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This 35 message thread spans 3 pages:  < <   1  [2]  3  > >  
  Re: Violin family instruments  scott_good at 07:49 on 23 April 2008
 

Dear Dmitry,

What a pleasure to listen/watch/learn from your web presences! Aside from the superb Bach recordings, I in particular enjoyed the Dialogue - a lovely mixture of information and spiritual openness. You carry yourself with such grace.

Ok, enough of that :-) I will try to answer your questions with my own limited knowledge of the world of contemporary classical music.

"is it a trend in modern composition to use folkloric instruments and/or players in totally modern scores?" to be honest, I'm not interested in trends, because they distract from the individuality of the artist, and point towards crutches for criticism, so am in general ignorant of their existence. That being said, I have certainly heard of a number of compositions which utilize folkloric instruments alone or amongst other, what is the term, modern...orchestral...well, i think you know of what I speak. And in particular to living in a city like Toronto, I have heard many instances of instruments from other traditions outside of Europe as well making their way into modern classical compositions.

At any rate, from what I have witnessed, it is up to both the composer and performer in these cases to discover and take advantage of the areas in which the two "languages" can speak to each other - one, in timbre (performer), the other, in grammar (composer). I believe quite strongly that great works are and will be more and more created using this dialogue. I think it quite fascinating to think of where music will move to. In particular, when thinking of chamber music, ensembles more and more will become "specialized". Now the constraints of the set ensemble - string quartet, piano trio etc - are loosened - and I mean this not just for composers, but more so for performers. Ensembles can be formed around common interests, aesthetics, and attitudes, not just instrumentations. This is very exciting news for the composer, as there will be no tradition of repertoire for these ensembles to draw from, thus, they will need to work very intimately with composers to not only supplement their oeuvre, but to literally define the sound of the ensemble.

I very much agree that hearing a new instrument (and I mean new to the listener) can have a profound effect, as was related in your sharing of the Monteverdi letter (one of my favorite composers!). Indeed, the first time I heard traditional Peking Opera, it brought me to tears - what sounds! what expressiveness! and what a change from all that I had heard before. It seemed like the immensity of the thousands year old tradition came spilling over me like a wave. I also felt similar when I heard my first European opera, which was Wozzeck (lucky me to start there!). I had never heard 12 tone composition, but was so immediately effected by it's expressive power, and freshness of sound (once again, to my ears). (Note: This is why I never quite understand what the problem is with contemporary music it seems with so many people - when it's great, it's great! What's the problem?)

And I would also like to express a bit of a flip on this conversation. I have performed with musicians hailing from a number of places in the world. In particular, a situation comes to mind when playing with musicians from Iran. They, at a periphery, knew what a trombone was, but had never given it much thought. However, when it became clear that the sliding nature + the colour shapes made with tongue and mouth allowed for the facility to imitate the vocal melodies with stylistic accuracy, that the range was quite large (3+ octaves...the pedal notes were very popular!), and the dynamics possible were also vast, they quickly grew to love hearing it within their music. It felt good to be the outsider looking in - it was both humbling and empowering.

So, I think the future is bright for instrumental exploration - finding new combinations - new partners etc. I don't think issues of intonation are insurmountable, as long as the performer can spend the time to learn what is required of the composer, and the composer can work with restraints - in example, I premiered a new work by peter chin (composer,dancer,choreographer) for a mixture of Balinese percussion instruments and western instruments (violin, bass, trombone). We were restricted to having to conform to the scales of the Gamelan (which were mixed as well - we had 4 "G's" to learn between Ab and F#!). It was tough, but we got quite good at it (+ many many rehearsals with dancers - an amazing experience) - every rehearsal would begin with a tuning session. As well, when we performed with the percussion, the music was simple in rhythm and intervals - almost all scalar, so it could facilitate the learning of the music, intervals, and muscle memory. Smart!

Sorry...much blathering about myself...must go to bed...

Scott

note: a few composers to check out if you haven't yet - ligeti violin concerto use ocharinas, quite a profound moment when they come in - murray schafer (canadian), uses trad, Chinese instruments, Gubuidalina uses folkloric instruments - great composer. so does boulez (if mandolin counts - not sure where this line is drawn). i have heard works with banjo, hurdy gurdy, even rackets! oh ya, there is a fellow names Keeyong Chong at this site who composes incredibly well for traditional Asian instruments and western together! the list is endless.

  Re: Violin family instruments  Misuc at 13:18 on 23 April 2008
 

Yes. I found your site very interesting,Dmitry.

I too am very much interested in writing for folk instruments as well as in the development of new instruments or new developments of old instruments. However, to put it a little too simplistically, folk music is the music of precommercial societies. So, in a different way, is e.g. Baroque music - (These were societies which had a different way of exploiting their people) Their aesthetic attitudes and musical and social relationships were different from one another and radically different from ours.

I don't want to make museum pieces. But I do want learn from other cultures.

