Book ReviewsFeaturedIssuesJanuary 2024Reviews

Beatboxing and Beyond by Nicole Chamberlain and Mary Matthews

Dr. Mary Matthews: Flutist Mary Matthews enjoys an active career as an international soloist, chamber musician, orchestral flutist, studio musician, and pedagogue, and has performed on four continents in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Severance Hall, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Fundação Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina, Festival Goethe Institut Música Nueva, and Cité Internationale des Arts. Dr. Matthews is Assistant Professor of Flute at Florida State University's College of Music, and prior to her appointment at FSU, she served as Associate Professor of Flute at Tennessee Tech's School of Music. She currently serves as second flute of the Tallahassee Symphony, and she performs regularly with orchestras such as the Nashville Symphony, Knoxville Symphony, and Chattanooga Symphony, among others.

Nicole Chamberlain: Composer and flutist Nicole Chamberlain (b. 1977) has a varied career in the arts, acquiring simultaneous bachelor’s degrees in Music Composition and Digital Media at the University of Georgia. Her original compositions are influenced by storytelling and visual imagery from her former day job as a web animator and designer. Currently, Chamberlain balances her time composing, teaching, performing, and avoiding graphic design work as much as possible.

Brief history of the book:

Mary: Our first book “Beatboxing and Beyond: An Essential Method for the 21st-Century Flutist” was released in 2021. In that book, we selected fourteen of the most common extended techniques and included descriptions, practice techniques, standard notation, troubleshooting ideas, and etudes for each. We also emphasized the importance of each technique in improving traditional flute playing. Each etude focused on a single extended technique by introducing the technique and then developing the difficulty as the etude progressed. We have been thrilled with this book's support, so we were excited to release the next volume that builds on this concept.

Nicole: We envisioned this as a series of books to keep up with the experimentation in the flute repertoire. As we all know, compositions typically use multiple extended techniques - even using multiple techniques simultaneously! We knew that the next logical step would be to create a book that uses extended techniques in the way we see them in the flute repertoire. This resulted in our newest book “Into the Beyond, Volume 2” which we released in October of 2023. “Into the Beyond” covers alternating between two extended techniques in part one and playing two extended techniques simultaneously in part two. Our hope is that these books will help people fearlessly tackle the variety of music being composed today!

Mary: We plan to continue this series and will release at least three more books.

Why did you decide to publish this book?

Nicole: I did not get much training on extended techniques when I was in college. It was viewed more as special effects - a fad even. After college, I became more confident as a composer and interested in exploring extended flute techniques. I wanted to use them as composers use bowings and pizzicati for string players. Since I had little experience, and the music already composed using extended techniques was complex, I decided to write more introductory-level pieces for myself so I could learn at my own pace.

One of the goals of a composer is to get others to play your music ultimately. I found on several occasions that other flutists were uncomfortable with extended techniques, so I realized if I wanted others to play my music, I would need to teach it. I also realized my traditional flute playing had grown since incorporating extended techniques into my arsenal. I found the correlation useful in convincing people that extended techniques were ridiculously fun and had an added benefit to traditional flute playing. So I started teaching a workshop called “Beatboxing to a Better Bach,” where I used Bach’s Partita in A Minor to demonstrate how beatboxing could improve your performance of standard rep.

While I was doing this, unbeknownst to me, Mary was doing something similar.

Mary: Yes! I was coming to similar conclusions. I was incorporating extended techniques into the Taffanel and Gaubert exercises to expose my students slowly to these techniques and challenge them in a new way that helped develop endurance, air capacity, ear training, and articulation.

Through Nicole’s work in composition and performance and my work in teaching and performance, Nicole and I realized that there was a need for accessible resources for teachers, students, and professionals who were interested in learning music written during our time. We needed a resource that teaches people how to play each extended technique and includes etudes that start at an introductory level and gradually become more difficult. I felt confident in my ability to write about the pedagogy but not in my ability to compose etudes.

