By Sarah Louise Bassingthwaighte
Copyright © 2002 by Sarah Louise Bassingthwaighte. All rights reserved.

Chapter VIII


Biography and Background of the Composer

Linda Antas is a composer of computer-generated music, electroacoustic music, and chamber music. She was born in 1972 in Illinois, where she began her musical life first as a flutist, and began composing in the 1980's. After high school, she attended the University of Illinois, where she studied composition with Salvatore Martirano and Morgan Powell, and flute with Janet Scott and Alexander Murray. She received both Bachelors and Masters degrees in composition at the University of Illinois, before moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. At the University of Washington, she spent three years as a staff member at the Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities (CARTAH), and has been a teaching assistant for several computer music and ear-training courses. Linda's composition teachers include Richard Karpen and Diane Thome at the University of Washington. She also studied flute in Seattle with Paul Taub.

Antas' works have been programmed throughout the United States and in Europe and have been recognized by various competitions and festivals. These include the Santa Fe International Festival of Electroacoustic Music, the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), the Second International Music Contest Citta de Udine, and the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). Antas' commissions include a work for trombonist Abbie Conant's "Wired Goddess" project, and a commission by the International Computer Music Association (ICMA). She has conducted and performed as a flutist with various ensembles. She also performed her piece A River from the Walls at the 2000 National Flute Association Convention. Her works have been released by Media Cafe, TauKay, and Centaur labels. In 2000, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship as well as a Fritz Grant, and spent the 2000 — 2001 academic year at the Institut Universitari de L'Audiovisual in Barcelona. Antas is currently pursuing a doctorate in composition at the University of Washington.


Linda Antas composed A River from the Walls in 1999. The piece was premiered in Berkeley at CNMAT, again in Kansas, and subsequently performed at the 2000 National Flute Association Convention with the composer herself as the flutist, and the following year, was recorded for release on the Centaur label, again with Antas on flute. A River from the Walls has also been performed also by Jane Riegler in Madrid at Musco Reina Sofia, by Cristina Perea in New York City, by Lisa Cella for the SEAMUS Conference in Texas, by New York flutist Patricia Spencer, and in Hungary by the flutist Sarvar. When asked why she chose the flute for this particular piece, Antas answers:

"There were many reasons I chose flute. I had finished my first computer piece and wanted the next one to involve a live player. I also wanted to have a piece to perform and I love playing with electronics. The other benefit of choosing my own instrument and myself as the performer is that it made it very easy to hear exactly and immediately how well the flute and tape parts were working together and that I have a thorough knowledge of what the flute can do." [83]

The piece lasts just over ten minutes, and in that time explores an immense variety of sounds and techniques for the flutist, pressing the boundaries of conventional flute playing in many ways. The computer part also represents an adventurous compositional spirit, and the two parts together result in a finely woven synergistic work in which the two function as equals. When Antas worked on this piece, she had the following in mind:

"I guess the fact that there is a flute in it at all reflects well upon my life work as a composer. I will never forget that I couldn't write down my music at all until I learned to read music when I started to study the flute as a 10-year-old. That was a HUGE step. I feel like my keeping in touch with performing and the physical realities of making an instrument make sound is an irreplaceable tool in my musician's toolbox. It was and continues to be a very important part of my musical development. My playing informs my composing and vice versa. For example, I have a certain aesthetic in tape sounds because I think 'If a player spends years and years trying to get a deeper, more flexible, richer, and prettier sound, why shouldn't a composer spend months creating rich, living sounds?'" [84]

When discussing specific aspects of the piece, I have decided to refer to the number of minutes and seconds into the piece that each event occurs. In the score, Antas has frequently provided the number of minutes and seconds, and in this way the flute and tape can be synchronized. There are measure numbers at the beginning of each line, but there are no barlines, so this is not a useful way to discuss location. There is a great deal of flexibility in the timing, though, so in referring to specific times as locations, there is a degree of inaccuracy possible. Antas notes the times as minutes: seconds; for example, five minutes and thirty seconds into the piece is seen 5:30. I will do the same in this analysis.

