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If flutes could ooze, this is what they'd sound like.


(Flute Choir; arranged by Michelle Grondin).
Total duration ca. 12 minutes (2011)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
One movement work. Conductor score: 90 pages, 8.5" x 11", coil bound.
Parts: 8.5" x 11", staple bound.

Premiered April 30, 2012 in Minneapolis, MN. at Ted Mann Concert Hall,
conducted by Michelle Grondin.


Also related:


(Flute Quartet: 1 Piccolo, 2 C Flutes, 2 Alto Flutes, 2 Bass Flutes).

Total duration ca. 12 minutes (2004)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).
Commissioned in 2003 by The California Association of
Professional Music Teachers
One movement work. 22 pages, 8.5" x 11".

Premiered in February 2004 in Long Beach, CA.
by The Los Angeles Flute Quartet: Eileen Holt-Helwig, Colleen Carroll,
Lisa-Maree Amos and Peter Sheridan.

Audio clips performed by The Los Angeles Flute Quartet.



Plasma is a one minute recording created from the tracks recorded by the Los Angeles Flute Quartet. Composed for the 2004 VoxNovus 60 x 60 Project.


Above and Beyond CD
Bioplasm is featured on The Los Angeles Flute Quartet's 2005 CD, Above and Beyond, on LAFQ Records. Click CD for more info.
Notes from the Kelp

Bioplasm is featured on the 2007 Innova Recordings CD, Notes from the Kelp (innova 683). Click CD for more info.









Hear Alex discuss the making of Bioplasm, in this ASCAP Audio Portrait interview (3:11) :


hear hear


View pages of the score


view score


Listen to audio
clips from Bioplasm


1. hear

2. hear

3. hear



Listen to Plasma

Purchase the score to Bioplasm, for flute choir

Score and part available from Activist Music
for $70.00 print, $50.00 digital.

Conductor score available for $35.00 print;
$15.00 digital.






I named this piece Bioplasm because "Oozing Up From the Primordial Sludge" seemed a bit long for a title. Bioplasm is the stuff of life, the germinal matter that's essential for living beings to generate. This is a squishy piece: rather than exploit the individual voice of each flute, I wanted to create an organism that oozes across the sonic floor as one tethered entity, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a quick pace, but always as one, like a Slinky toy. The blend of homogenous sound with four flutes is a throbbing pulse of life; add to this four human voices, and it's a choir of plasma, looking for life to begin.


One of my heroes of both life science and the human condition was Lewis Thomas, author of many marvelous essays about our fragile planet. I happened to be reading one of his books, "Late Night Thoughts On Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony" as I began composing this piece at the MacDowell Colony in the fall of 2003, and reading his timeless observations moved me greatly. I dedicate this piece to his memory.


Ms. Grondin's Flute Choir setting of Bioplasm takes the "choir of plasma" to a whole new level. The re-orchestration has the ensemble morphing between two voicing sets (see diagrams), reminiscent of the original Flute Quartet voicing, in addition to including a few solo sections in which players slowly reunite with the choir. The ever-changing textures provide a constantly changing sound environment.





DOWNLOAD the password-protected perusal score and audio file for BIOPLASM (email Alex to obtain the access code):

The Los Angeles Flute Quartet (12:00).

Perusal score

Download the perusal score for the flute choir version

Perusal score

Download the perusal score for the quartet version


Enjoy this video that artist Simon Kenevan made
of his process creating a pastel study
for his painting 'After a Storm':





Enjoy this video of the flutists of
Stranded Silver
performing the original quartet version
in Greenville, North Carolina, April 2015:
Mary Gheen, Willie Santiago, Benjamin Sledge,
and Jackie Traish:





Winner of a 2005 award from the Music Teachers National Association.


Bioplasm has been featured on many radio shows across the U.S., including WNYC-FM's New Sounds program, hosted by John Schaefer in New York City, and KUSC-FM's program, Modern Masterpieces, hosted by Alan Chapman in Los Angeles.



