The Voice of the Whale.

Krisztina Dér, “electric” flute
Emily Grissing, “electric” cello
Richard Auvil, “electric” piano

Vox Balaenae for three masked players (1971), by George Crumb (b. 1929)
Vocalise (…for the beginning of time)
Variations on Sea-Theme
~ Sea Theme
~ Archeozoic [Var. I]
~ Proterozoic [Var. II]
~ Paleozoic [Var. III]
~ Mesozoic [Var. IV]
~ Cenozoic [Var. V]
Sea-Nocturne (…for the end of time)

January 18, 2014.

20140118_130608“Exuberant, uninterrupted rivers of sound”–these are the words zoologist Robert Searle Payne used to describe the musical sounds produced by humpback whales, which he discovered in 1969.  Payne’s recording of the whale song was given to George Crumb by the New York Camerata, commissioning a work inspired by the voice of the whale (or, Vox Balaenae, in latin).

Vox Balaenae is a synergy of theatrics, extended techniques, musical quotations, and a submarine-sound environment, with the use of amplification (hence the “electric” instruments).  Both the masks worn by the musicians and the deep-blue light in which they perform symbolize (according to the score) “the powerful impersonal forces of nature” by “effacing a sense of human projection.”  The variations are named after geological periods which describe the formation of the world.  The Archeozoic period was defined by volcanic activity and heat, while the Proterozoic period transitioned our planet to the oxygenated (and, thereby, complex-life friendly) atmosphere of the Paleozoic period.  The Mesozoic period is called the “Age of Reptiles” in contrast to the Cenozoic period, the “Age of Mammals.”    Technicalities aside, Vox Balaenae is a work of captivating, mysterious, timeless beauty–very much like a whale itself.

This performance took place on my second Master’s recital: January 18, 2014, in Watson Hall at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  Richard Auvil (piano) and Emily Grissing (cello) were both gracious enough to help me make my cetaceous dreams come true!



[Throwbacks.] II. Winds Upon a String.


After being haphazardly placed into an ensemble together at the beginning of their WindsUponAStringfreshman year of college, Linehan scholars Aimee Raechel and I formed Winds Upon a String, which marked the beginning of an adventure of musical fun and exploration.
Winds Upon A String… (formerly WindStroke) rehearsals always include randomness, laughter, improvisation, and epic brainstorming, resulting in performances that are always a hute–and super flarptastic!

Our greatest privileges thus far have included the opportunity to perform for a luncheon held in honor of Marin Alsop, internationally acclaimed conductor and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and to provide background music for a black-tie celebration in honor of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III‘s 20th year as President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County at the Waterfront Marriott in Baltimore, MD.

More recently, we commissioned the compostision WindStruck, by our friend and colleague Jennifer N. Roberts, which we premiered in 2012.

You can email us at for more information about us!

[Throwbacks.] I. Flute, harp, and composer.

WindsUponAString and JennOnce upon a time (2012, to be exact), a flute and harp duo called Winds Upon a String (featuring me and harpist Aimee Raechel) commissioned our lovely classmate, composer, and friend Jennifer N. Roberts to write us a piece to perform at the 2012 annual Linehan scholars dinner.

The piece that resulted, WindStruck, was inspired by tango and Finnish heavy metal.  Go check it out, here!

Musician vs. Technology.

Krisztina and ComputerIn July, I was honored to perform a revised version of  Michael Rothkopf‘s Improvisation for Flute and Computer.  Dr. Rothkopf, a composition and music technology professor at UNC School of the Arts, created a complex computer program which analyzes six elements of sound being produced by the performer (frequency, amplitude, etcetera), proceeds to make quick decisions with regards to how it ought to respond to those six elements (similarly, or in contrast?), and generates sounds of its own.  I imagine that, in a way, performing the piece was something like playing chess with Deep Blue.  There is always an element of the unexpected.

Click here to listen to a recording of the live performance.

Some opportunities come once in a lifetime.

GalwayI played for Sir James Galway.  It’s sort of hard to wrap my head around something so big, but–there it is.  I have been blessed with the experience of playing for a living legend.  I’m so glad he was able to come and teach a masterclass at UNCSA, and excited my studio was able to raise the money to get him to come.

Sir Jame’s advice?  Practice scales, practice embouchure, practice diminuendos, practice hand and finger technique.  Never forget the big picture.