The piece begins with a gentle introduction of high, burbling sounds in the computer part, after twenty seconds of which the flute enters. The first gesture in the flute is sinewy, mysterious, and flowing. The range is narrow, the intervals quite small, and the flutist explores the various colorations of pitch available on the flute, making timbre a focus. This smooth and flowing writing continues with gentle expansion and crescendo. About 1:44 into the piece, the flute introduces a percussive unvoiced sound, and from here the music builds, while retaining it's legato character. The range expands greatly, and the dynamics become more varied, moving between piano and forte frequently. After this, it slows down to a near stop at 3:12. Here the range is again quite narrowed, and again, the focus is on timbre, the motion is slow. After about two minutes of this sonic space, the music builds suddenly and vastly, then at 5:48 coming to a very percussive and abrasive section. After this point, the music moves much more quickly, leaping through the registers constantly, iterated with short silences or longer notes, and avoiding predictable repetition in pitch or rhythm. The tempo fluctuates somewhat, but even at slower tempos, the disjunct character is retained. At about 8:41, the opening motive is revisited, in the manner of a coda. This is the beginning of the end, and quickly the music moves into the fastest, most intense section, with large, accented leaps, few longer notes or rests, so the motion is incessant and highly energetic. This increases until finally the flute races toward the highest note of the piece, seeming to open out suddenly into space. There is not a sense of resolution at the end, almost more of a sense of having broken through some barrier. In short, the piece moves from a calm, quiet, close, and gentle space, to one that is just the opposite. Antas describes this piece as: "the strongest work in my portfolio and I feel that it had a lot to do with my winning the Fulbright to Spain and the ICMA commission." [85A River from the Walls is full of evocative, sophisticated, and exciting writing; Antas has effectively combined her skills with creating computer-generated sounds with her intimate knowledge of the flute.


A River from the Walls is a continuous, evolving work, which is made up of many subtle and shifting gestures. The movement through the piece is more organic than structured, seeming almost to represent a metamorphosis or transmogrification than a form of repetition or development.As with any change, though, there are moments of quicker change, and significant developments. In searching for these moments, one may find that the piece can be separated into three main sections, and that these break the piece into roughly equal thirds. The first section lasts from the beginning until about 3:12, and there are three possible subsections in this section. This section is characterized and distinguished by close intervals, a small range, middle register, many timbral changes, and a variety of dynamic levels. Antas focuses on pitch, timbre, and intervallic relationships throughout the piece, and the nature of the focus is slightly different for each section. The motion and rhythmic materials serve to highlight the relationships.

The opening gesture of the flute part begins on a Db in the middle register and winds around in a narrow range (a range of a tritone, or six half steps), to end on a C. At the outset, the half-step motion is presented as an important motive. The phrasing in this section is quite clear, with long notes followed by rest in the flute to articulate the phrases. The shorter phrases are closely related, and put together they form the first large phrase, from 0:21 to 1:18. The second phrase, which can be considered the beginning of the second of three subsections, begins with the same gesture as the first phrase, but starting on a lower pitch, 1:19. This time instead of continuing its winding around the initial pitch, the flute moves toward the first multiphonic, which occurs at the same time that a new sound is introduced in the tape part, 1:27. The tape part has a low, warmer oscillating gesture, and this sound is mimicked in the flute by timbral changes on a single note. First, the note A occurs, followed by different colorations of this same note in a shimmering manner. Next, the same is done with a Db. The percussive breath sounds of the flutist are introduced here. At 1:55, a new subsection begins. This portion of the piece begins to widen the intervals, create more wrinkles in the previously smooth melodic material, and present quickly changing dynamics. There is a restlessness to this section, and the sound becomes more intense, the textures a little thicker, the notes faster and leaping, and then relaxing back down to end the section softly on a low C#.

The second section lasts from 3:13 to 6:06, and also has three possible subdivisions. This section, in contrast to the first section, moves much more slowly, with a concentration on shifting timbres, a slow transformation of sounds, and a strong pitch and timbre relationship between the flute and computer. It is marked by silences and long notes, and has a feeling of openness, floating, and light texture. The predominant gesture in this section is the shifting, evolving timbres on a single note. Each note is held, and many of them shift sound in one way or another for their duration. The first event is a middle register C#, which first appears as three grace notes tied to a C# whole note, which in turn is tied to a C# whole note. The C#s alternate either being the harmonic fingering or an altered fingering, which is provided in the score. The grace notes sound like a colorful shimmer on the pitch, and the first whole note slowly evolves into the second whole note (there is not a distinct moment of beginning for the second whole note). The next event is a multiphonic, followed by two normal notes, a low Eb and D. The tape part echoes the Eb and D, and during the D in the flute, the tape produces an Eb in dissonance. The flute's next note is an Eb, but as part of a multiphonic. This occurs over Ds and Ebs in the tape again. The section moves in this manner, with a strong correlation between the pitches that are distinguishable in the tape part and the flute's changing timbres. At 5:48, more percussive vocal sounds are heard, followed by noisy high D#s, which are marked "dirty, overblown." Everything in this section is about the sound quality itself, and the slowness makes time to absorb the changing sounds that are heard. The sounds are rarely constant or steady, in either part. The transformational quality expressed in this section leaves the listener in anticipation of what will come next.

