One of the things that I find really interesting about flute/percussion duo is that their traditional roles of musical expression within larger ensembles seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. While the flute is typically associated with delicate lyricism, percussion is often charged with conveying rhythmic aggression. When Eric and Kristin first approached me about writing a piece for them, I immediately knew that I wanted to subvert those expectations. However, rather than trying to simply reverse those associations, I wanted to explore ways of combining extra-musical inspirations that composers have traditionally assigned to these instruments. Historically, the flute has been closely associated with birdcalls and percussion has been a symbol of conflict. I thought a union of these two disparate concepts could prove to be particularly interesting.
On the surface, these two subjects seem to have very little to do with each other, but after surfing Wikipedia for a while, I came across a uniquely aggressive behavior exhibited by a seemingly innocuous bird, the finch. When an outside threat to their young is perceived, the adults will sound an alert to other finches in the area. This mobbing call triggers an organized response in which the predator is repeatedly attacked until it eventually retreats. After a bit more research, I found a few others animals that exhibited a similar response to predatory threats and was inspired to make this a multi-movement work based upon the behavior of three very different animals. The mobbing behavior of finches is meant to deter and distract the threat, in which the adults take turns dive-bombing and flying into the face of the predator. Bluegills will band closely together in order to make themselves appear to be a larger animal and gradually nudge the threat out of their territorial waters. Meerkats employ an organized two-pronged approach against cobras, with individuals taking turns to taunt the snake and dodge its strikes, while the rest of the group attacks it from behind.