contemporary ensemble Faux Foe. Alice currently spends most of her time working on her Project 365, a challenge to complete and publicly release 365 original works during one year, and also enjoys cooking, drinking nice wine and hanging out with her pet rabbits.
Alice is a co-founder of Tilde New Music and Sound Art – a multi-platform project which aims to promote Australian art music, including but not limited to: improvisation, sound art, and works by people who aren’t dead yet. The first stage of this project was a mini festival held on Sunday 26th January at Testing Grounds, Melbourne. The festival featured performances of some of Melbourne’s most innovative sound artists and performers, and hosted the launch of the Tilde Roving Sound Art Gallery. www.tilde.net.au
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE LOW FLUTES?
One morning in my first year of university I stumbled out of my dorm room having enjoyed way too much vino the night before, and seedily made my way to the weekly flute workshop. I waited with my classmates for a guest lecturer to appear. We had no idea who this person was or what they did. Little did I know that they were one of only a handful of low flutes specialists in the world, nor how lucky we all were to get our hands on a contrabass flute. One note and I was hooked.
AS AN ACTIVE PERFORMER AND IMPROVISOR, YOU HAVE JUST COMPLETED A MOST INTERESTING PROJECT TITLED 365. TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.
Throughout 2014 I took part in the WeeklyBeats Challenge (www.weeklybeats.com), where participants compose/record one piece of music per week for the duration of a year. I found the process so useful and inspiring that I attempted to do the same every day. Having a constant deadline and outcome (publicly releasing each track) gave me the motivation to experiment and work on my skills every day, and that includes improvising, using Ableton Live and other software, recording techniques and website management as well as playing. WeeklyBeats also gives you access to a community of peers who give weekly feedback and support.
YOU HAVE PERFORMED ON THE BASS FLUTE IN SEVERAL FLUTE CHAMBER ENSEMBLES? WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE, IN YOUR OPINION, OF THIS INSTRUMENTS SOUND WITHIN THE ENSEMBLE.
The bass flute adds two qualities to an ensemble: timbre and low-end support. The timbre of the bass is my personal favourite of the flute family; it can growl and grunt in the bottom register and is sweetest in the third. Its sound produces many more partials due to its wider bore, and it is almost as agile as a regular flute. It performs an invaluable role in the flute ensemble by filling out the lower end and supporting the lowest flutes that are not always loud or plentiful enough to counter-balance the top end.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION IN STARTING YOUR ANNUAL ‘TILDE NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL’ IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA?
The festival was inspired by the European new music festivals such as Darmstadt in Germany and Impuls in Austria. Tilde aims to promote contemporary art music including improvisation, sound art and works by living composers. It also provides a rare opportunity for composers, performers and sound artists to get together and interact with a growing network of new music enthusiasts and to showcase their work in a relaxing outdoor environment. The 2015 Tilde New Music Festival will be held on Saturday 24th January at Testing Grounds in Southbank, Melbourne. www.tilde.net.au
WHOM ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE LOW FLUTE ARTISTS
Three of my favourites:
Matthias Zeigler, Switzerland – Matthias’ album Uakti demonstrates his experimentation in amplifying the microsounds produced by the contrabass flute, creating interesting and engaging electroacoustic works.
Eva Furrer, Austria – Eva is a fantastic flutist and performer who plays some of the most challenging works for bass flute in the contemporary European style.
Peter Sheridan, Australia – Peter has the deepest, most resonant sound of any low flutes player I have heard. He makes the instruments sing, defying any restraint that the sometimes-clumsy instruments have.
COULD YOU TELL US YOUR FAVOURITE WORK FOR THE LOW FLUTES?
I don’t have a single favourite, but the following are great works for low flutes:
Salvatore Sciarrino – Opera for Solo Flute/Bass Flute
Beat Furrer – Ira-Arca for bass flute and double bass
Vincent Giles – Differing Dialogues for bass flute and pre-recorded low flutes
WHAT DO YOU SEE (AND HEAR) FOR THE FUTURE OF LOW FLUTES?
With technical innovations making low flutes cheaper and more accessible to performers and students, these instruments are becoming more and more popular with both performers and composers. I see a lot of good music making in the future!