The third section begins at about 6:06, and takes us to the end of the piece. This is the most active, intense, wildest section. The notes are fast, the intervals are wide, the high register is used predominantly, and the articulations become more varied, beginning with longer slurs, with the gradual addition of tongued notes and shorter slurs. By the end, the slurs are gone, and the articulation is heavily accented and percussive. At first, there is a sense of phrasing, with each being separated from the next by a short rest. This continues until about 7:01, where the rests become less frequent, and the stream of notes longer and with less variety in note lengths. At this point, the notes are grouped somewhat by register, with three to five high notes alternating with one or two low notes. Beginning at about 8:10, the notes begin to alternate between high and low more frequently, and there are very few slurs. The tape part has a thicker texture and more complex sounds. The reiteration of the opening motive occurs at about 8:41, and serves as a reminder of how much has changed. The similarity to the opening material is abandoned by 9:12, which is the final stage of the piece. Here the flutist is directed to play "very strictly in time from here to end". From 9:12 to 9:44, the pitches leap between the low and high register. The note values are predominantly 8th notes and 16th notes of a sextuplet group, and there are occasional rests. Finally, at 9:44, the register is shifted up to the highest in the piece, the notes are all of the same value (16th notes of a sextuplet), the dynamic is constantly loud, and every note is accented with almost no slurs present. The music is intense, almost frantic. Just when it seems as though the activity cannot be sustained any longer, the flute has a final gesture in which it leaps up to the highest note of the piece. Simultaneously, the tape sounds a cymbal-like whoosh, which resonates openly. During the last four seconds, the computer part fades out, leaving the music feeling unresolved.

Pitch / Interval Content / Gestures

Although the nature of the sounds themselves is a primary focus in A River from the Walls, this does not mean that the sounds necessarily are important in terms of pitch. One of the very interesting things about this piece is that the conventional notion of pitch, timbre, harmony, and even register is expanded and challenged. Much of the piece seems to be generated by exploring sonic possibilities, and through the experience of these sounds, to react and build. The title itself is very evocative, and immediately brings to mind the contrasting images of rivers and walls. Some of the associations with rivers include flowing, fluid, connected, currents, coursing through, trickling, gurgling, evaporating, burbling, transparency, and vitality. Walls, in stark contrast, bring to mind words such as hard, rigid, vertical, boundaries, barriers, protection, blinders, solidity, and stability. The concept of these two things together is very visual and tactile, almost hallucinatory. It is not difficult to imagine many of the gestures as being associated with either one or the other of these images. The beginning, for example, is smooth, close, flowing. Indeed, Antas has marked the opening of the flute part "gentle, liquid, with much freedom." The shifting timbres in the flute have a sense of shimmering, and the legato, narrow, sinewy lines a sense of flowing, even snaking their way through the environment, much as a river does. The tape part is full of middle and high frequency burbling and trickling sounds, such as the very opening of the piece. The tape sounds at 2:21 are much like bubbles. Meanwhile, under much of this higher frequency material is a low, oscillating gesture, which can be heard as the current or the main body (as opposed to the surface) of the river. It's not useful to take the metaphor too far, but this imagery may help to understand then the evolution of these sounds, into something that at the end is so different.

The sounds gradually become less flowing and horizontal, and increasingly angular and vertical. Even just a glance at the score makes this quite visible: at the beginning, the notes move in a line from left to right with slight undulations. By the end, the notes are alternating between extremely high and middle; there is not a sense of line nearly so much as an emphasis on high and low, or up and down. Also, the articulations are hard and accented, and the dynamic is always loud. In other words, the end is rigid, strong, and vertical.

This is reflected in the pitch material itself. During the first two sections, the tone colors are always evolving, the notes are often sustained and through the use of multiphonics and other timbral effects, the movement from one note to the next is often blurred. At the end, the pitches are defined and distinct from one another, are carefully placed in register and articulated cleanly.

