Last November I made a short film with Klaus Lang up on Ilkley Moor. I wrote a piece for Klaus and, together with Viola d’Amore player Barbara Konrad, we carried a harmonium up onto the moor. The film documents two pieces, my ‘a technical diagram for the abstraction of ockeghem’s missa pro defunctis: kyrie, side elevation‘ and a section from Klaus’ longer cycle: ‘viola. harmonium.‘
This film couldn’t have been made without Ollie Jenkins, who took care of all the filming and editing, and Elspeth Mitchell, who helped organise and produce everything. The project was part-funded by the Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts (CePRA) at the University of Leeds. Thanks also to Helen Barker and Rex Russell for their assistance.
A slight digression from the usual “contemporary classical(ish)” stuff, I’ve released a new tape under my WITH ZERO moniker. NOCTURNES is a 60-minute slow-burning new age piece, intended for deep nighttime listening, meditation and states of half waking/consciousness.
The cassette comes in a limited edition of 50, pro-dubbed on transparent glittering shells (because, y’know…) and is available via bandcamp.
The WITH ZERO project has been around since about 2012, mainly as a hard drive with which to store miscellaneous synthesiser sketches. This is the first proper release, with a few more in the pipeline for the next couple of months.
There is some excellent research on performance techniques over at CelloMap.com on a variety of subjects, but the area of most interest to me lately has been string multiphonics. A criminally overlooked and beautifully fragile technique.
It seems a slightly murky area (a lot folk-lore, hearsay, speculation), but an interesting one that I hope people continue to plug away at. The two best resources I’ve found so far are Ellen Fallowfield and Thomas Resch’s aforementioned Cello Map project, and Seth Josel and Ming Tsao’s excellent new book ‘The Techniques of Guitar Playing‘ (2014; Bärenreiter, pp.118-24). Both map out the location of their partials in similar ways. Despite the different instruments the authors address, we are ultimately just dealing with a vibrating string and as such should not be too difficult to figure out…
A recent composition of mine, yet another example of the porousness of certain borders (score .pdf, 15mb) for solo double bass uses quite a few multiphonics, and as part of the composing process I created a little Processing script which uses the Cello Map scheme. The script allows one to calculate and map out (theoretical) partials for a string of any tuning (my piece was initially going to feature some evolving scordatura but this was written out early on).
The benefit of coding this out that you can quickly generate a partial map of any tuning and as many partials as you like (though by default this is capped at 15, past then it gets tricky to find what you’re looking for). This becomes pretty helpful when searching for and identifying clustered sounding partials within multiphonics. It is worth noting however, that this is all fairly theoretical, and that real-world physics may not play as nicely on your string of choice…
You can find the script on my GitHub page. The script requires Processing, a free, open-source programming language.
My thanks to the Cello Map project for doing all the hard work on this and many other subjects.