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Semitonic multiphonics

Multiphonic sounds are most commonly produced with the semitonic finger positions, which also provide the basis for the most comprehensive timbral variation and combinatory use with other techniques. In Kimmo Hakola’s Thrust from 1989 (rev. 1991) we find some of the first examples ofsemitonic multiphonics:

Example 1: Thrust

Ex. 1. Kimmo Hakola: Thrust, page 6, Rubato (Adagio)

The finger positions of the multiphonics are notated on the bottom stave while the resulting sounds are notated in parenthesis on the top stave. In example, 1 all multiphonics are played in the first octave on the G-string (marked with number ”I”). Hakola uses an ”M” on the note stem for marking the multiphonics, which works well within the frame of the piece. There are no markings for bow placement and bow resistance in the beginning of the line, but it is to be assumed that the bow should be in an ordinary position from the beginning. From the middle of the line the bow moves gradually to sul ponticello (SP) and the three last multiphonic sounds are played with the bow poco sul ponticello. This suggests that Hakola either indicates a bowing position that works well for these multiphonic sounds, or that he will enhance certain overtones by moving the bow closer to the bridge.

Example 2: Foxfire Zwei

In my own transcription of Foxfire Zwei (1993/2007) by Helmut Oehring (originally written for bass clarinet), I mark the multiphonics with the ”M” above or below the note head or stem, and the designated string with numbers (I-IV). Example 2 shows multiphonics on the third string. This particular multiphonics is very easy to produce, and I have not indicated bow placement, bow resistance and sounding tones. My suggestion for bow placement is above the fourth octave, around the 9th, 11th or 13th central harmonic node.

Ex. 2. Helmut Oehring: Foxfire Zwei (arr. Håkon Thelin)

Example 3: oibbinadocS

Generally, I use a simple notation similar the one used in example 2. As seen in examples 3a and 3b, from oibbinadocS – the first piece in which I used multiphonics, I didn’t find it necessary to notate the placement of the bow, as the multiphonics is easy to play.

Ex. 3a. Håkon Thelin: oibbinadocS

Ex. 3b. Håkon Thelin: oibbinadocS

Example 4: Thrust

Going back to Thrust, the next two examples show semitonic multiphonics on strings I-III and in the first and second octave.

Ex. 4a. Kimmo Hakola: Thrust, page 6, Rubato (Adagio)

Ex. 4b. Kimmo Hakola: Thrust, page 7, Rubato (Adagio)

Examples 5-7: Glasperlenspiel

Semitonic multiphonics with markings for bow placement is shown in example 5 through 7.
In example 5 there are multiple possible bow positions to choose from, and the markings can be viewed as guide to the ‘area’ in which to place to bow. I found it convenient to only suggest the bow positions, since the context of the sound allows for slight transformations of timbre and dynamics.

Ex. 5. Håkon Thelin: Glasperlenspiel

Examples 6 and 7 display situations where a specific bow position is preferred for the production of multiphonics. The transformation from an open string to multiphonics signifies the first situation. The finger gradually touches the string above the E-flat harmonic, which helps defining the multiphonic sound more easily. A precise bow position is marked, and the bow can be moved towards this position during the transformation of the sound. A precisely positioned bow will help the final establishment of a stable sound, which gradually fades through a slow decrescendo.

Ex. 6. Håkon Thelin: Glasperlenspiel

In example 7 the bow moves from the position B13↓ on the E-string to the slightly lower position B11↓, to enable multiphonics on both the A and E-string to be played together. The cluster sound of the two chords is particularly difficult to control, as the distribution of bow pressure between the two strings, as well as the bow speed, must be practised to find the optimal combination for a balanced sound.

Ex. 7. Håkon Thelin: Glasperlenspiel