Another important distinction between the beginning and end is the distance between the notes, which can be viewed in terms of interval or range. At the beginning, small intervals are emphasized, not only in adjacent notes, but also in comparing emphasized notes to each other (emphasized being notes that are at the beginning or end of a phrase, or are particularly long, high, or accentuated). Alongside the range is the repetition of certain notes. The opening phrase of the flute part begins on Db, then winds around C, repeating that note four times. The effect is that we are hearing the note C, and the surrounding pitches are heard almost as colorations of the C. The next phrase revolves around C# (recalling the opening Db), after that on Eb, and at 0:49, around C# again, followed by a phrase focusing on C. So, the first minute of the piece focuses on a very narrow range, each phrase revolves around a particular note, and the emphasized notes are quite close in proximity. The intervals within each phrase as well as the intervals emphasized in one phrase to the next are close, usually between one and three half steps. The subsection beginning at 1:19 does much the same, although begins down a Perfect fourth (or five half-steps) on Ab. By 1:40, the D and Db are again emphasized. and soon thereafter the third subsection also begins with a D. Section 1 ends with emphasized third register Cs (at about 2:45), followed by repeated C#s, ending on a long low C#. What we see is that the entire first section has an emphasis on C# (or Db, depending on the context), as well as repeated use of very small intervals.

During the section between 1:55 and 2:52, the notes are quicker and the intervals larger. We do experience new intervals, those of five or six half-steps. Interestingly, the largest leaps, such as at 1:56 from low F to middle G, can be reduced by octave displacement to very small intervals again. What is a ninth in reality, is basically a second in terms of pitch relationships. When discussing range and register, and the musically expressive ways these are used, it's very important that this leap is greater than an octave, but in terms of pitch sets and repetition, it is appropriate to reduce these intervals. All of these intervals result from the algorithms that the composer is using, with the exception of notes that are discarded or replaced at the composer's discretion to better suit her expressive needs. For the performer, it may be more useful to think in terms of pitch names and intervals, rather than pitch sets, with the understanding of how these pitches were derived.

The tape part of this piece was written before the flute part, and in many ways the pitches chosen for the flute are in response to those found in the computer part. As mentioned above, when generating pitches and sounds in the computer part, Antas at times used algorithms to determine the intervals. This device of using algorithms to aid in pitch determination is common in electroacoustic music, and Battey's Pater Noster's Tricyclic Companion and Karpen's Exchange each also use algorithms in determining pitch in both the flute and computer parts. In all three of these examples (including A River from the Walls), the resultant pitch streams are then manipulated and altered, so the algorithmic use is not completely literal.

The second section, beginning at 3:13, is comprised primarily of multiphonics. Antas has stated that the multiphonics chosen were picked in response to the computer sounds present at those moments. She used Robert Dick's book [86] to find multiphonics that most closely match sounds that would duplicate or harmonize with the tape sounds. Synchronizing the pitch sounds between flute and tape, for this reason, is important here, but not difficult given the lengths of the notes and the flexibility to start slightly before or after the tape event. Antas has used the flute's ability to shift during the multiphonic here — the note may start low, move to a multiphonic, and eventually, gradually become the higher of the two multiphonic notes. With the flute and tape simultaneously sounding, it is often difficult to distinguish which part is uttering which note and at what point in the flutist's note does it change from one sound to another. This is wonderful way of moving the flute away from the convention of sounding single tones, or even of multiple tones simultaneously. This technique, rather, allows the flute to actually change the pitch during the course of the note, a device that brings it closer to the computer-generated sounds.

Section 3, beginning at about 6:06, there is minimal use of altered sonorities. Instead, this section consists of conventional pitches for the flutist, and the focus is on interval, contour, register, and articulation. The pitches here are especially influenced by algorithmic calculations. The result of using algorithms for determining pitch and interval is that certain pitches will be repeated often, and certain intervals will be heard over and over. Even if the beginning pitches are transposed, the intervals will be repeated. Antas has the ability to alter the results of the algorithm, as well as to emphasize or de-emphasize certain notes by placement, length, dynamic, register, and articulation. There are many stepwise motives of two or three notes, which appear as a group in one register, followed by single notes or groups in another register which are also related in a stepwise fashion either to their group, to the previous group, or both. For example, in looking at the group of notes beginning at about 6:21 starting at the piano marking, we see the notes in this order: C# C C# D B Db D C B C# C D C#. These notes are all within a step of each other (either a whole or a half step, depending), but appear in groups of one, two, or three notes before jumping to a different register. This is very closely related to the sinewy motion of the opening flute motive, although somewhat disguised by the changes in volume, articulation, speed, and register.

Throughout the piece, the pitch and interval motives are all very closely related and repeated frequently, with various tools to distinguish the motives. The resulting unity brings a strong sense of a personal language to the piece, a language that is informed in large part by the sonorities Antas gravitated toward on the computer. Within these somewhat narrow confines of fixed pitches, Antas explores various sonic qualities of each pitch in both the flute and computer parts. In a certain way, she is expanding the musical language from within, or rather, exploring the universe within rather than reaching outside for new information. Whether or not she would see it this way is a different story.


