A Klee Gallery was written for the Los Angeles Flute Quartet and represents six sound pictures, illustrating the Paul Klee drawings matching the pieces' titles. Each movement uses a different combination of piccolos, C flutes, alto flute or bass flute, and every movement is performed by the entire quartet.
The first movement, The Twittering Machine, from 1921 (Klee-Stiftung, Berne) has four birds as quasi stick figures on a branch and suggests some of the early Alexander Calder wire sculptures. The entire composition bristles with nervous activity, and it is this animated quality that I have tried to capture in the ensemble of four piccolos for Movement I.
The second movement, A Fragment of Eden, from 1913 (F.C. Schang's Collection, New York), is an exotic, vertical landscape of outrageous and surreal vegetation. I try to capture the implied primeval lushness with the complement of four C flutes. All the material contributes to a kind of balanced complex of intertwining melodies.
The third movement, Fragment from a Ballet for Aeolian Harp, from 1922 (Angela Rosengart Collection, Lucerne) is scored for one piccolo, two C flutes, and alto flute. The upwardly floating series of arpeggios in the music refers to the aeolian harp itself, an instrument whose strings are activated by the wind. The Klee drawing projects a darkened stage, dominated by a ballerina in polka dotted tu-tu, which another ambiguous figure observes from stage right. The dancer's hair initiates the sense of motion, forming a kind of Lorenz attractor, the significant symbol of the fractal universe.
The fourth movement, Exotics Theatre, from 1922 (Klee Stiftung) is like a cartoon of ten line figures at different stage depths, poised in frontal defiance. They all appear in fantastic headgear, poised for some obscure ritual.Echoing the bright white background of the drawing and the implicit aggressiveness of the troupe, I have used two piccolos and two C flutes.
As a stark contrast I have placed Klee's Materialised Ghosts, from 1923 (Rosengart Collection) which places two major and two minor characters who appear to be wearing masks at the front and rear of the stage. The central figure has a cross on the headgear and the other protagonist suggest a mediaeval or African warrior in appearance. The bodies of these figures are made of a variety of textures. My complement of two C flutes, alto, and bass flutes casts a dark pallor on the scene and suggests a muted formalism, playing against the black background of the drawing.
The Finale of this set of character pieces refers to the only abstract art in the collection, Polyphony, a tiled assemblage of spotted blocks from 1932 (Emanuel Hoffman-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum, Basle). Two of the piccolos return with bright gestures, obliquely suggesting the opening of the set of pieces, while the C and alto flutes provide support. As the title would obviously suggest, the movement is frought with imitative passages and complex overlapping motifs with distant baroque references. The almost Hindemith-like seriousness is suddenly broken with Jimmy Crack Corn, and I Don't Care, a folk tune made popular by Burl Ives. Throwing this material into the musical stew increases the complexity, until the alto flute uses the tune as a cantus firmus against the return of the opening material.