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oibbinadocS

oibbinadocS was finished in 2004, and, together with Amarcord, it was among my first destinations on the playful journey around the music and techniques of Stefano Scodanibbio, to whom the piece is dedicated. It was written towards the end of an improvisational process where relatively independent phrases of rhythmical, harmonic and even timbral character were organized on an intuitive structural level. As in the music of Scodanibbio, narrative and rhapsodic phrases are being built through an interchanging of ordinary tones and flageolets. This constant changing motion between low and high sounds creates multidimensional rooms where sounds and fragments of melody can evolve. One of the main musical elements in oibbinadocS, which has become a major subject in all of my later music, is a constant movement between dissonant and consonant sounds, through an extensive use of glissandi, or in rhythmical or melodic patterns. The expanded use of flageolets opens for comprehensive harmonic variation. The music feels organic and free, and the extended playing techniques are used in relatively idiomatic ways.

I will here show the main elements in what I consider to be the most distinctive constituents in the techniques of Scodanibbio, which are borrowed exorbitantly and given new life through my own variations. Example 1 shows the first page of oibbinadocS, where the four main componential ideas of the piece are colour marked; blue encompass melodic patterns which uses an interchange between ordinary tones and flageolets, red signals the movement between dissonant and consonant sounds in a double-stop consisting of a harmonic and an artificial harmonic while the green colour surround a similar harmonic motion which mostly consist of rhythmified patterns of harmonics and ordinary tones. The black colour marks timbral figures of harmonics.

Ex. 1. oibbinadocS, page 1 with markings

Blue; melodic patterns

The main characteristic in Scodanibbio’s music for strings is the constant interchange between ordinary tones and flageolets through continuous melodic figures which either moves horizontally (along the string) or vertically (across several strings). The figures are often gestural and organized in quick succession, which gives a sense of virtuosity to the movements. Scodanibbio found an idiomatic approach to this technique by enabling the use of harmonics on every part of the fingerboard, also in the low and middle positions.

The first melodic line appearing in oibbinadocS is an ornamented horizontal figure, which rises an octave through the interchanging ordinary tones and harmonics. Towards the end of the melodic line a vertical movement sweeps across the strings, letting the harmonics sound together. In essence, this line contains the basic musical ideas as formulated by Scodanibbio. But, we already see a minor step forward in my use of integrated harmonics and ordinary tones in the low and middle thumb positions. This is not so common in Scodanibbio’s music, although it do exist. The reason probably being that it is slightly more difficult and awkward to play in the thumb position than in the lower positions on the fingerboard. I will show later in this article, through oibbinadocS and other works, that the left-hand positions are extended into new territory in my own music.

The figures on the second and third line illustrate typical patterns from Scodanibbio, where the line moves continuously across the strings with occasional resting points on harmonics or open strings along the line. Scodanibbio developed this technique in his early works, which came to serve as a model for most of his later music. In Sei studi (1981/83) “the poetic forms… do not consist of abstract concepts or models that are fundamental to the creative process in establishing the structure, but rather the musical shapes and forms result from choosing anew for each piece a concrete approach to the music and its performance - and this refers not only exclusively to the special “playing technique” but also to the individual aesthetic” (Korb). Many of the figures in oibbinadocS are extracted from the 5th movement in Sei study, called On turning. This is made clear by comparing the excerpts in example 2 with the material in the blue boxes in example 1. The interchange between harmonics and ordinary tones is used in all of Scodanibbio’s compositions, and naturally also in his re-composing of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIV for double bass, called Sequenza XIVb. Scodanibbio composed this version with the permission of Berio, with the result of a highly original work for the double bass. Scodanibbio utilizes his whole technical repertoire to underline the music, and the work sums up his own revolutionary way of writing and playing. Harmonics are used actively throughout the work, both arco and pizzicato.

Ex. 2. On turning, page 1, line 1, and page 1, line 6

Ex. 3. Sequenza XIVb, page 4, line 3

A tablature notation proves to be the most practical way of notating harmonics, when used in an integrated way within the positions and movement of the left-hand on the fingerboard. The harmonics are notated where they are being fingered (position and string), and only rarely the sounding tone is indicated. A system of numbers above the harmonic indicate the string, from high (I) to low (IV). In his early works, Scodanibbio also notate the open string in a parenthesis below the fingered harmonic (see example 2). As the performer familiarize with this system, it is not necessary to always notate the string indication. Most often, the phrase or figure is understood readily by its natural or most pragmatic playability.

Red; between dissonant and consonant sounds through double-stops with harmonic and artificial harmonic

This particular action is an efficacious characteristic in my own music. The effect is clearly illustrated on the first line of example 1: a natural harmonic on the D-string and a 5th artificial harmonic are played simultaneously, creating a consonant sound of F♯/D. Through the glissando, the sound glides into a dissonant sound where the change of the natural harmonic creates the chord of D/E♭. In example 4, the same figure is prolonged by gliding back in to a consonant unison (sounding D/D).