A River from the Walls is a rhythmically intricate and complex piece. The rhythmic motives are very different from section to section, and are largely responsible, along with contour, for the differences between the sections (more so than note choices, articulations, dynamics). There is never a sense of meter or pulse, and very little repetition of distinct rhythmic motives, although a high degree of correlation between one motive and the next. The very first and last phrases of the piece are the most notable exceptions. The first phrase, which begins with a long note, followed by a stream of fast notes, and ending with a long note, is reiterated literally (although transposed) twice, first at 1:19, and then at 8:41, and a near approximation occurs at 0:51. The last phrase, beginning at 9:44, is the only part of the piece to contain notes of all the same value; in this case, a stream of sextuplet 16th notes. Aside from these two examples, the rhythm is varied constantly throughout the piece. If one were to talk about a rhythmic motive, it would probably be the recurrence of long notes separated by groups of quick notes, and of phrases being articulated by rests.

Antas' idea behind the rhythm in the first section is that, given the existence of both long and short notes, the probability of a long note recurring and its length when it does decrease from the beginning to the end of the section. [87]  The result is that the longest notes tend to all be of different pitch, and if a note appears as a long note, it is less likely to appear frequently otherwise. What happens then is that the notes that receive the most emphasis are those which are shorter but repeated often and strategically placed. For example, in the first phrase the longest note is a B, but the most important notes are Db and C, because they are repeated often, and because the motives began with these notes. The motive of a stream of quick notes followed by a longer note occurs very frequently, sometimes with a long note also at the beginning of the phrase. The fast notes are very fast (notated as 32nd notes most of the time) and instead of moving in one direction, tend to turn back on themselves, changing direction throughout the motive. The result is that instead of feeling as though they are leading somewhere, they're rather ornamental or colorful; the music feels more like it is shimmering or quivering than changing location. So, in the beginning, the fast notes serve to produce energy or vibration rather than serve a linear function. This is true because of the close proximity of all of the notes and the repetition of one particular note more than the others.

There are many moments where the indicated pitch doesn't change at all, only the timbre of the note changes, usually through the use of an altered fingering, a multiphonic, or a harmonic. This occurs on the A at 1:27, the Db from 1:40 to 1:50, and the A at 2:22. As the rhythm becomes more varied, the intervals widen and the music becomes more active. This can be seen at 1:55 through 2:21, and about 2:40 through 2:52, where there are fewer long notes or rests, and more of a mixture of longer and shorter notes within a single gesture.

The second section is marked by very slow movement and long notes, as well as quiet sounds. This section is comprised mostly of multiphonics or altered timbres. The grace notes and fast notes that do occur are repetitions of a single given pitch, alternating between varied timbres, so the pitch itself is not changing, just the color. The sound of the multiphonics is unstable, highly textured, and noisy. Between the altered fingerings and the multiphonics, the second section of the piece has an electrical energy, the energy of something that is static but still very alive.

In moving toward the third section, the rhythmic activity increases, beginning in the tape part at 5:20. The tape sonorities begin to increase in variety and complexity, the texture becomes more dense, and the dynamic level is louder. At 5:48, a series of breathy percussive noises are exclaimed by the flutist, along with some "dirty" noisy, rhythmic tones, preparing us for the upcoming surge. Section 3 truly begins at about 6:06; this is marked by the change in rhythm. Suddenly, there are lots of notes moving fast, leaping through many ranges, dynamics changes every couple of seconds, with new articulations every few notes. At the end there is an endless stream of uninterrupted fast notes. There have been fast notes all along, but always with a healthy mix of variously slower notes.

The rhythms Antas uses in the piece tend to be somewhat complex, though definitely for the expressive purposes rather than intellectual. There are many groupings of multiple notes under a single beam, such as at the beginning where there are nine notes under a beam. Often notes of various values will be beamed together, as in the beginning of Section 3, in which many beamed groups consist of mixes of 8th , 16th and 32nd notes. Often this will be part of an irrational number, such as at 2:20 where there is a beat divided into a triplet and further divided into 8th, 16th, and 32nd notes. There is frequent usage of sextuplets (see 7:30 and 9:44 — 9:56), quintuplet figures and triplets (6:00 to 7:10) as well as frequent occurrences of septuplets and nonuplets.

In short, what we see rhythmically is a great deal of variety within the phrases as well as throughout the piece (lengths vary from very long whole notes to fast 32nd notes), many effected tempo changes, and a healthy but not excessive use of complex rhythmic figures. The gestures are inexorably tied to the melodic motives, the melodic and rhythmic figures are not independent of each other. The rhythm is the main factor in distinguishing the form of the piece, moving us from the flowing beginning to the energetic and angular ending.

