Artist Profile: Flutronix
By Dan Ruccia
“In our first year of being Flutronix, we didn’t play any concerts,” Nathalie Joachim recalls. “We had to figure out what to play. Before we came around, there wasn’t a lot of music for two flutes and electronics.” Flutronix, the duo of Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull, is not unique in that regard. Every ensemble with non-standard instrumentation—not a string quartet or piano trio or Pierrot ensemble—grapples with the question of what music to play. One solution, embraced by groups like Eighth Blackbird (of which Joachim is also a member), is to commission piles of new works from other composers, following the traditional division of labor in classical music between composer and performer.
Joachim and Loggins-Hull, both composers in their own rights before forming Flutronix, chose a different route: writing all of their music themselves as composer-performers. For Joachim, that choice was as much a practical decision as a manifesto: “In western classical music, composing is a very insular, individual process for everyone. When you’re writing smaller-scale music, it’s process that’s largely un-edited. Every other type of writing that happens, a writer works really closely with their editor in shaping their thoughts and guiding the process a little bit.” She contrasts that with the highly collaborative process in the rock and pop worlds, observing that “So many of the greatest rock albums happened by a band sitting themselves in a studio for many weeks at a time around the clock writing together.” Given that the duo’s stylistic ambit extends well beyond classical music to encompass rock, electronic, hip hop, R&B, jazz, soul, world music, and beyond, the choice makes sense.
At first, they wrote pieces individually. Almost everything on their eponymous first album from 2010 was written by either Joachim or Loggins-Hull. Their first collaborative composition, the album-closing “Brown Squares,” started out as an experiment. “I remember being apprehensive about it,” Joachim recalls, laughing. “Allison came over, and we were sitting in my home studio. We just started writing, and next thing we knew, we looked up and we had a piece. It just worked. The piece almost wrote itself.”
Both women were excited by the results, so their next album, 2014’s 2.0, was almost entirely co-written. Having someone to bounce ideas off allowed them to go places they wouldn’t think to otherwise, to sharpen ideas and discover unexpected solutions. “We rely on each other a lot to push how we normally think about writing because our approaches are very night and day,” Joachim says. “We have very distinct styles and voices, and we approach how we think about music in very different ways, but they are extremely complementary.”
In 2015, Joachim joined Eighth Blackbird and moved from New York City to Chicago, and Loggins-Hull gave birth to her daughter, moving the duo to reevaluate their compositional process. Having established a sound and a repertory, they decided to refocus their limited writing time on larger projects that responded to the current social and political climate. Discourse, the work they will write and perform here in Chapel Hill over the coming years, is their first such attempt at expanding their collaborative vision even further.
Dan Ruccia is a Durham-based composer, writer, and graphic designer.