Ex. 4. oibbinadocS, page 2, line 2

The distinctive features of this technique are glissandi on the artificial harmonic, while the natural harmonic either stays put or changes to a neighbouring harmonic. This is a technique that is very practical in thumb position, while less applicable in the lower positions, although some special cases can be used also here. Generally, on the bass, one usually uses the 5th or 4th artificial harmonic. I often get questions about why the major and minor 3rd artificial harmonics are never used on the double bass, and the general answer is that these harmonics are usually more easily played elsewhere as a 4th or 5th artificial harmonic. But again, some exceptions occur. In the context of my own music, the change from the 4th to the major 3rd artificial harmonic, in the sliding shifts of consonant and dissonant sounds, creates some interesting harmonic transformations and allows an extension of the figure. On the second line in example 1 the first glissando of a 4th artificial harmonic end in a unison, beginning from the half-tone above (going from A – B♭ to A – A), while in the second glissando it changes to the major 3rd artificial harmonic and glides into a new unison from the half-tone below (going from D – C♯ to D – D). In the first figure on line 5, the 4th artificial harmonic remains unchanged in an upwards glissando starting in unison (going from C – C to C – C♯), while the natural harmonic changes to the lower neighbouring harmonic, which lets the sound go from a dissonant to a consonant chord (going from C/C♯ to F♯/C♯), which again glides up to a minor 6th chord (F♯/D). There are a vast number of possible combinations in the sliding between the chordal sounds, for example minor 3rd to major 3rd, minor 2 to unison, augmented 4th to perfect 5th, minor or major 7th to unison octave etc.

Green; between dissonant and consonant sounds through double-stops of harmonic and ordinary tones

The concept of a changing between consonant and dissonant sounds is applied to chords that consist of a flageolet and an ordinary tone. This is a more versatile technique than the previous, where the chords are usually calmly sustained, and allows for long rhythmified phrases and aggressive textural ornamentation. The green box on the fourth line of example 1 surrounds a rhythmified sound that moves from a dissonant (sounding E♭/A) into a consonant (sounding E/A) and back again. On line five and seven the changing of sounds take place in a very short time, with a greater number of alternate chords, which I perceive as textural ornamentation. The figure on the first beat in the green box on line five is played very quickly and aggressively, tailing the sound into a rhythmified pattern as in the previous example, while the transformation of the textural ornamentation is more easily recognized in the figure on line seven.

Sustained chords based on double-stops of harmonic and ordinary tones are used by Lars-Petter Hagen in his piece Hymn (2007) for solo double bass. Hagen composed a work where the harmonic material is generated based on harmonies found in the tune “slått”, a characteristic of Norwegian folk music particularly performed on the Hardanger fiddle or normal fiddle. The harmonies were then reduced into an overall connecting two-part voice. All the focus of the work lies on the harmonious sound, which is imitating the intonation of the original tune by raising or lowering the third by a quartertone, and all ornamental embellishments and fiddling virtuosity usually associated with the “slåtte”-technique is removed. The work has a meditative and choral-like expression, hence the title: Hymn. The drone effect of the folk music is in Hymn achieved through sustained sounds by open strings. And to express some of the transparent sound of the Hardanger fiddle, Hagen employed harmonics on the double bass. Through a collaborative process, we found ways to play the harmonies on the instrument, which usually consist of a bass-tone (normal tone) played together with a harmonic overtone (flageolet). The numbers above the staffs indicate on which string to play the notes, going from high to low (I-IV).

Ex. 5. Hymn, page 1

Black; timbral figures of harmonics

Timbral figures of harmonics in oibbinadocS make use of trills and legato tremolo bowing to create living sounds. Ending both figures in example 1 is a combined sound of a harmonic trill with a multiphonics on the adjacent lower string. I found the idea for these sounds in the music by Scodanibbio and Sciarrino. Flageolet trills are used by Scodanibbio in the second movement, Dust, of Sei studi:

Ex. 6. Dust, page 1, line 1

In the 1970s, Salvatore Sciarrino explored flageolet techniques in several pieces for strings. Flageolet trills are used in timbral figures of double-stops and explored in multifarious ways in the second movement of his tremendous oeuvre for solo violin from 1976, Sei Capricci. In addition to the obvious link and similarity to Scodanibbio’s development of the flageolet techniques, this work was also an inspiration for the composing and style of Scodanibbio’s Sei Studi.

Ex. 7. N.2 from Sei Capricci, page 1, line 1

Several variations of trills are used throughout oibbinadocS. For instance, trills involving a harmonic and the open string, as demonstrated in example 8, where the slow movement of the bow between sul ponticello and ordinario sparkles a changing myriad of overtones. Example 9 displays a succession of trills between the fundamental tone and an artificial harmonic, starting with a trill on the 4th artificial harmonic and continuing with trills on the 3rd and minor 3rd artificial harmonic of the same fundamental tone.

Ex. 8. oibbinadocS, page 2, line 3

Ex. 9. oibbinadocS, page 2, line 4