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Shared moments

In Luciano Berio’s Naturale (about Sicilian melodies), a work from 1985 for viola, percussion and recorded voice, the performers plays together with pre-recorded Sicilian traditional folksong. Naturale sparkeled my imagination to write Shared moments, where I used a similar strategy by letting the double bass plays together with recordings of Indian tablas, as well as pre-recorded bass sounds. In Shared moments I experiment with harmonics, multiphonics and percussive techniques, and the work is composed on the basis of an intuitive approach, in which improvisation and experimentation with the playing techniques form the basis. Two different thematic sections, one being played arco and the other pizzicato, consisting of rhythmical and timbral elements are set against each other, and the material within these is varied and developed as the piece unfolds. Towards the middle of the piece, a contrasting third part emerges, which is, interacting with the tabla, represented by an adapted Indian melody. Reminiscences of the melody appear later in the piece, this time in the tape part. The process of composing Shared moments was more about putting together a unique soundscape than presenting the more conventional musical narratives. The recorded sounds usually functions as an additive to the acoustical sound. They alter the original sound in varying degrees, create either gradual or overlapping transformations between sounds or change completely the auditory effect. Often one does not know whether one can distinguish between the acoustic and electroacoustic tone.

The first thematic section of Shared moments is marked in example 1 with purple arrows. It makes use of sounds primarily created with the bow. A very central technique in these sections is the rimbalzo verticale, where the bow, with or without a richochet attack, uses the gravity and the spring of the stick to bounce slowly down the string towards the bridge. The effect is a very soft, but intensely animated bouncing sound. When the string is left open, a faint sound of the open string or stopped note is perceptible. If the string is damped, only the fluttering sound of the hair of the bow is heard. A number of other bouncing sounds also occur; either tight rolls which produces an effect close to the roll of percussion instruments – like the arco gettato technique, which I describe in detail in Section 2 of the text The Story of ZAB – or normal richochet on harmonics, multiphonics and normal tones, and “rhythmic bounces” consisting of a mixture of left-hand pizzicato and col-legno battuto. The sounds and animated rhythms of the “rhythmic bounces” can been heard as anecdotes related to the pizzicato-section, the second thematic section, which follows from the end of line two until the middle of line four in example 1.

Ex. 1. Shared moments, page 1 with markings. The rimbalzo verticale is marked in green, the “rhythmic bounces” is marked in red and a recurring timbral figuration is marked in blue.

The pizzicato sections builds on a simple rhythmical frame that imitates a folk rhythm from a Norwegian fiddle tune. The elements of the basic rhythm are stretched, ornamented and repeated for variation. Other creative incentives were found in the drum-imitations in the opening of Sequenza XIVb (see example 12 in the section on Glasperlenspiel), in its cascading combinations with flageolet pizzicato, and in the percussive figures of Philippe Boivin’s ZAB ou la passion selon St..Nectaire, which are performed with the hands and resembling that of the Persian tonbak drum. I didn’t elaborate much on the purely percussive sounds and techniques in ZAB, but focused instead on developing a specific rhythmical movement pattern, a percussive pizzicato figuration “à la Boivin”. This is a complex quintuplet figure that generates a vast number of sounds, seen in example 2. Succeeding from the previous action (and also being similar to the 5th sixteenth-note in the quintuplet), where the thumb is moved with force horizontally onto the string creating a muffled sound, the thumb rest on the IV-string and is on the 1st sixteenth-note in the quintuplet released with a soft pluck, triggering the open E-string. The open G-string is then plucked with the left-hand before a percussive knock hits the body of the bass. The 4th sixteenth-note in the quintuplet produce a bi-tone in addition to the normal tone when the finger is hammered on the string, and the 5th sixteenth-note in the quintuplet creates a muffled sound when the thumb is moved with force horizontally onto the string.

Ex. 2. ZAB ou la passion selon St..Nectaire, page 2, line 1

Fairly complex pizzicato techniques also form the basis for an extension I wrote to Lars-Petter Hagen’s beautiful piece Hymn. As a contrast to the calmly stretched chords in Hymn, which are played with the bow, I introduced two short sections called Hymn extension, which are juxtaposed on the original piece (with the composers approval) and played pizzicato. The extension is based on Scodanibbio’s two-hand flageolet pizzicato technique, but I also introduce elements such as left-hand pizzicato on the fingerboard and bi-tones from my own piece Amarcord. These musical ‘contrasts’ are created out of a harmonic chord material found in Norwegian folk music, similar to Hagen’s approach, using different harmonies than those constituting Hagen’s part. The contrasting material is therefore of harmonic, timbral and rhythmic character.

Ex. 3. Hymn extension