From Dystopia to Utopia

Dystopia to Utopia; Hotteterre and Imagination in the time of COVID-19.Sally Walker. May 8, 2020

Sally Walker is Lecturer of Classical Woodwind Performance at the Australian NationalUniversity, Principal Flautist with the Omega Ensemble and regularGuest Principal with theAustralian Chamber Orchestra.

How we need each other and how we need music has been made profoundly clear over theselast weeks. There is plenty we can live without and a chance to reconsider what we live for.Balcony concerts, online lessons and home recordings are a reminder that what is essential,adapts to survive. Despite cancelled concerts confronting a sense of purpose as well as acapacity to earn an income for many musicians, there is also what ANU Human Futures Fellow DrArnagretta Hunter (who has flute lessons with me when she has time) calls“Dystopia to Utopia”; a chance for a complete rethink and “reset”. To clean out our musicshelves and find new or forgotten gems, to enjoy the quiet discipline of practice for its ownsake with no concert date, and a chance to slow down and make deliberate choices. What music do I really want to play? What music needs to be heard once we have concerts again?

The much-missed concert halls and recording studios are designed so that one loses a senseof time and focuses entirely upon the experience of music. Often, they do not havewindows. My practice has now been greatly integrated with both nature and my own body.Ihave little schedule except morning, noon and night, but I know that when the Kookaburrashave finished their morning hunting, my most difficult technical exercises are nearlycomplete. When the butterflies appear, I know it is around 11 am and time for a coffee break. When the dragonflies hurtle past, it is lunch time. My practice room now looks like the photoand each break, I religiously turn to the yoga and pilates exercises that previously required atrip into town.

It has been a chance to do something new with the intense concentration, reception andimaginationthat accompanies being less occupied. Trying to get ahead on some cadenzawriting, I revisited HOTTETERRE’s “L’Art de Préluder”, which I am now practising daily.This exercise is a wonderful way of being inventive on one chord (which you vary) and canbe used to practise fingering, articulation, dynamics, phrasing and ornamentation.

Hotteterre, Jacques Martin L’Art de Préluder. Paris: 1719 (trans. Dagmar Wilgo), WalhallEW 815 p. 8