Multiphonics – one note at a time

I’ve done a guest post for The Sampler, the UK’S “leading online destination for new music” on writing multiphonics, specifically how to think about writing multiphonics that enter one note at a time.

I talk about multiphonics like this one here: a:

If you’re interested, click here!

Posted in dyads, multiphonic | 1 Comment

Four Octave Tremolo/Moving Passages Chart with Quarter Tones for Bass Clarinet

This is the bass clarinet version of my previous post (for Bb/A/Eb clarinets) on the same subject.

I’ve created for you a chart that demonstrates quite clearly (I hope) in three octaves the relationships between all the pitches, including quarter tones. You can download a .pdf of the full chart here.

So let me explain the chart, which is transposed (in Bb)!

Each entry looks a little like this.

example

The first note in the system is the starting pitch. Every coloured pitch that follows the double bar line indicates the distance from the starting pitch.

Green = You can write a trill/tremolo between these pitches.

Yellow = The combination can be used in fast running passages, but not in trills. To clarify: Moving back and forth at speed one will hear the failed connection, but in running passages, yellow pitches can be executed well enough that the listener won’t hear the difficulty. Of course, do keep in mind that not all yellow connections: generally speaking the bigger the jump the more difficult it gets. These are all possible leaps, but do take their difficulty into consideration. The best way to get a clear idea of what kind of effort these leaps take is to listen to as much clarinet repertoire as possible!

Red = Avoid these connections if you can. Many can be connected well at slow tempi, quite a lot of them are risky. Do not under any circumstances write tremoli. (Especially in the case of the D quarter flat in the second octave – this quarter tone has no viable fingering!)

Blue = These blue marks above some of the yellow and red pitches indicate special trill fingerings. Often these trill fingerings can not be used in running passages, but it means that even though you can’t write a D to an E quarter sharp in a running passage (in tune!) (as in the above example), you can use it as an isolated trill. You shouldn’t need to add the fingering to your score, these special fingerings are almost always a combination of the right hand trill keys, which most clarinetists should be able to figure out without any difficulty, but if they don’t have an option and tell you it isn’t possible, you can refer them to the chart which hopefully will help clarify things.

In the Bb clarinet chart I think I did things in a way that was intended to be more specific, but ended up just being confusing. Any tremoli that were only possible with a “faked” fingering, I marked in yellow or red, and listed the fake fingering above. Here, I’ve tried to simplify, so any possible trills are in green, and if there’s a fake fingering necessary, I’ve given a little hint for it above.

If you’re a clarinetist and trying to work out fingerings (especially for the super altissimo quarter tones), a resource you may find useful is Jason Alder’s fantastic fingering chart. I find it extremely useful, although there are still a few fingerings there that don’t work for me, and a few others that I use that he doesn’t list. There’s no criticism here — in the  altissimo there are just so many options. Also, Jason can play quite a bit higher than I can – I become extremely unreliable after that high G, but it’s asked for so infrequently that I’ve become rather lazy about working towards improving my range after that point. Anyway clarinetists may be interested to see what’s possible here.

You’ll notice that there is no series starting from the D quarter flat on the fourth line. That’s because there is no viable fingering for this pitch and it should be avoided in all cases! I was thinking of drawing this every time the D quarter flat appeared, but thought that might be overkill (so to speak). But do try to keep it in mind:

photo

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Communicative movement in contemporary chamber music

An article I wrote, “Communicative movement in contemporary chamber music: hand werk in the rehearsal of pieces by Thierry Tidrow and Georgia Koumará” has been published by Divergence Press. You can read it here
Looking forward to feedback and discussion on this! 

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multiphonic monday – pitch bending multiphonics (Bb clarinet)

First, a couple of general rules for pitch bending on multiphonics:

* The highest audible pitch is the one being bent, and the pitch is always bend downwards, never up.
* Bending a multiphonic often has an effect on its fragility, surprisingly this means increasing its stability in some cases.
* They don’t always work the first time, so clarinetists should try to practise them a little.
* Bending multiphonics sometimes creates different beating patterns which can be controlled (with practice).
* Not every multiphonic can be bent, some are completely destabilised by bending and break (meaning only one pitch will be heard). I’m only including some examples here. Ask the clarinetist you’re working with to help you come up with others if you are using different pitch material. (If this post ends up being popular then I’ll add some more examples down the line!)

As usual these days, fingering diagrams from Bret Pimintel‘s awesome site, and pitch diagrams handdrawn by the lovely Elena Rykova. The following are meant to serve examples, I’ve included audio of the multiphonic alone and with pitch bending, plus some information about each example.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 187  187    

Let’s start with one of the most stable examples. Here is a multiphonic in which the upper note can be lowered without any sacrificing of stability. The quality of sound also remains fairly consistent. I’ve made two takes, first at the easiest dynamic level (mf – f) and then a second at what was for me, the softest possible dynamic.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 59  59  

This multiphonic starts with an extremely high rate of vibrations. As I lower the higher pitch, the rate of vibrating stays relatively stable, only slowing slightly, so that an effect of continuous buzzing continues. In a second take, I bend too far, breaking the multiphonic, and only the fundamental remains. And in the third take, I demonstrate what happens when playing this multiphonic at an unstable dynamic range, namely, a quiet one. The effect is still present, but extremely fragile.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 184  184    

Here is a classic example of a multiphonic that begins in a relatively stable state of purity, and as I bend downwards, the vibrations increase, eventually creating a buzzing effect. I’ve made two takes at different speeds of bending. (Perhaps you can hear this, but it seems to me that it’s more difficult to bend back upwards without things becoming a bit destabilised.)

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 90  90    
 190 190    

These multiphonics begin at a lower dynamic level, very wide intervals and as such, quite fragile. In the first take, I lower the pitch, introducing the vibrating effect until it becomes quite a stable buzzing. In the second, I’ve attempted to do this faster.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 96  96    

This multiphonic produces a very unusual effect when bent at a mf dynamic. It is not the most stable multiphonic to begin with, but when bent downwards, this instability is accentuated. It was impossible for me to maintain a consistent tone, so this ‘skipping’ effect is produced.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 174 174     

Much like the previous example, the fragility of this multiphonic is highlighted through the bending of the upper note. This time, however, the multiphonic tends to buzz as it reaches the bottom of its bend. Another unique effect.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
197 197  

It’s quite rare that a multiphonic with a close interval (within an octave and tagged as ‘dyads’ in the app) can be bent in this way. I argue that this is due to the fact that in order to produce these effects, the throat position is already quite open, not dissimilar to the way it is when pitch bending. Still, occasionally this remains a possibility, though the effect is fragile and the bend is rather small.

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Reed tapping articulation

A quick one for you today…

Went and saw John Butcher play last night, and he was using this technique, which involves flicking or tapping the reed with the right hand while holding down different keys with the left hand, producing short articulated pizz-style sounds. The bigger the instrument (well, the bigger the reed) the louder this is, he used to great effect in the very resonant space he was playing in.

I can use this technique on any fingerings from middle C (written) to the Bb above on any clarinet, and the resultant pitches are a major second below.

I’ve used a plastic reed on both clarinets while playing around with this, and I can’t imagine any clarinetist will appreciate you asking for such a direct attack on a cane reed: so do ask your player whether they already have some plastic ready for use.

And for further explanation and a demonstration, here’s a short video I posted to my Instagram account. I’ve started adding different videos explaining techniques or how I’m practising things I’m learning, so if you’re on Instagram, give me a follow!

 
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