The Lotus-Eaters (download)
What is a low-flute quartet? In this case: 2 alto flutes, bass and contrabass flutes. Because the alto flutes are in G, and the others in C, the low-flute quartet occupies precisely the same pitch-space of the string quartet.
When the Sandwich Low-flute Quartet requested a piece for such an ensemble, I immediately thought of soft consonants—and soft consonance. Homer’s Lotus-eaters came to mind: Driven off-course on his way back to Ithaka, Odysseus, in Samuel Butler’s words, described his plight:
On the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower, . . . so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them. Nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.
While the music is not exactly programmatic, the flutes gradually lose the genial theme that appears at letter F, are led away in a trance and vigorous scales evoke the waves of a gray sea. A memory of a famous flute piece is hidden in the last section. Can you name it?