Register / Range

Register and range work hand in hand with rhythm in this piece. Just as the beginning is slow and flowing, the range is very narrow with the register in the middle and sometimes low range. Antas uses register consistently to build in energy, the lower register material being generally calmer (see 1:19, 4:35, 4:43, 8:00). The highest-energy sections also tend to lie in the highest register (7:10, 7:37, 9:44 — 9:59). Antas uses the full conventional range of the flute, from a first register C# to a fourth register C (appropriately, the last note of the piece). She avoids altissimo register notes.

Two important aspects of Antas' attention to register are the ideas of contraction/expansion and angular, almost contrapuntal writing. Antas uses different ranges in different phrases, with care taken as to the span of the lowest to highest notes of the phrase. As we've seen, the first phrase spans only six half-steps, an interval that was part of the pitch algorithms. The first minute of the piece gently expands this range, then by 1:19 repeats a phrase with the same span as the first phrase. The effect is much like an inhale, followed by an exhale; the music breathes. Beginning at 1:55, the range with the phrases greatly expands, up to almost two octaves at times (2:11). A recurrent motive that involves range is first experienced at 1:40, in which the range for at least five to seven seconds is only a half-step, and in fact, is mostly just the distance between different timbres of the same note. That is to say, that there is a pitch (rather than just a timbral) difference between the harmonic Db, the altered-fingering Db, and the conventional Db, and therefore there is a distance; thus, a range. This extremely narrow range occurs again at 2:22, 3:13, 3:49, 4:25, and 8:50. In contrast, there are many instances in which expansion into a wide range is important, such as at 1:55 or 6:06, among others. Much of the character of Section 3 is derived from the wide leaps and great expanse covered, and Antas has clearly made the choice to separate two notes that would be adjacent by an octave in order to achieve this breadth. A good example of this is at 6:18 through 6:23, in which the pitches are all within very close range of each other (five half-steps at the largest), but every note or two the octave is displaced. The technique of octave displacement is closely related to the idea of expansion, is the separation of a melodic material into separate registers. The technique is reminiscent of baroque writing for solo instruments, in which the melody is broken up into two or more separate melodies, or voices, so as to have a contrapuntal effect. As the range expands in A River from the Walls, there becomes greater distinction between middle and high registers, to the point where they sound as separate voices. This is seen well in two places in particular; first, between 6:12 and 6:30, and secondly, from 9:12 to the end of the piece. The last phrase is made up of an alternation between middle and high register notes. What makes the separate voices particularly clear is that the range of the high register notes is narrow (about five half-steps) and the range of the middle notes is also narrow (about seven half-steps). The contrapuntal quality adds to the complexity of the sound as well as to the texture.


The dynamics in A River from the Walls are very carefully and specifically marked; rarely do more than a few seconds pass without an indication of the dynamic level. Antas remarks: "The drama and dynamics of the tape part are more or less paralleled in the flute part." [88]  The changes are frequent and often large, but not so frequent as to become disjunct. The dynamics lend to the sense of transformation and growth in the piece, and not just by getting louder. Growth and change are characterized not just by an increase in volume, but also by swells, irregular spurts, and times of where the change temporarily plateaus. Also, transformation itself doesn't imply growth, and certainly some of the dynamic changes indicate simply a shifting or metamorphosing rather than enlarging. The section from 1:55 to 2:38 is an example in which the dynamics grow louder (into 2:04), then to a piano (2:05). It moves immediately to a mezzo piano (2:10), making a crescendo to forte (2:13), with a diminuendo to mezzo forte by 2:18, back to forte by 2:20, and then from 2:22 to 2:30, very quickly changing back and forth between piano and forte. Another place that swells are seen is between 4:43 and 5:20 (during a slow section) and 6:06 and 6:12 (a fast section). The volume of the tape part reflects the composer's intent as well, with some extremely soft computer sounds (beginning at Section 2), to some very loud and rich sounds (5:20). This careful control of the volume is exactly what it is intended to be: vital and, suffice to say, dynamic.


A River from the Walls is notated with no time signature, barlines, metronome markings, or indication of taped sounds. The location of events is designated by time in terms of minutes and seconds into the piece (in the same manner is Karpen's Exchange). Thus, two minutes and forty seconds into the piece the flutist will see 2:40 marked under the flute part. This means that the flutist will require a stopwatch when performing the piece. The relative speeds of the notes are determined by a combination of the times indicated and the relative rhythmic values indicated, which leaves a lot of room for flexibility. Antas purposefully left some distance between the marked times, in order for the flutist to have some creative room. The only place where the flute and tape need to synchronize exactly is at the end beginning at 9:12, and the time markings occur every two seconds until 9:56, and then every second. Incidentally, the effect here is that this is the only part of the piece that can be thought of in terms of pulse — the notes are beamed in exactly one-second long groups, which means that the music is moving at a quarter note equals sixty beats per minute.

