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One of the things I’m interested in doing when writing on my blog about a so-called extended technique in general, like multiphonics, is to try to look at a very specific aspect of that technique. The blog will probably never host a “complete” list of multiphonics, but I will look at all sorts of different ways to think about them, whether in terms of close interval dyads (here and here), underblowing, pitch bending, or spectral multiphonics (here and here). I like to think of each post as a kind of collaboration in miniature with an invisible composer, and it’s often the questions posed by real-life composers that inspire these posts.
Today, as a Sampler Exclusive, I’d like to talk a little about writing multiphonics — ones that enter one note at a time, whether from the top or bottom. This is a beautiful effect that automatically gives a sense of line to your multiphonic writing. It’s used extensively in one of my favourite clarinet solo pieces, Kopenhagener Stille, by the Norwegian composer, Martin Rane Bauck. You can hear it on my solo disc, Ptelea, currently out on NMC/HCR and on iTunes.
Most of the time, it’s usually easier to play the lowest note first. It is extremely rare that a multiphonic cannot be played from the bottom note up, but it does happen. Check with a player if you’re unsure.
Quite regularly, it’s not possible to play the top note first, at least not without a temporary sounding of both notes. Often, the successful execution of a “top down” multiphonic can be assisted with a little volume, so allowing for this (either by writing an accent, or a little decresendo as the bottom note comes in) will make life much easier for the clarinetist.
For saxophone fans/players, this concept of starting pitches in multiphonics is similar (if not identical) to what Marcus Weiss and Giorgio Netti refer to as ‘threshold tones’ in their fantastic book in the Bärenreiter series.
Now, for some examples.
First, some close interval dyads. Where possible, I’ve demonstrated a top down approach as well. These numbers correspond to the pitch and fingering information found on my close dyad post.
The top down approach isn’t possible very often with dyads. For your own reference, the dyads that can be performed “top down” are: #2, #16, #33, #40, #42, #180, #131, #136, #177, #197, #211, #212, #233.
Now, some examples of multiphonics employing wider intervals. Quite commonly, multiphonics which have a top pitch that hovers around a5 tends to be quite easy to play from the top down.
Very wide intervals (multiphonics with top notes in the clarinet’s altissimo register) also manage this effect very well, although of course the quiet dynamics tend to be less, er, quiet, and they can be much more difficult to control (as can be heard, no doubt, in the following examples). Top down versions tend to be somewhat rare, but do happen.
I’ll be putting up a more detailed version of this post, with more examples and pitch/fingering information for each of the multiphonics on my site next month, but I hope these examples, combined with your favourite multiphonic chart (and the helpful advice of your favourite player) get you started.
This year I’m trying to spend more time making the blog more useful, more detailed and more complete, and I need your help to make that possible. If you’ve enjoyed this post and find my blog useful for your writing, please consider pledging a dollar or two a month to my Patreon campaign. Thanks!