for flute, vibraphone, cajon, and fixed media
commissioned and premiered by the Green Vibes Project
Creation and Commentary
Another modernization of a feminine mythical archetype, my piece “Gaia” (2021) explores the strength, power, and beauty of Mother Nature. Commissioned by the Green Vibes Project, a sustainable musicmaking organization based in Florida, “Gaia” combines the environmental mission of the Green Vibes Project and my own mission as a feminist artist. “Gaia” is for flute, vibraphone, recycled wood cajón, and fixed media—all metal-based or recycled wood instruments in accordance with the Green Vibes Project’s mission for sustainability in instrument-making and forest preservation.
“Gaia” is a musical, textural, and spiritual exploration of Earth as embodied by the eponymous primordial Greek goddess. The piece is a celebration of Earth, Mother, the very personification of nature and its gifts. I honor her power by emulating the sounds of nature including the elements of water and air and the sounds of birds.
To celebrate both the grace and power of the element of water, I used sound samples of rain, rivers, streams, sea surge, and crashing ocean waves in the fixed media track. The live flutist performs key clicks and the cajón player taps randomly on the wood, both actions intended to imitate raindrops. To evoke the essence of wind, I employed air sounds and whistle tones on the flute as well as gentle dynamic noise from rubbing the face of the cajón. The fixed media includes recorded inhales and exhales, suggesting the sonification of Gaia’s breath. The temporal freedom of a senza misura score allows for an organic blend and collaboration between the live ensemble and the fixed media.
I celebrate the animals of Gaia’s vibrant green earth by including bird song samples in the fixed media and imitations of bird song on the flute via trills, both timbral and pitched, as well as whistle tones, quarter-tone bends, and flourishes. The thrust of wind from flapping wings leading to a powerful hawk cry, emphasized by a jet whistle effect on the flute, propels the piece into section B, taking the piece away from its senza misura freedom and into a steady groove.
The groove section features added electronic production in the fixed media track. A synth arpeggiator adds a new textural element while an electronic kick drum provides a steady beat. This section also features more interaction between the fixed media and the live instruments. Recorded flute and vibraphone alternate flourishes and harmonize some moments, blurring the aural distinction between the live instruments and their fixed media counterparts. The groove continues to develop into section C, where the cajón player is invited to improvise a groove to support and add interest to the media and live ensemble rhythms. A kalimba groove enters in the fixed media, along with electronic pad swells and other effects.
An ascending and rhythmically accelerating flourish in the flute, aided by a crashing wave in the fixed media, propels the piece into section D. In this section, a new groove pattern emerges and the flute takes on a melodic role.
Section E features an interlocking dialogue between flute and vibraphone that grows increasingly virtuosic as it leads into section F, with an ensemble fortissimo and stronger sea surge and a chorus of seagulls in the fixed media.
With a flute trill, vibraphone chord tremolo, and electronic pad swell leading to a dramatic bar of silence followed by a fixed media inhale, the piece returns to its free natural ambience and textural sounds.
After a gradual fade out of the flute whistle tones, cajón textural noise, and gentle bowed vibraphone tones, the fixed media rainforest ambience fades to nothing, concluding the piece.