There are special notations for the unvoiced percussive sounds; as indicated in the performance notes, the notehead for these is an "x" and the desired vocal sound is indicated underneath (e.g. "chuh"). The fingerings for all of the multiphonics are included above the note, as are the alternate fingerings for timbre changes on a note. The only difficulty here may be that Antas has not indicated whether the note is a multiphonic, (with exceptions) or simply an altered note. This is problematic because with any given fingering, multiple sounds are available on the flute (including but not exclusively multiphonics), and the performer may not know which sound is desired. An exceptions is at 1:27, where two notes are indicated to be played simultaneously; in this case, it's clear that this is a multiphonic. But other multiphonics occur that do not have more than one pitch notated nor do they indicate multiphonic (except by providing an alternate fingering); examples include the notes at 3:25, 4:25, 4:44, and 5:20. The solution to this is to listen to the performance recording that Antas provides with the score.

Some of the occurrences of timbre alterations are slightly unclear as well, especially when compared to the performance recording. For instance, at 1:32, the notation indicates movement between A and B, but on the recording, one hears a subtle coloration on the A, rather than an actual pitch change. This is not a major issue, though, since Antas intended a degree of freedom of interpretation and seems more interested in the effect than in the exact execution. Besides this, she provides a recording, which should clear up most confusion.

The last difficulty that I experienced with the notation is with the marking of the accidentals. In the performance notes, Linda points out that accidentals only apply to the note that they precede or to a series of repeated notes. She also mentions that some courtesy markings are given. This is a normal convention, and isn't problematic, but gets slightly confusing when a series of repeated pitches are broken up by grace notes. In the second phrase, there are five C#'s, then two grace notes, and then a C# again. Here, the grace notes would imply that the following C# should have a sharp in front of it, which it does. Then, two other notes, with a return break up these C #s again to C#. Here the C is not preceded by a sharp, so the notation would imply that a C should be played, but the recording uses a C#. There are a few places where I, as a performer, felt slightly unsure as to the proper interpretation, and would feel more comfortable without the courtesy accidentals. With the courtesy accidentals, trying to find tendencies was not possible.

In any case, all of these notation challenges are minimal, and the score is generally very easy to read and to follow. Also, quite probably the score has undergone revision since the time of this writing, and most of these are probably no longer issues. Considering the large number of unconventional sounds and techniques, the notation is very successful. The choices for notating rhythm are effective and clear, and much more appropriate than would be the use of barlines or meter of any sort.

Extended Techniques

Antas' use of extended techniques in A River from the Walls is adventurous and sophisticated. She uses a wide spectrum of multiphonics, timbre alterations, vocal sounds, "dirty" flute sounds, and bent pitches. There is the notable absence of flutter-tonguing, key clicks, tongue clicks, and singing while playing. Antas describes her experiences with extended techniques:

As a flutist who has always been interested in new music, I've known about all the extended techniques for some time. I think my being a composer as well as flutist led me to do a little more goofing around in the practice room than some flutists might do. Probably the most thorough reference book on the subject would the Howell. It was his dissertation from the University of Illinois and is still available through UMI, but the book The Avant-Garde Flute: A Handbook for Composers and Flutists based on it is out of print last I checked. The suh, chuh, etc. sounds were based on some other effects I do, but most directly came from frustrated outbursts while I was learning Exchange!! Imagine a sh.... word you might interject when you miss a note..." [89

The multiphonics are very expressively and masterfully used, and create a connection with the computer sounds that would not be possible with conventional flute sounds. All of the multiphonics are accompanied by a fingering (most of the fingerings are drawn from Howell [90], but only one of the multiple possible pitches is indicated (with one exception, at 1:27). The multiphonics in this piece occur at 1:27, 3:25, 3:49, 4:06, 4:25, 4:44, 5:20, and 7:16. All of the multiphonics are obtainable on the flute, and on Antas' recording (in which she is the flutist) they are very successful and effective.

