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Foxfire Zwei

Foxfire Zwei (1993) by Helmut Oehring was originally composed for bass-clarinet, but today the piece exists in many transcriptions. My own version from 2007 is transcribed with the composer’s permission. The piece tells the unpleasant story of the protocol of execution, of the lethal injection, in American prisons. Alienating and disturbing sounds develop slowly after the ethereal and beautifully translucent opening of the piece. Long pauses interrupt the complex surfaces of sound, and might symbolize the gradually paralyzed, dying body, while irregular breathing sounds blend into a fragile musical substance.

In this review of technical innovations, Foxfire Zwei is primarily included because of the use of multiphonics, which is illustrated in the text Multiphonics on the double bass. But some techniques utilizing harmonics are worth mentioning here. The piece opens with flageolet double-stops in the high register which blends tonally with the voice:

Ex. 1. Foxfire II, page 1, line 1-2

Some unusual harmonics (or rather finger-positions for playing the harmonics) are used; first in bar 2 where the natural C-sharp harmonic is played together with an artificial harmonic on the E-string, and secondly; the natural E-harmonic on the D-string (sounding one octave higher, as the 9th harmonic on the D-string) in bar 5 which forms a chord with the C-sharp harmonic.

Example 2 shows an octave-harmonic, played with the thumb on the octave of the fingered note and then plucked with right hand index finger, leading into pizzicato-harmonics played with the right hand while the left hand hammers the same note (F-sharp) one octave lower. The hammer-on technique also produces an audible bi-tone that enriches the sound. At the upper staff, inhaling and exhaling sounds mix in unison rhythm.

Ex. 2. Foxfire II, page 3, line 5