August 2013 Convention
New Orleans, LA

Masterclass: Pierre-Yves Artaud and Greg Pattillo

The class taught by Pierre-Yves Artaud and Greg Pattillo was a two-part session. The first portion was a traditional masterclass with Artaud, professor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and featuring winners of the 2013 NFA Masterclass Performers Competition. The second portion was an open masterclass taught by beatboxing flutist, Greg Pattillo.

Terence Teow and Bridget Bertoldi performed unaccompanied pieces by 20th-century composers in the first half of the class. Teow played “Cassandra’s Dream Song” by Brian Ferneyhough and Bertoldi played Ian Clarke’s “Zoom Tube.” Referring to the Ferneyhough piece, Artaud stated that “it is impossible to play everything, especially at speed, and Brian knows it.” The music is written in sections on left and right pages, and during the performance, the performer must combine one section of the left page with one section on the right. The left page represents destiny, and the right represents a break from this—freedom.

Greg Pattillo

Artaud pointed out a difference between how we perform contemporary music and traditional music. “Contemporary music destroys the relationship between gesture and sound—in traditional music, when we play forte, we play with forte fingers; when we play soft, we play with soft fingers. We also forget to play the silences.” Referring to the Clarke piece, Artaud likened it to a written improvisation. He remarked that the “personality of the player and style is very important” for successful performance of this piece.

Following the more traditional masterclass, Pattillo took charge of the room and guided attendees through a series of exercises to learn basic beatboxing techniques. He commented that “we must learn to beatbox before we can beatbox on the flute.” He taught the participants three basic sounds, a high hat (“tse”), snare (an aeolian sound with a “k”), and a bass drum kick (“puh”). He cautioned that the for the bass drum kick, the throat must be very open. Some sounds are produced with support from the diaphragm—an “H” sound (“ha, ha, ha”—no tongue).

After learning basic beatboxing techniques, Pattillo used a pneumonic (boots, cats, BBQ) to teach a series of beatbox effects. This became the basis for improvisatory activities. He called for four volunteers and created duos, trios, and quartets using the mnemonic, long tones, with one person designated as soloist. For instance, in a trio, one person did the beatbox, one did the long tone, and one was the soloist and could improvise freely. He had people take turns so everyone had a chance to do each part. Pattillo stressed that it is important to “learn the beatbox first,” and the most important thing “is to make the sounds consistent.”

—Rebecca Hovan

photo by Brian Covington