When using the term timbre alterations, I am referring to a note of a specific pitch, which is performed with an altered fingering in order to produce an unusual sonority or color, but one that is still based on the original pitch. The timbre alterations occur at 0:30, 0:49, 1:25, 1:27 — 1:50, 3:13 — 4:40, 8:52, 8:59, and 9:10; they account for the largest percentage of extended techniques in the piece. The effect of the timbre alterations is wonderful, at times effecting a shimmering sound (1:40 — 1:50), and others one of metamorphosis (3:49 — 4:01). The sounds are easily accomplished, since they are done simply by changing the fingering of the note; the only challenge to the flutist, then, is to become comfortable with the alternate fingerings. It's notable that Antas chose not to notate any of these as quartertones, a choice that the alterations were made for color effects rather than to introduce a new, independent, functioning note.

The vocal effects are some of the freshest and most creative sounds coming out of the flute these days. Antas stated in the performance notes that when the flutist sees the words "chuh," "shuh," "suh," or "tuh," that they should make these sounds with the breath only, and that a forceful burst of air should be used to get a full and percussive sound. The distinctions between each of these percussive sounds are very clear and the use of different ones is effective. The sounds, in my opinion, are more effective than key clicks for exacting a percussive effect using the flute, and as sounds, are much more interesting and rich.

The "dirty" sounds, which occur at 5:56 and 7:36, refer to a tone which is not pure and clear, but which is distorted and contains a great deal of excess noise. It is effective much in the same way as the multiphonics and timbral alterations (and is, technically, a multiphonic), but the pitches present are less clear. The effect is one of texture and sound quality, more than of pitch.


Synchronization between flute and tape is not difficult in this piece, because of the clear indication of time throughout. I had the opportunity to ask the composer what she considered to be the degree of freedom of interpretation in this work, to which she replied:

"It's not intended that the performer and tape line up second for second throughout the whole work. In fact, you'll notice that some of the timings don't line up if played completely 'squarely' There are certain points where the flute and tape need to line up precicely (9:16 to the end is one example), otherwise some timings are given and there is time for shaping phrases in between. Some of the exact, down to the second co-ordinations are a matter of interpretation. For exmple "Should the 'kaboom' at X seconds cut off or begin this note?" So, any leeway I'd rather chalk up to "interpretation" rather than "chance". [91]

The flutist will need to use a stopwatch that is visible at all times, and will need to spend a great deal of time practicing with the stopwatch. There is room for flexibility between many of the indicated times, and with practice, each performer will devise their own preferences for the kinds of give and take the line will contain. It's helpful to practice with a CD player that also indicates minutes and seconds into the piece; the CD player can act as the stopwatch if it is highly visible. Since Antas does not give any indication of taped sounds on the score, it can be helpful to the flutist to write in particularly notable events, especially ones that may affect timing. There are occasions when the time indicated is exact, and others where it is preceded by an "approximately equal" sign, indicating that the flutist should be in the general vicinity of this time, but not necessarily exactly. There are many times when exact timing is necessary, such as during the multiphonics in Section 2. This is vitally important because the pitches of the multiphonics play against and match the pitches in the computer part. Another place of exact timing is at the end, and Antas has ensured the timing by providing a time for every one or two seconds, so that the very last note of the flute part matches up exactly with the climactic sounds in the tape part. There are no occurrences, though, where any strong, precise event needs to be timed to the millisecond. Antas discusses interpretation of the piece: "In this piece, both parts work together always in creating the direction and drama of the music. As part of the interpretation, I would expect the flutist to think about matching colors, styles, etc. as they would when playing with any ensemble." [92]  Even in the tightest of sections, there is a small amount of room (maybe half a second to a second) of leeway for the music to still have its effect.

Special Considerations

When performing A River from the Walls, Antas has indicated in the performance notes that the flute and electronic parts both will require slight reverberation (more in the flute than in the tape) in order for the two parts to blend well. This requires that the flute is amplified in some way, and level adjustments will probably be necessary during the performance. So, find a trustworthy friend with a good ear to do your mixing during the performance. It will be helpful for a monitor to be provided for the flutist, best placed in front of the flutist on the floor at a distance of four to eight feet. Besides the stopwatch, the flutist may want to cut and paste the piece in order to have better page turns, although the ones provided are probably doable.

Footnotes  (See Bibliography.)

[83] Antas, interview with author, 6/17/02.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Robert Dick, The Other Flute (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 81-118.

[87] Linda Antas, interview by author, Seattle, WA, 30 May 2002.

[88] Antas, interview with author, 6/17/02.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Thomas Howell, The Avant-Garde Flute: A Handbook for Composers and Flutists (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 1.

[91] Antas, interview with author, 6/17/02.

[92] Ibid.

Electroacoustic Music for the Flute by Sarah Louise Bassingthwaighte.
Copyright © 2002 by Sarah Louise Bassingthwaighte. All rights reserved.