Riffs was commissioned by New Music Concerts under a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Riffs exhibits Weinzweig’s long-held interest in jazz and blues. The title references a repeated melodic figure often found in jazz. He declared that the whole work was a set of variations (which he has called “segments”) over a twelve-bar blues, despite the lack of bar lines in the score. Weinzweig describes the work as follows:Riffs for solo flute reflects the characteristics of the “many moods of jazz blues”—the improvised manner within a twelve-bar melodic form, the slow, sad, melancholy feeling interrupted with highly-charged “shouts” and a dialogue of call-and-response patterns coloured by bent pitch inflections. The work is composed in twelve segments of various durations related only the Blues style and a recurring long-tone cadence on a low flute note G.
Riffs demonstrates Weinzweig’s tendency to use short, repetitive figures, which he then varies melodically and rhythmically. Despite a lack of metre or bar lines, the performer must maintain an underlying pulse and absolute precision in order to communicate the rhythmic subtlety and vitality. Significant portions of the melodic content displays an influence from the blues, including highlighting second and third intervals, bending the pitch, and reiterating single pitches while varying their expression. Like many of Weinzweig’s other solo works, Riffs explores extended technique, including flutter-tonguing, stopped-tonguing, humming, and multiphonics. Just as the blues singer uses timbral variety to express to the words, the flautist explores the instrument’s timbral range.
Written by Alexa Woloshyn