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Creative Realisation in Collaborative Composition

Exploring Hulusi Embellishing Techniques in 21st Century Flute Repertoire

Doctor of Philosophy Thesis  



This practice-based research draws on the techniques of embellishment that are found in the hulusi flute playing of the Dai ethnic minority in China and applies them in the context of four new compositions for the Western flute, which have been commissioned for the project. The outputs take the form of a published CD recording, a score album and this thesis, which inform and illuminate one another, as well as a final performance. Through adapting distinctive hulusi embellishing techniques for the Western flute, the cross-cultural performance research develops a creative realisation process in which both the performer’s and the composer’s creativity and aesthetic ideas contribute to the creation of new works. The creative realisation process can therefore be understood as a form of collaborative composition in which the performer has formative and material input into the compositional process.

The thesis consists of three parts. Part I introduces the Dai style of hulusi flute playing and the embellishments that are used in traditional folk melodies. The analysis of hulusi flute embellishments is based on detailed study of recordings and field research in Lianghe in China. This part concludes by outlining how these traditional techniques of embellishment have been applied to the Western flute as part of the performance research. Part II focuses on the collaborations I carried out with four UK-based composer Alex McGery, Martin Gaughan, Basil Athanasiadis and Sandy Clark. It addresses how each composition is influenced by materials relating to Dai culture and evaluates the process of collaboration. Part III outlines the performance practice of creative realisation. This is achieved through documentation and analysis of the embellishments that were added to the flute part of each new composition and the strategies that were used to develop a personalised embellishment style.

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