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Dear composers – when I started this blog I had just finished my PhD, and had lots of free time to work on the blog and answer your questions, as I was just starting to find my way in freelance new music playing. Now, unfortunately, it’s getting difficult. I receive many e-mails from composers with scores and questions every week, and while answering them is a great pleasure for me, I no longer have the time to keep up with them. If you don’t get a response to your e-mail, please understand, it’s better if I spend the time working on new posts (or, you know, practising ;). I’m very sorry about this, but I wish you all much luck and fun with your clarinet writing!
Table of Contents
Specifically for Clarinetists:
…on a historical approach to the sound of the clarinet
Other Popular Posts:
Me again — another video for you (please do follow my channel if you use YouTube regularly, as I’m not sure how consistent I’ll be with posting videos here!).
I’ve done what I think is a thorough playthrough of multiphonic #92 from this post, showing different pitches and some articulation options. I think this might be better than just doing an improvisation, as it’s a little more structured – what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment here on the YouTube post – really genuinely curious to know what composers think of this kind of detailed explanation of single sounds (before I carry on making dozens more of these!). Especially: what’s missing?
(By the way, I’ve decided to take an extended – possibly permanent – break from most social medias, except instagram. So if you like the content here, I suggest following the blog via your RSS reader or via the e-mail link in the right hand column!)
Hello everyone – hope you’re all keeping well.
I’ve been silent on the blog for awhile now, but not because I haven’t been working on a few things. I have two videos (!) to share with you, and I’d really love to have your feedback.
The first is a video of one of my own multiphonic miniatures (MMs). As some of you may know, Scott McLaughlin and I started a call for MMs at the beginning of the UK lockdown, and what we’ve got back has been interesting in itself, and wonderful to see what you’ve come up with. However, it’s also been clear to Scott and I that the resources to think outside the box with multiphonics simply don’t exist.
And so one of the big questions for us is: is it at all possible to help composers to have an intuitive and wide understanding of multiphonic sound production without an embodied experience of the instrument?
One of my thoughts has been to take a break from making charts, and to do more sharing of examples, to put multiphonics in context so that you can hear and see (and have me explain) what’s going on.
So there are two videos here, and I’d love to have your feedback on them. Is any of this useful? Are some aspects more useful than others? What would you like to see more of?
They both approach this from two different angles:
- I’ve been writing my own multiphonic miniatures, in which I try to use a limited range of multiphonics, and to play around with different limitations. In this video (eventually: these videos) you’ll hear me play through my miniature (with the score on one side), and then I’ll explain the multiphonics I chose, what limitation I was using, and what the results were.
- In this video I take one multiphonic and do a little improvisation with it, playing with the different pitches that come out. These videos are short, and the explanations appear as text in the video (along with the fingering and pitch chart). (I picked this multiphonic at random, but what I think I’d like to do is go through my “easy multiphonics” post and do a video on each of them!)
And if you like this stuff, please subscribe to my channel!
One of the things that Scott McLaughlin and I have spent a lot of time doing during our Forking Paths time is to try to explore ways of turning clarinet technique on its head and seeing what comes out of that. That’s how we ended up playing with extreme scordatura, for example.
Scott wrote really eloquently on how we came to exploring fingerings for the (written) G6, so I suggest before reading any further here, you check out his post on the subject. There’s nothing particularly special about the pitch we chose for this exercise, other than it seems to offer the most possibilities in terms of alternative fingerings — I think it also sits at the perfect balancing points between altissimo and altississimo registers, offering a lot in terms of both stable and unstable multiphonics. You could definitely attempt the same with other multiphonics.
The most fun part of this particular session was when clarinetist Jon Sage joined us, and Jon and I did a series of guided improvisations with Scott’s input, always trying to maintain the G in the sound, while exploring different fingerings. You can hear these tests on Scott’s link. I think they’re rather beautiful. Totally lacking in stability, and in fact made more unstable by the fact that both of us were playing at the same time. It was sometimes rather difficult to tell who was making what sound. I loved it.
Anyway, here are ten of the G6 fingerings we explored, first conceived as a “top-down” multiphonic from the high G, and then I also play through the other pitch possibilities and the ultra-underblow option (see the attached post if you don’t know what I’m talking about!).
I hope you’re all keeping well in these difficult times.
