Grendel for Solo Flute

Grendel (mj200) was written for solo flute with B extension, to exploit multiphonics and stamina. Composed for Carola Nielinger who in 1993 gave the first of many performances, such as the one below:

An assembly of just and righteous Danes is repeatedly woken to find itself the body of a supernatural feast. Grendel, a monster half-human and half-alien (quasi-polar bear) devours his fill in Heorot, a resonant hall. He then returns to his underwater lair. At his final feasting the meal is interrupted by the hero, Beowulf, who, after a well-matched fight, rips off the monster’s shoulder and arm. Grendel slinks off to his cavern to die. Grendel’s mother, weaker but furious, sets out to attempt a futile revenge. Although Beowulf will triumph after yet more Danes have been eaten, the hero will eventually lose his life battling against the Worm.

The flute piece takes its design from the Old English heroic epic, Beowulf. The music follows the pattern of surprise-variety-inevitability found in those sections of Beowulf which refer to Grendel. The poem’s many digressions are ignored, but the alliterative accent-pattern within the immediate line is frequently retained. Yet this basic synopsis, with its poetic structure, is only a starting-point for the flute piece. Any programmatic elements are to be found in the viciousness of the two meals, and in the unnatural sounds of Grendel’s approach to the hall, which summons up extended unco-ordinated multiphonics based on eighth-tone scales.

Music copyright of the composer. In order to upload this recording, much compression was needed. Please email if you require cd quality.