Charles Oliver DeLaney (1925–2006) is considered one of the most influential American flute pedagogues of the twentieth-century. His contributions to the flute community continue to be felt today through his generations of students, many of whom hold prestigious performing and teaching positions. Through organizations such as the National Flute Association (NFA) and the Florida Flute Association (FFA), DeLaney helped establish regional and national opportunities for flutists. Furthermore, his compositions provide performers with the opportunity to explore literal and figurative expression in music from a distinct American perspective. DeLaney’s contributions as a performer, composer, and pedagogue are documented through his publications of compositions and method books, National Flute Association and Brevard Summer Music Program archives, and two Flute Talk magazine articles (“Of Flutes and Muses” by Kathleen Goll-Wilson, December 1995; “DeLaney’s Compositional Endeavors” by Karen Haid, April 1999). Despite this body of information, detailed information on his life and compositions remains sparse.
In order to adequately appreciate DeLaney’s accomplishments and contributions to the North American Flute School and within the context of flute history in general, a brief historical summary of the contributions of flutists/composers/pedagogues and their significance in advancing the flute and its literature will first be explored. To focus the analysis only professional flutists who were also documented as successful composers and pedagogues, are included in the following summary. Likewise, only American trends will be presented in the section transitioning into the twentieth-century.
The bulk of this treatise details DeLaney’s contributions as a composer, examining his formative influences and inspirations, while defining his nationalistic neo-Romantic compositional style. Analysis of his three published works for solo flute, Hymn of Pan (1949), “… and the strange, unknown flowers…” (1988), and Variations on an English Folk-Song: “The Seeds of Love” (for solo alto flute or C flute, 1989), is preceded by a summary of his remaining oeuvre, including his published and unpublished compositions. A discussion of performance and pedagogical considerations concludes each analysis.
DeLaney’s highly artistic and cleverly calculated compositional style reflects a unique coalescence of American and European perspectives gained during his studies in the United States and Switzerland. Musically and pedagogically, his compositions for solo flute are highly accessible, idiomatic, wonderfully expressive, imaginative and colorful. Their programmatic and nationalistic origins, tonal melodies, and organic development make them well suited for a variety of skill levels and performance settings. Furthermore, DeLaney’s extensive involvement in various musical venues mirrors the practices of centuries of previous flutists who were also successful as pedagogues and composers at a time when specialization was encouraged.