In its February review of the compact disc recording “Vayu, Multi-cultural Flute Solos from the Twenty-First Century,” American Record Guide hails West Virginia University flute professor Nina Assimakopoulos as “an artistic force to be reckoned with.”
Assimakopoulos released the compact disc recording in August of 2015, after completing the project with the support of a WVU Senate Research Grant.
The CD has received Grammy recognition, chosen for the first round of the nomination process for Best Classical Instrumental Solo. It’s also received a series of stellar reviews from prestigious recording publications including American Record Guide, Fanfare Magazine, and CutCommon Magazine.
“Vayu,” produced and released by AMP Recordings, showcases eleven works for solo western flute influenced by a variety of musical traditions including Jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Rock, as well as flute sounds influenced by Native American flute and the Japanese Shakuhachi and Noh flutes. The pieces demand a mastery of performance practices that go beyond conventional playing techniques of the flute, known as ‘extended techniques.’
The extended techniques employed in the works recorded on this CD include multiphonics (two pitches played simultaneously), singing and playing at the same time, jet whistles (loud propulsions of air through the instrument), and in vocal percussion or what is known as ‘beat-boxing.’
“I was attracted to these compositions because of the diversity of musical traditions they embrace and the challenges they pose for the flutist,” said Assimakopoulos, who began playing flute at age eleven after attending a band concert where she saw stage lights shimmering up and down the silver instrument.
Of Assimakopoulos’ recording, Fanfare Magazine writes in its February publication, “It is often difficult to maintain the interest of an audience with a recital of solo works for monophonic instrument. Assimakopoulos overcomes that hurdle by her savvy repertoire selections, collected over years of seeking outstanding new works for her instrument, and by the intensity and beauty of her playing. She has remarkable technique, and a lovely core tone that she is able to manipulate to great effect in this dazzling array of novel, even exotic, works.”
Assimakopoulos who is additionally a visual artist, enjoys the added dimension of musical ‘color’ that these particular pieces offer for the performer.
“The pieces provide not only multiple technical challenges but a refreshing opportunity to delve deeply into the timbral or ‘tone color’ possibilities of the instrument, especially when striving to evoke the various sounds created by flutes from other cultures,” says the WVU flute professor.
Assimakopoulos’ exploration of contemporary music for the flute began about 20 years ago. She is credited with over 84 new music commissions and world-premiere performances as well as three other solo CD recordings specializing in this particular genre of music. She has received the Aaron Copland Fund Grant for New Music Recording, two Fulbright grants, the National Society of Arts and Letters Career Award, and is internationally recognized as one of the top performers of contemporary music in her field.
As an artist committed to the performance of contemporary flute music, Assimakopoulos strives to encourage its exploration among her flute students and gives masterclasses and clinics on these techniques nationally and internationally in Europe, South America, and Asia.
“It can be very daunting for a young performer to consider learning a piece with extended techniques. The first barrier lies in the notation – the music often has elements that look nothing like tradition musical notation. Secondly, the sounds produced and techniques used to make them are often far from standard flute playing conventions, which makes these techniques like learning a new musical language.”
At WVU the undergraduate flute majors begin their studies of this type of music within their first or second year. Graduate students are encouraged to add the most advanced of these works to their repertoire, many of which are included here among the eleven works recorded in this CD.
“Having a recording of these works that has been well crafted is an invaluable teaching resource,” says Assimakopoulos. “It provides the students with a vision as well as a guide to use as they begin their exploration. This was certainly one of the priorities I had in mind when venturing forth with this recording project.”
“Vayu” can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon.com.
CONTACT: David Welsh, WVU College of Creative Arts
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