In case you’re not aware, Bandcamp are supporting artists today by giving all the fees from any sales directly to the artists (rather than taking their usual cut). So I want to suggest that if you’re able, today is the perfect day to buy a bunch of music from the artists you love. And if you want some new music to listen to, I thought I’d link to a few things you might enjoy (including one new album by Eva Zöllner and me).
A few labels and artists making great stuff:
- Check out another timbre. There are so many brilliant records on this label, Simon Reynell’s taste is amazing, and all of the proceeds go directly back to making more CDs and paying the artists to make them. (I’m on a few of these, particularly love the Adrián Demoč!). He’s also put together a nice coronavirus playlist, if you need five hours of very chill experimental music. Of course you do.
- Phil Maguire’s label verzprint are donating any proceeds from today’s sales to the Hundred Years Gallery in London (a great space for new music and improvised musics which we really can’t lose!), as is my brilliant studio-mate Bill Thompson with his label, burning harpsichord records. If this stuff on this label is half as good as what I hear coming from his room, happy days!
- There have been lot of great releases on New Focus Recordings lately, many of which have had great reviews at TEMPO. You can read a review of the fantastic Ben Melsky contemporary harp CD here. Or the Longleash recording here (this one I absolutely adored!).
- There’s also not art records – I’ve been enjoying Heather Stebbins release a lot this morning.
- And for microtonal guitar song writing deliciousness it just has to be Chris Rainier.
And finally, a little story before our album: Eva and I were in Sweden when things worsened in Europe. The day before our first concert, in Malmö, we found out that the gigs were cancelled and that the Danish border was going to close the following day at 12pm. So we made a sad and very quick decision to leave before that happened. We were, however, really disappointed to lose the tour especially as all six new pieces written for us were fantastic. So we got up at an ungodly hour and recorded them all, and we’ve released them as a live album on bandcamp today:
Any other tips? Leave me a comment!
Recently, as part of the AHRC-funded project, The Garden of Forking Paths, which I’m consulting on for the next 15 months, Scott McLaughlin and I decided to spend a few hours trying to see if we could reorganise Rehfeldt’s Bb clarinet multiphonics in a way that made more sense for us. Instead of his six categories (which are based on a mix of dynamic possibilities and function, which I found inconsistent), we came up with four, which accurately describe the function of each multiphonic. (He wrote a nice blogpost that sums up our first session, which you can check out here if you’re interested!)
This post is going to look at fingered multiphonics with spectral aspects (i.e. two or more overblowable pitches) that can also be ultra-underblown. This is a technique that Scott and I have been exploring, whereby I try to maintain some fix on the mouthpiece while simultaneously pulling the chin down towards my chest as far as possible, creating a multiphonic sound that’s somewhere between a clarinet and a distressed goose.
I’ve made a YouTube video where I explain how I do this technique and demonstrate it here:
Interestingly, these pitches are often very close to octave relationships.
This sound might not be for you, but we’re all about exploring the full gambit of sonic possibilities here! A lot of the pitch relationships will look like nice dyads, but it’s really important you are aware of the sound (listen to the recordings). These come out honky and at mf-f dynamics!
You’re also going to hear a lot of fragile sounds (I can’t stress how important it is to listen to each sound file and not just use the pitch charts!). Not only in the ultra-underblown multiphonics, but also in those where I’m accessing really high harmonics (say from the A up). I really like this fragility. I like working on it, and I know the changing, unpredictable or unknown elements of these multiphonics is something Scott and I have been exploring a lot. (But I know a lot of clarinetists who do not like things to be unpredictable on stage, so, know your collaborators!) Occasionally with the really high ones you’ll hear that I’m not quite managing to get both to sound simultaneously. My theory is here that if I just work on these enough I’ll manage, so I wanted you to know what might be possible (maybe with a clarinetist who is better than me in the altissimo range?).
Not all fingerings produce this sound, so it was critical for creating our distinctions as we were reorganising the Rehfeldt chart. Equally, this is not the total number of fingerings that do produce this sound, only the ones from the Rehfeldt chart that did. Crucially, none of the multiphonics from the first post in the series, here, can do this.
As ever, the chart is transposed, and represent 3-4 different multiphonic possibilities, so you need to decide which top pitch you want to hear, don’t just include the whole diagram. Pitches that use the ultra-underblown technique are highlighted in yellow (but it’s always the first pitch above the fundamental). Sometimes I managed to get two different underblown multiphonics, those are indicated. The pitches are slightly flexible, as they are quite bendable! In the recordings I first play the overblown pitches and then do the ultra-underblow.