"The final work was Bioplasm, by Los Angeles composer Alex Shapiro, which flirts with theatricality and runs an eclectic gamut of styles, beginning with the pseudo-ritualistic entry of the quartet onto the stage, rhythmically clicking the keys of their instruments and blowing short, sharp breaths into the finger-holes. Later, there are passages that seem to evoke a more "tropical" mood and one episode of vocalizing along with the sound of the flutes, before the quasi-Andean music of the opening returns.


[Bioplasm] was a particular favorite, receiving strong gusts of applause and even shouts of approval. As such, it was a well chosen finale, sending the audience home in an elated mood."

—Jules Langert, San Francisco Classical Voice


"I was quite taken with [Bioplasm]. Listening to it while going about my business, I gathered that it was a large ensemble piece for exotic percussion, voices, winds, maybe even electronics. Imagine my surprise, upon looking at the score later, to find that it's merely a flute quartet! It starts and ends with a calypso- like texture of booming alto and bass-flute key clicks (those were my imagined hand drums), and has sections in which the flutists hum and sing while playing. And since there are passages of growling, pitch-bending techniques in low register breaking into suave glissandos in both directions, it's easy to see how I was so completely fooled. "

—Kyle Gann, Chamber Music America magazine


"I am especially taken with the Shapiro "Bioplasm," a slightly bizarre but attractive new piece. I hope other flutists play it too."

—Christopher L. Chaffee, American Record Guide



"From the evidence of their new CD Above and Beyond, with its commissioned works (especially Alex Shapiro's "Bioplasm"), the LA Flute Quartet seems poised to become the "Kronos" of the flute!"

—Martin Perlich, KCSN-FM radio, Los Angeles



"The use of bass flute as percussion is not to be missed. A welcomed addition to anyone's collection of woodwind music. Especially delightful for flute aficionados."

Laura Brodian KMZT-FM radio, Los Angeles



"Perhaps my favorite piece for listening is Bioplasm, which I first heard on Kalvos & Damian several years ago. This piece explores flute techniques (including noises, voices and multiphonics) in a tightly wrought architecture that feels leisurely and attractive on its surface. That's what I like about Bioplasm, for quartet of flutes (bass, alto, soprano and piccolo): It doesn't make experimentation into hard work... Bioplasm approaches the music with (dare I say it) a film composer's ear. In other words, I am not conscious of the music so much as the sensation."

—Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, composer, host, Kalvos & Damian



"Bioplasm, [Alex's] twelve-minute long flute quartet... jumps into a kettle of primordial soup, dabbling and splashing in agitated rhythms, cloudy ambiances, dense textures and open outcries. The flutes combine into a mysterious surface area, all undulation, ripples and bubbles, obscuring the individual melodic lines into a surreal sort of audioplankton."

—Tobias Fischer, Tokafi



"[Bioplasm is] an eerie and curiously haunting tone poem written for flute quartet — 2 C flutes, 2 alto flutes, 2 bass flutes, and 1 piccolo — that incorporates some uncommon flute techniques such as percussive pitched key clicks and pitch bending (the latter sounding just as the words suggest, and both new to this writer) as well as vocalizations by the players while they’re playing (no, we have no idea how that’s done, but we’re assured that no overdubbing was employed, and that none of the four flutists were harmed in the making of the recording), that requires more than one listening to appreciate fully in all its details."

—A.C. Douglas, Sounds & Fury



"A percussion honorable mention has to be given to "Bioplasm," written for flute quartet. Here the flutes are used as percussion instruments, creating a "throbbing pulse of life" with their keys and air stream. Later the players are called upon to sing, sometimes with what sounds like a multiphonic effect."

—Tom Morgan, Percussive Notes




Bioplasm, for choir, page 6: key click groove  
Bioplasm page 6
Bioplasm, for choir, page 12: note bending
Bioplasm page 12
Bioplasm, for choir, page 25: singing and playing
Bioplasm page 25
Bioplasm, for choir, page 40: yes, there is a lot of "normal" music in this piece, too!  
Bioplasm page 40
Bioplasm, for choir, page 45
Bioplasm page 45
Bioplasm, for choir, page 88: a dramatic end!D
Bioplasm page 88

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