Skip to main content

Sax & cymbals duet

The second section (bars 34–71 of the finished score v1) of the piece is an improvised duet for tenor saxophone and bowed cymbals. I've already referred to the ensemble part for this section, see here for an explanation of the system used to generate the asynchronous ensemble part from the magic square.

The duet uses exclusively multiphonics on both instruments. "Multiphonics" are not chords (collections of single notes played simultaneously on different vibrating objects), rather they are multiple-sounds, metastable vibrations where more than one pitch is vibrating simultaneously on the same object so they interfere with each other to form complex timbres of difference tones. Playing multiphonics requires practicing a specific skill to learning to balance the multiple-pitches. For saxophone, the tonal flexibility of the usual monophonic (single pitch) technique is sacrificed because the multiphonic will only stay balanced with a very specific mix of embouchure-position, breath-pressure, etc: here's some examples in a jazz context. The cymbal is the opposite because we go from a noise-sound—which is multi-multi-multi-phonic, so many pitches that we can't reduce them to one so we perceive it as noise—to a single pitch—or a less complex multiphonic that can be perceived as a couple of pitches rather than noise. Here's an example of a bowed cymbal moving between a single pitch and two pitches a semitone apart (multiphonic). Here's another piece of mine, cartographies of sheet metal where one player aims to repeatedly play a single harmonic, alternating with a group of players all trying to find that pitch on their own cymbals. In most cases, the sound slips between mono- and multi-phonic, which is what I'm after.

For the duet in this LSTwo piece, the two players use the piece's basic material (the chord E, G#, D, F#, A# [and G♮]) as a set of common points to anchor their exploration. The multiphonics on both instruments are unstable and unpredictable, with an almost infinite number of possible pitches arranged hierarchically according to the resonances of the across the so most of the solo involves the players taking one of these pitches as a starting point, allowing the material-agency* of the instrument to alter the pitch and add in other components as it unfolds. The players attempt to balance this slow unfolding of sound, responding both to each other and their instruments. There is no score for this, just the principles outlined above that guide their developing practice, and the constraints of working around the ensemble part. The material forms a harmonic core of the duet, organised as a set of continuous chords by the players (improvising), that the instruments then augment, distort, and extend through their own complex interactions.

* For more discussion of material-agency in my early work, see my article "intra-agencies" in CeReNeM Journal issue 4. And some scores and recordings of my neither wholes nor parts pieces exploring this practice on winds.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

cello solo v1

Cello solo v1 The cello solo will use my prepared cello: not a million miles from a prepared piano as mentioned in previous blog post. The preparations make pitch quite indeterminate, so rather than generate a stream of pitches (like for the guitar/piano) what I wanted to generate was essentially a tablature score for the cellist to create a stream of actions that would limit the indeterminate pitches in different ways to create loose patterns. Tablature notation differs from standard notation be being more about telling the player what do (what actions to carry out, where to put fingers etc.) rather than what sound/note to make. It can be especially useful in situations where the specific pitch result is indeterminate so instead the notation deals with timing, positions etc. See Aaron Cassidy's scores and writings on this as a good example. Below is a page of his solo for any bowed-string instrument, with staves for: (top) fingerings and bowing on the four strings; (middle) fing…

piano & guitar 3 - orchestration

[general apologies for the images in this post, which don't always link easily to the text. My parameter names kept changing over the few days spent composing this, which looks confusing now because the parameter names (descriptors) aren't always the same.]
Having generated the phrases for the guitar and piano, I need to decide how this 5-mins of duet will relate to the rest of the ensemble. I decided to use the Xenakis rotating-cubes technique to generate a phrase-by phrase orchestration behaviour. Crucially, this only defines the type and size of orchestration, not the specifics: I could have generated very specific limitations on instruments etc but wanted to keep this free to save time really, and allow a more intuitive shaping of that aspect. I also wanted to avoid this being too 'blocky' and only mirroring the phrasing of the duet, so I allowed for some orchestrations to reach forward or backwards into neighbouring phrases. My first thoughts on this is that I ne…

Magic Squares

-->

I took my original 5-note sequence (E, G#, D, F#, A#) and extended it into a 6x6 magic square following Maxwell Davies' approach of (a) ensuring the sequence goes out of phase from line to line (because sequence of 5 pitches along lines 6 units long), and (b) transposing each subsequent sequence. The transpositions aren't always the same, because I was getting repetitions; because going up in minor-3rds ends up in the same place after four cycles (12 chromatics divided by 3 semitones = 4), so after the 4th cycle (when it should return to E) I transposed up a further semitone to push the whole cycle of four sequences a semitone higher than the first four. The square is (mostly) transposed by minor 3rds because the original 5-note sequence is whole-tone (the two possible whole-tone sets are six notes each), so minor 3rds give pitches not in the original whole-tone set. [commentary point] This solves the whole-tone problem of only having six notes to work with (or t…