Twenty-Four Petite Melodic Etudes With Variations

Moyse created these books as a way of finding a larger dramatic and emotional range on the flute. His goal was for flutists to find limitless possibilities with our tone colors, vibrato, and dynamic range. Describe a strategy for studying/ using either book that would take you through a broad spectrum of feelings/ colors/ characters. Marcel Moyse’s book Twenty-Four Petite Melodic Etudes With Variations contains melodies that are appropriate to almost any mood, emotion, or character. There are connected, flowing melodies, and more lighthearted, bouncy selections. This diversity makes it fairly easy to experiment with different ways of playing; in particular, the subdivided variations will not only help with dynamic pacing, but can also help one to plan color or mood changes in the sound.

Tone color and emotion are very intimately related, and imagining a particular character, personality, or image can help combine the two into one cohesive idea. For example, I may apply the image of a flowing river to the second melody in the book, because of its long, connected lines and possibility for extreme variety. A river will bring to mind particular colors that can translate to tone, maybe of the actual river, blue, or of the nature surrounding it, which is also usually rich colors such as green and brown. Thus, the tone might be one that is rich without being too harsh or dark. Emotionally, a river may call to mind connectivity, change, or peace, which can all influence our particular mood while playing. Going further with the idea of an ever-changing river, it might also be appropriate to decide where to change vibrato depth and speed to match the already notated dynamic variety. Rivers often have rapids, so why not add particularly intensity in vibrato and color at the marked peak of each crescendo?

Melodies are very well suited to images, but also work extremely well to describe characters. The fifth melody in the book is contrasting to the previous example in articulation, rhythm, and tempo, which makes it seem more light and playful. A good character for this melody could be the archetypal jokester. Coming up with words to describe this character will help create a scene that can be matched to phrasing and dynamics. I might imagine someone moving about very quickly, flitting around to plan mischief. The long-short rhythm might be the sound of skipping. All of these images will almost certainly produce the appropriate lift and length of note desired for lightness. It would be very beneficial to one’s flute playing, and overall creative process, to come up with original scenes or characters to go with each melody. Specific scenarios may include assigning a well-known character (from opera, literature, or popular culture) to each melody, imagining favorite vacation destinations, or deciding what kind of animal may represent the melody – the possibilities are endless! Additionally, switching characters or scenes in the middle will add an extra challenge. Again, I would urge using the subdivisions to pace out changes in color and dynamic. Coming up with an overarching idea will then create a backdrop for emotional, color, dynamic, and vibrato choices. Younger students will also be much more engaged and excited to participate in creating their own scenes. Moyse created this wonderful book that in turn provides us an opportunity to be true, creative artists. Making choices to try something new or unusual is not only fun, but will also inevitably lead to artistic growth.