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.