Playing with some new ways to demo multiphonics…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

 

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Multiphonics from the Top Down: Playing with G6 fingerings

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!).

 

Pitches Fingering Sound Notes?
G6p-01 G6f-01
G6p-02 G6f-02
G6p-03 G6f-03
G6p-05 G6f-05
G6p-06 G6f-06
G6p-07 G6f-07
G6p-08 G6f-08
G6p-10 G6f-10 Note that the closest pitch from the fundamental on this one is actually a soft dyad, NOT an ultra-underblow!
G6p-11 G6f-11
G6p-16 G6f-16
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Bandcamp Supporting Artists during the Covid-19 Pandemic!

Hi everyone,

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!

 

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“Ultra-Underblow Mutiphonics”: Part 2 of the recategorisation of Philip Rehfeldt’s chart

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.

# Pitches Fingering Sound Notes?
#345 uubp001 uub001
#346 uubp002 uub002
#347 uubp003 uub003
#348 uubp004 uub004
#74 uubp005 uub005
#349 uubp006 uub006
#350 uubp007 uub007
#47 uubp008 uub008
#351 uubp009 uub009
#352 uubp010 uub010
uubp011 uub011
uubp012 uub012
uubp013 uub013
uubp014 uub014
uubp015 uub015
uubp016 uub016
uubp017 uub017
uubp018 uub018
uubp019 uub019
uubp020 uub020
uubp021 uub021
uubp022 uub022
uubp023 uub023
uubp024 uub024
uubp025 uub025
uubp026 uub026
uubp027 uub027
uubp028 uub028
uubp029 uub029
uubp030 uub030
uubp031 uub031
uubp032 uub032
uubp033 uub033
uubp034 uub034
uubp035 uub035
uubp036 uub036
uubp037 uub037
uubp038 uub038
uubp039 uub039
uubp040 uub040
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20 Easy Bass Clarinet Multiphonics

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After the run-away success of 27 Easy Clarinet Multiphonics, it was only a matter of time before I got around to writing its sister bass clarinet post. Once again I conducted a survey of bass clarinet players to discover the multiphonics that work most easily. I had 21 respondents (fewer than the 36 who responded to the first survey, but this makes sense, fewer bass clarinet players out there), who played through 40 multiphonics that I consider easy, and 2 that I consider difficult.

The breakdown of participation looked something like this:

Screenshot 2020-01-15 at 15.34.14

This worked out a little bit different from the previous post, there was a much higher percentage of respondents who identified as new music specialists. This makes sense: these are the players more likely to own professional bass clarinets and to play them regularly.

I also tracked what instrument the respondents played, which looked like this:

Screenshot 2020-01-15 at 15.38.41.png

Most of the respondents were Selmer players. Interesting, mostly because I am not a Selmer player. The results (perhaps as a result of how different different bass clarinet models are from each other) were much more spread out. There were no multiphonics that 90% of players found totally easy across the board.

However, there were plenty of 80%-ers, so what I’m going to do is present a table with the 80%-ers and one with the 60%-ers. These should be fairly reliable, and I hope the chart proves useful to composers (and perhaps to bass clarinet players just getting started with these effects!).

Much thanks goes to the 21 clarinetists who kindly took the time to fill out the form and play through a rather large number of multiphonics (some of my favourite players are on this list — if this list, composers, doesn’t leave you feeling excited about new music for clarinet and all those who are dedicated to it, nothing will!). I foolishly only collected e-e-mail addresses and not names, so I have to guess a bit here. With links to their websites, and in no particular order, thanks goes to Jason Alder, Tom WardBret Pimentel, Ethan LaRoux, Alex Ward, Katherine Browning Gregory Oakes, Karlo Margetic, Paul Roe, Paul Evernden, Sarah Watts, Eileen Mack, Yoni Silver, Andrew Sparling, Jack Liang, etc..(If you think you’re missing off this list, let me know.)

Quite a few of the respondents also offered some great advice in their comments:

  • If you’re having a hard time producing one, it could be worth trying a different reed.
  • Another tip is to first play the top and bottom pitches of each multiphonic, so that you have a clear sense of the sound you’re aiming to produce
  • Using multiphonics is a great way to teach young players breath support, embouchure and oral cavity shaping (and these 27 will hopefully be a great place to start!).

A few people flagged up a couple of these as not having the right pitches – I’ve double checked and edited where the error was mine, but in a few cases the model of clarinet does seem to make a difference, to the degree of at most a whole tone.

Right, on to the charts.

The very easy multiphonics (over 80%):

# Pitch/Fingering Audio Video Explanation
300 300
301 301
302 302
303 303
305 305
306 306
309 309
310 310

The reasonably easy multiphonics (over 60%):

156

# Pitch/Fingering Audio
5 5
19 19
41 41
58 58
59 59
73 73
131 131
256 256
307 307
308 308
311 311

 

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