The Jimi Hendrix of Flute
Robert Dick's music probably does not sound like anything you've ever heard before. In fact, after listening to him play his eight-piece set in Lorimer Chapel on Thursday, March 11, you would probably agree that his overall repertoire doesn't sound like that of any other musician you've ever heard.
Sometimes referred to as "The Jimi Hendrix of Flute," Dick has clearly mastered and redefined the flute, making the small woodwind instrument produce sounds one would think were impossible to make. He even showed off his own invention, the Glissando Headjoint, in his last song of the concert, Sliding Life Blues. The Headjoint is an extra attachment that goes on the end of the flute and allows Dick to bend notes like an electric guitar player.
Dick has recorded twenty-three albums over the past several decades and has experimented with a wide variety of musical styles and sounds. He put his diverse experience on display Thursday night, performing blues music, classic rock and even one heavy metal piece. In one of his songs, Dick surrounded the chorus of this piece with improvisations in different traditional music styles from all around the world, including musical styles from Africa and Asia.
Overall, however, I found much of Dick's work to be more mind-blowingly impressive than fun and enjoyable. After hearing Dick perform, legendary jazz trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie was reported to have said--and this is a direct quote from Dick's program--"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH........."
I have to admit that I too felt like screaming at times during the concert, either because Dick was doing something that was physically and aurally impressive or because I simply could not figure out exactly what was going on with the music. He can bend notes, he can play multiple notes at once on the same flute; it seemed like he can make the flute do anything he desires. Yet, his music at times lacked a certain beauty of simplicity.
Approximately half the entertainment value of Dick's concert came from listening to the music. The other half came from watching the man perform impressive physical feats with a certain air of nonchalance. Before one of his songs, Dick warned the audience that the song had particularly long phrases, and that sometimes audience members get so caught up in wondering when he is going to take his next breath that they themselves forget to breathe.
He explained that he was using a technique called circular breathing, where he simultaneously breathes in through his nose and pushes pockets of air he's holding in his cheeks into his flute, and assured us that he could breathe "quite comfortably."
Dick is absolutely an amazing talent and a virtuoso at the flute, but his music lacks a cer tain everyday, easy listening appeal of other music. His music is like cheesecake; while I enjoy it occasionally and in moderation, I'm not going to fill my entire refrigerator with it.