Demons

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I started learning Brett Dean’s Demons in October 2010, intending to perform it at the impuls Academy when I attended early the next year. I never really got on top of it, so ditched the idea of playing it.

Since then, I’ve kind of been putting off learning it. That summer I practised a lot but achieved very little and it was very frustrating for me, I deemed it something of a failure (and its dramatic finale didn’t help matters). But since then I’ve finally made good ground on another piece I started learning at that time – Philippe Hurel’s Loops – and so I’ve decided to play both works in my upcoming recital.

At this point I’ve already done quite a bit of preliminary work, including a lot of listening, nutting out rhythms and practising them, deciding on some fingerings, and just generally familiarising myself with the notes. I’ve got a good idea of the overall structure of the work and have portioned it into sections (see below). But there’s a lot left to do. At this point I need to isolate those sections that need real note-learning time, and just get on top of that as quickly as possible.

For this kind of music, where extended techniques pop up every now and then, and alternate fingerings complexify what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward passage, I find the best method is the metronome clock-up. Coordination like that needs to be incorporated from the outset and at a slow tempo, and the clock-up gets speed up in a manageable way. The basic method: choose a tempo that is just comfortable, play the passage once, then reduce the speed by 6MM (or around 2 marks on the old analogue types). Play it three times at this slower pace, then clock up 9MM (or 3 marks). Play once, lose 6MM, three times, add 9MM, etc. Seems to work for me – anyone got a better idea?

Not all of this piece needs this kind of careful approach – here it is in section divisions, with those that most need this work marked:

  1. A (bars 1-18) – needs clocking
  2. bridge (19-23)
  3. B (23-33)
  4. A1 (33-39) – needs clocking
  5. C (40-57) – needs clocking
  6. A2 (57-64) – needs clocking
  7. development (64-68) – only needs a little bit
  8. D (69-80) – needs clocking
  9. development (81-90) – needs clocking
  10. A3 (90-96) – hopefully by this stage clocking won’t be necessary…
  11. A3 slowing (97-103)
  12. A3 lyrical (103-125)
  13. coda (126-131)

Most of those that are not marked in need of the clock-up will need work on phrasing, legato, etc. etc. These are things I will pay more attention to when the other notes are learned.

In taking this on, I’m taking heart from ex-UQ flautist Melissa Doecke, who learnt the work from scratch in just a week!! So surely it can’t be that hard…!

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