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Fit to Play: The Fitness Effect on Physically Challenging Flute Repertoire

Jennifer A. Borkowski
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 26 Number 1: Page 51 (March 2011)

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Abstract: This case study was done to determine whether physical fitness plays a part in performing flute repertoire. Most repertoire allows performers the choice of where to breathe. However, there exists a 'brute' repertoire where breathing is prescribed by the composer, which poses physical challenges for performers. The author contrasted pieces from traditional repertoire with Heinz Holliger's (t)air(e), which requires passages of breath-holding and measured inhalations. The author was tested for cardiovascular fitness (VO2max) and corresponded these levels to pulse rates while playing at baseline and 6 months after undertaking a physical fitness program. After the exercise program, expertise with standard repertoire combined with the unmeasured variables of resonance, openness of the chest and oral cavities, embouchure size, and air speed saw little improvement with increased fitness levels. However, when air regulation is out of the performer's control, the effect of cardiovascular training brought the 'brute' repertoire into the same range of difficulty as the standard repertoire.

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