Performance Practice
of Electroacoustic Music

Brian Ferneyhough



Mnemosyne for bass flute and 8-track tape is the last piece of Ferneyhough’s Carceri d`invenzione cycle. It was commissioned by the Südwestfunk (SWF). It was premiered by flutist Roberto Fabricciani on October 17, 1986 in Donaueschingen. The title alludes to the Greek goddess of memory. On a compositional level Mnemosyne makes use of harmonic material from the other six pieces of the Carceri d`invenzione cycle (Ferneyhough (1986), p.137).


Mnemosyne has ten sections. They can be identified by the measure changes and the double bar line between sections. All pitches are enveloped according to the eight basic chords of the whole cycle, using their quarter tone versions.

The Tape

The score for the tape part was composed before the solo part (Ferneyhough (1995), p.137).  The tape part is thus an integral structural element on the piece. The eight basics chords of Carceri d`invenzione are also its structural basis. “Mnemosyne is based on the multilayered interaction of diverse metrical and temporal patterns, whereby the ‘metronome´ function is here assumed by the tape materials, which emphasize exclusively the downbeats of each measure“ (Ferneyhough (1995), p. 137). In this case, a pitch or a pitch group will be shown on the first beat of the bar. No new pitches appear inside the bar. From section 3 onwards, every section is opened by one of the basic chords. The number of voices in the tape increases throughout the piece from one to eight.

The tape part was first produced with the assistance of flutist Roberto Fabbricciani and technician Rudi Strauss at the Experimentalstudio of Südwestfunk, Freiburg im Breisgau (Ferneyhough (1995), p.137).

The tape has different functions:

  1. “Metronome function”. In this case the first beat of each bar will be emphasized by different flutes. It will be used to precise the metrical changes.
  2. Harmonic. Every section is based on only one chord.
  3. Timbre. There are different kind of techniques like tremolo, glissandi, double trills and large value pitches.

There are three different options to perform Mnemosyne.

  1. At the end of the whole Cycle and immediately after the performance of Carceri d`invenzione III.
  2. Separately with tape
  3. Separately with accompaniment by 8 flutes. This option was first played by Pierre-Yves Artaud as soloist and the Orchestre des Flûtes Francais directed by Alain Louvier on the April 18, 1988 at Centre Pompidou, Paris.


-Edition Peters, London, EP 7347, Copyright 1986 by Hinrichsen Ed.

The score provides information about all performance versions, including the tape, its synchronization and amplification.

The publisher additionally rents the following material:

-Score (7347/2003)

-Bass Flute part with separate pages (7347/01)

-Small score (7347/702)

-Bass Flute parts (1-8 7347a/01)

-Bass Flute parts 1-8, larger format (performance parts) (7347)

-Solo bass flute performing score (7347/01)

-Performance material for the recording of the tape



Pre-recorded tape part for performance: Edition Peters (included with score)

Performer: Carin Levine

Format: Audio CD with 3 Tracks

Track 1: Concert track,

Tracks 2 and 3: Rehearsal tracks, mono tape L, Click R

Duration: 9:58

-Since the concert track of the CD has no click track, one has to synchronize the click with the help of the rehearsal track.

-During the ZHdK workshop, a new performance tape was realized with the performer (s. performance Report)


Archival material

Paul Sacher Stiftung, Sammlung Brian Ferneyhough


-Score (fair copy with corrections) for channels 1-4 of tape music

-Score (fair copy with corrections) for channels 5-8 of tape music

-Flute part (music print: photocopy; incomplete)


Editorial/authorial instruction

Spatial disposition of speakers and musicians:

In a performance with 8 accompanying flutes, flutes 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 7, 4 and 3 are to be positioned in a semi-circle (s. score).

In a performance with stereo tape, the left loudspeaker’s position corresponds to that of flute 1, the right loudspeaker takes the position of flute 3 (the mixing of 8 flutes in stereo panorama obviously corresponds to the semicircular distribution of the flutes. Far left: flute 1, far right: flute 3, etc.).

The score provides no information with respect to tuning, however, when the piece is performed as part of the whole Carceri cycle, tuning would have to be at 440 Hz to match the marimbaphone.  If the performance tape by C. Levine is used, the tuning must obviously correspond to it.

Synchronization is achieved by a click track in performances for solo flute and tape, in performances for solo flute and 8 flutes it can be provided by a click track or by a conductor (version for solo and 8 flutes).

For performance in larger spaces, the score recommends that “discrete” amplification be used.


Performance report

The piece was performed in concert at ZHdK on January 28, 2016 with Rafal Zolkos playing the solo part.