Nicole: And we all know I’m not going to do anything that ambitious on my own - and I have trust issues, so I won’t work with just anyone. Mary and I have a very comfortable working history and friendship.

Mary: This was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate on a project that could help us, our flute community, and our students.

Nicole: Once we had “Beatboxing and Beyond” out in the world and saw such a positive reaction, we felt confident building on this with “Into the Beyond.” So with Mary’s expertise in performing and teaching new music, it wasn’t hard to find popular combinations of extended techniques that needed explanation and exercise. This book certainly came faster than the first.

Mary: I think we’ve developed a really efficient collaborative process at this point. I came up with a list of the most common combinations of extended techniques by combing through as much flute repertoire as I could find using Flute New Music Consortium repertoire lists, NFA repertoire lists, university and conservatory repertoire lists, concert programs, and pieces I have performed as a frequent performer and commissioner of new music. I sent the list to Nicole, and she immediately started writing the etudes. When the etudes were completed, she sent them to me, and I completed the practice guides for each. We finished the book by collaborating on the recommended repertoire lists you’ll find throughout the book.

Where did you get your Inspiration?

Mary: Our flute community as a whole was our inspiration. Through conversations with friends, colleagues, and students, we noticed we weren’t the only ones needing a resource to help educate ourselves and our students. I saw a resource lacking for my studio, and Nicole saw a resource lacking for those who wanted to play her music.

Nicole: And while we’re on the topic of helping composers, I have the luxury of being a flutist who can help flutists with their questions about my music. Not all composers who love writing for flute with extended techniques have that history.

Flutists now have a way to dip their toes into the pool of extended techniques without drowning in the deep end by trying to learn extended techniques for the first time while playing a complicated piece of music.

Mary: Yes! As both a college professor and a former teacher of high school and middle school-aged flutists, I wanted a resource that would clearly explain extended techniques and pace them in a progressive way that students could study before encountering them in a piece. Our goal was to alleviate fear, make extended techniques more accessible, and explain their many benefits to traditional flute playing! For flutists specializing in music from an earlier period, these books can still be helpful in taking your traditional playing to the next level. I’ve seen it help tone production, endurance, breathing, and articulation in many students as they tackle the standard repertoire.

Nicole: That payoff has also been a huge motivation in my own playing. I found that extended techniques reframed regular techniques for me. Everything improved - and it's ridiculous fun.

We hope people find the book useful on many fronts. And we encourage people to use the etudes in performance.

Mary: Yes! Not only did we want these etudes to be exercises, but they can also serve as complete compositions to help flutists get comfortable performing these techniques in front of others.

Nicole: Nothing solidifies abilities like performing!

Facts about the project

Mary: “Into the Beyond” is divided into two sections and includes 16 etudes in total. The first section includes eight etudes that alternate between two different extended techniques. For example, alternating between beatboxing syllables and jet whistles or alternating between whistle tones and aeolian air sound. The second section includes eight etudes that combine two extended techniques simultaneously. This includes pairing multiphonics and beatboxing syllables, timbral trills and flutter tonguing, and much more!

Nicole: This is where Mary’s experience in performing and teaching new music was helpful to me. I hadn’t taken that next step in composing multiple techniques at one time. Or even performing them! So, it was an exciting challenge for me to compose and practice. Forty-six years old and still learning - usually from Mary.

Mary: Truly, though, together, we have learned so much about what people are composing, and we are thrilled to support our composer community as well. For every etude, we included two or three examples of wonderful pieces that use these technique pairings, and we hope people will dig into and perform these works!

Nicole: Yes! We live in an exciting time for new music. There is something for everyone, and we want to help you find it and tackle it confidently and successfully.

Demo and Tutorial Video Playlist

Link to “Into the Beyond, Volume 2” book:

Link to “Beatboxing and Beyond, Volume 1” book:

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