for solo flute

Jeffrey Holmes

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for solo flute

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Composer Jeffrey Holmes
Year of Composition 2018
Duration ca.10'
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-jh1g1


Geirtýr for solo flute, was composed in 2018 for Tara Schwab. The title is from Old Norse for “Spear-God”, is one of the many kennings attributed to a particular Scandinavian deity. Each of the movements contain subtitles:

Geirtýr [Spear-God]

I. Røkkr svafnir önd [Twilight, Serpent’s breath]

II. Myrkr kvervandi [Dark river, turning, whirling]

III. Fimbulvetr [Monstrous winter]

Geirtýr is the third in a series of works for solo instruments (with Herjan for guitar and Thund for piano), derived from a larger work, a string quartet named Óss (Ansuz). These pieces are all programmatically based on a particular Scandinavian mythological shamanic figure and his esoteric written symbol, or rune. During the composition of Óss, I received requests for three solo pieces, prompting these three solos to be fractal microcosms of the Óss materials (motives, rhythmic cycles, forms, etc.). All three works are the exact same number of measures and are designed as symmetries of each other, collectively making one large palindrome. Additionally, all the titles are alternate names for the same Scandinavian deity.

Geirtýr is a piece that imagines the flute as the spear “Gungnir”, flying upon the primordial wind “önd”, as a creative analogy of the physical form of the flute as a musical instrument and the air or wind that is required to make it sound. Geirtýr depicts this primordial wind in its various forms: first still and reflective form with gentle gusts; then a more twisting and moving form; finally, in its more violent and turbulent state. There are three themes that each appear in all three movements: a repeated chordal figure with trills and harmonics; microtonal linear scales; wide-range, fast moving arpeggios accompanied by flutter-tongue techniques. An extensive use of microtonality is a fundamental part of the musical language used in Geirtýr. These microtonalities include equal tempered divisions of sixth-tones and quarter-tones, and approximated overtone intervals.