24 Petite Melodic Etudes

Like any young flute player studying privately I began with Moyse’s long tone studies from De La Sonorite at a very young age but wasn’t told whose ideas I was following until later in my flute studies. Until more recently I was an impatient student who resented my teachers for making me play long tones because I didn’t really understand what I was listening for and trying to fix with these long, sustained notes. I thought that my sound was a good flute sound and didn’t need any working on and focused the majority of my attention on technique and learning repertoire.

This mentality completely changed for me the first time I heard Trevor Wye teach from Moyse’s 24 Petite Melodic Etudes. I was accepted into his Flute Studio for 2012-2013 and spent all summer preparing my fingers for the technical exercises I knew that he was going to hand to us. The first time he heard me play, however, he informed me that my sound was, in fact, not as good as I had perceived it to be. It was a blow to my flute ego, but it was through Moyse’s exercises and reading about his passion for the arias he was hearing in the Paris Opera that I began to understand what had been missing in my flute playing and also teaching. I believe as musicians we teach what we often spend the most time working on in our own practice, and so it was this experience that began to change me as a musician as a whole.

For me, the most important change and lesson that I have learned from Moyse’s teachings is making the notes on the page come alive into a phrase, melody, and music. This encompasses all elements of flute playing and music making, including listening for different qualities in the sound and bringing out different colors, to paying attention to the little notes, emphasis on different notes or motifs, etc. 24 Petite Melodic Etudes is where I re-learned the principal ideas in music-making and it became what I base all of my musical decisions on now.

When I first looked at #1 in the 24 Petite Melodic Etudes book I looked at it from a technical standpoint. I thought that it was a simple line and I could learn it easily. I was confident the first time I played it for Trevor, and when I was finished he asked me what the exercise was intended to teach me, and I had no idea. The idea of appoggiaturas, even after a college degree, was a foreign concept to me outside of the music theory classroom. Playing at a true pianissimo on the first note was also difficult for me, but I went home and truly started to play long, sustained tones and listening to the sound I was producing. After a couple of weeks my study #1 had evolved from two lines of notes and rests into a beautiful melody and it inspired me. Every single note matters, and there are infinite possibilities in expressing each note on the page to play a phrase. I took this lesson with me into the other 23 studies and beyond into his 25 Melodious Studies and always looked at each exercise and variation, even though they were all intended for a specific lesson or purpose, as just simple melodies waiting to come alive.

Working through his Tone Development through Interpretation was vital in my musical growth as well; it taught me to sing through the flute. It seems obvious that a book of opera arias and excerpts would teach this sort of lesson, but it was a combination of all the lessons I had learned in his other books, hearing Trevor and Wibb teach these excerpts and ideas, and my own growth as well. Every single melody came alive to me; I would research the stories of the operas and try to understand what the characters were feeling and interpret that through the flute. I would imagine sadness, anger, excitement, etc., and use any emotion I felt that the characters in the stories would be portraying and used those to shape the colors I chose to use in my playing, and the energy with which I approached each tune.

At this point in my studies with Trevor I had borrowed his copy of Ann McCutchan’s book and began to understand who Moyse was as a person, too. I think knowing what a person was like can make a difference in how their teachings are perceived when they are gone; Moyse came alive to me in those pages. He never seemed to take his joy for music making and the flute for granted. It left me with the mentality that as musicians, we get to do something not everyone has the chance to do and I feel that it’s a privilege. In some ways I think this is how Moyse viewed his career, especially after struggling with all of his health issues. This is the musician and teacher I strive to be. I strive to be someone that makes every single note, articulation, and dynamic marking matter to create a beautiful phrase; the kind of flute player that applies lyrics to lines and utilizes emotions and colors to always be expressive and to make the music come alive. I strive to be the musician and teacher that inspires their students and listeners to do the same, just as Moyse inspired so many while he was alive and continues to inspire from the teachings of his students. I think he really was “the voice of the flute,” and his ideas on finding all possible tone colors and expressive techniques has truly shaped me into the flute player that is finding her own voice and teaching others to do the same.