As mentioned above, a performance tape (8-channel and stereo SR/bit depth: 88,2 kHz / 24 bit, 9’58’’) was prepared by Rafal Zolkos (flute), Florian Bogner and Carlos Hidalgo (sound engineering).

Preparing the tape

The click track from the publisher’s performance tape was used for recording and performance. A few slips, presumably caused by a transfer from ADAT tape to computer, had to be fixed first.

Accuracy in microtonal pitches on the bass flute is particularly difficult in the lower register, where no alternative fingering exists. It is also highly dependent on the instrument. Pitch accuracy was one of the main reasons for Mr. Zolkos to record his own performance tape. His goal was to have the pitches as exact as possible. Pitch control was effected using an electronic tuner, part by part, fragment by fragment.

During the recording process, the performer listened to the click just on one ear.

Three microphones were used:

– left and right: Schoeps MK21 (condensor, wide cardioid);

– center at approx. 1 meter distance: Royer R121 (ribbon, figure 8).


Rehearsal process and performance: selected issues

-8-channel vs. Stereo

A comparison of the 8-channel version and the stereo mix was done. The 8-channel setup with 8 loudspeakers placed in a semicircle (as intended when performing with solo and eight accompanying flutes) appeared more vivid and detailed and likely to convey a sense of depth compared to the same tape bounced to a stereo mix. The speakers were placed above the head of the performer in order to highlight the different layers.

-Click track

The click track can become audible for the audience if wearing open in-ear headphones, especially when using amplification. Closed in-ear headphones on the other hand can be perceived as very unpleasant by performers due to the asymmetric hearing situation. In this performance, a closed in-ear headphone was used.


The performer used six music stands in a line. The amplification was implemented with four microphones in order to achieve a smooth transition along the stands. The sum was routed to a center speaker hanging from the ceiling at seven meters that provided a stable, clear image in the large hall, avoiding loss of high frequencies. Additionally, the signal was panned evenly between speakers 1 and 8. The faders of the four microphones were opened and closed manually (+- 10dB) according to the position of the player.

-Sound diffusion

The tape was played at lower volume than the sound of the flutist, especially at the beginning, allowing for a clear fore- and background image, but providing enough substance. The level was adapted dynamically according to the density and dynamics of the tape and the solo part.

Thoughts on performance with 1+8 flutes

A performance with eight accompanying flutes raises some additional issues, of which intonation is probably the most critical. Also, the difference in color due to the use of different flute models might prove a demanding issue to resolve.

Selected Bibliography

Ferneyhough, Brian, Collected writings (edited by James Boros and Richard Toop), Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995.

–        “Carceri d’Invenzione”. Program notes to the first performance of complete cycle at the Donaueschingen Musiktage, Donaueschingen, 17 October 1986 (1986), pp. 131-138;

–       “Carceri d’Invenzione. In conversation with Richard Toop” (1986), pp. 290-302

–        “The tactility of time”. From a conference at the Darmstädter Ferienkursen 1988 (1988), pp. 43-50.

–       “Interview with Philippe Albera” (1988), pp. 303-335: 334.

–       “Shattering the vessels of received wisdom: in conversation with James Boros” (1990), pp. 369-405: 395-398.

–       “Interview with James Boros” (1992), pp. 431-446: 439.

Pätzold, Cordula, … die meisterliche Entfaltung von Schichtenaufbau und Perspektive… Organisationsstrukturen in “Carceri d’Invenzione”, in Musik- Konzepte 140: Brian Ferneyhough (edited by Ulrich Tadday), München: Edition Text + Kritik, 2008.

Pätzold, Cordula,“Carceri d’invenzione” von Brian Ferneyhough: kompositionstechnische und höranalytische Aspekte, Dissertation Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg im Breisgau, 2002.

Pätzold, Cordula. “Carceri d’Invenzione” von Brian Ferneyhough: Analyse der Kompositionstechnik, Hofheim: Wolke, 2010.

Schematic Overview

Piece information

Composer Brian Ferneyhough
Title Mnemosyne
Year 1986
Studio Experimentalstudio des Südwestfunk
Type Flute and tape (or eight flutes)
Duration 10’30’’
Publisher Edition Peters


Performance material

Publisher Edition Peters (score(s), parts, pre-recorded tape, instructions


Archival material

Paul Sacher Stiftung Sketches, scores, parts


Commercial releases (selection)

Roberto Fabbriciani (1995) Agora AG 113.1
Carin Levine (2012) Musica Phon M55721