The point, for me, is not just to delight in a new titillating sonority (although that can be fun, too!) but creatively to explore other ways of making music, developing new contexts etc. I do not think there is any obligation for a composer to please a passive public today, but I do think he/she does have an obligation to write so-to-speak for an imaginary listener from a future society where there is a more active and useful relationship between composer, player, instrument maker, 'patron', listener etc. - as Schumann said: 'to imitate the music of the future'.

[Some aspects of contemporary composers' interest in early instruments and folk instruments tend in this direction: many do not.]

  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 14:58 on 23 April 2008
 

.

  Re: Violin family instruments  Misuc at 18:26 on 23 April 2008
 

I looked up the website and found Kee Yong Chong's music beautiful, original: the mixture or 'ethnic' and 'symphonic' instruments works in an unforced way. I have never heard this sort of thing done so imaginatively..... I'm going to email him and tell him how much I like what I have heard

  Re: Violin family instruments  Jim Tribble at 18:48 on 23 April 2008
 

Thank you for a very interesting forum. I spent 10 years playing bowed and keyboard early instruments professionally (I now compose and teach in Scotland) and was very interested in your recreation Dmitri. Bach is one of my heroes and I play the cello suites on my viola.

What gave you the idea to play the viola pomposa in that fashion with a strap? (this is not a criticism genuine interest) I used to play a large version of the Viola de Braccio like a viola but with my chin on the other side of the tail piece with most of the instruments body on my shoulder which worked well. This was my own invention as was the tuning as it seemed to suite the type of music and ability to play for long periods of time.

In regards to playing at different scale set ups on the violin you should listen to Indian musicians playing traditional music on violins. Also some of the Arabic music, it is all a matter of the musical tradition and training that you are used to. In early music there is always the question of which "A" to use also the scale or mixture of scales to use in a piece.

What sort of possibilities are you looking for in your new instrument? How about an instrument that you could change the acoustical qualities whilst playing. Perhaps with inbuilt sliding sections that could be activated by tipping? or operated in some fashion by the chin. This could change the timbre of the instrument whilst playing, from rich through to more nasal or Primitive sounds?

In Mozart's time there was a vogue to add effects to instruments, special damping devices, sympathetic strings etc especially on keyboard instruments. Is this what you would like to explore, or are you looking at changing the shape of the violin. What would happen if the body was more/less full of curves and angles than now?

Enough for now.

Jim

  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 08:50 on 25 April 2008
 

Well... I printed this out, and wrote a detailed answer while traveling by train only to face a problem: these days and the next week too is so overloaded with work that I simply do not manage to follow every precious comment you added to this thread.
I will do it ASAP.

A collaboration, that is, a close dialogue between composers and players - that's interesting. About 14 years ago I played in a festival of contemporary music in St.Petersburg. We played Dallapiccola, Ligeti, and Mario Ruffini. Mario himself was present there, and this has made it an unforgettable experience.

I don't have any experience in playing contemporary music (since the last 13 years I went in the opposite direction - known as Historically Informed Performance Practice, and being an instrument builder, I have a purpose of creating Historically Informed Violin Making (given, that except for the violin where makers mainly copy photographs of Strads, all other makers of historical instruments had gone through a painstaking research - I learned a lot from such men as Graham Nicholson, Mimmo Peruffo and specially Marco Tiella). So, if now I see any contemporary score, it looks bewildering to me. But I am willing to learn.

So, some of you write for old instruments? What kind of sonorities do you look for? If you use a violin with gut strings, what type of expression do you seek?

I don't have a clear image of what exactly I want to do. For this I'd have to work closer with the composers to know what they want or don't want (that's why I started this thread).

If anything, I would not make the matter more complicated: no bells, or whistles, built in percussions or whatever... If anything, perhaps, I would make it still simpler. Something like rebecs? With skins instead of wooden plates? Flat like Brazilian or Mexican "violins"? I don't know. Used as a consort, set against another set of instruments? +dance, +images, poetry, theater...? I don't know... The whole image in my mind is somewhat like Picasso's paintings... But all this must have been done countless times... maybe, not with baroque violins....

Let's see more into the Guts:

What inspires me personally, is the down-to-the-earth simplicity and expressiveness of gut strings (which makes the baroque violin sound closer to folkloric instruments... specially if we talk about all-gut-stringing, that is, not baroque violins with modern Gs and too thin d'a'e"s (The Kings Noyse, Dulce Memoires, Ensemble Braccio and other groups)

These strings being much more resistant to the bow require special bowing technique, known during the baroque as "messa di voce". These effects, i.e., expressive means of baroque bowed instruments ARE explored in contemporary music, aren't they?
Could you tell me what to listen?

Sorry for somewhat abrupt message... unfortunately, no time to write a more carefully considered post... I hope I tossed in some useful "images" to heat up this discussion, or...?
Well, if it's not clear, of course, just point to what's wrong or unclear. THANKS.

(P.S. KeeYong was happy for your kind remarks




  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 08:15 on 29 April 2008
 

You do write for baroque violins or viols (or rebecs or fiddles)? I know only one group in Brazil doing it regularly - Anima. Gerald Trimble in the US is using viols and the like instruments his compositions. In Anima and Trimble there is always a mix with traditional sounds because of the inherent qualities of materials - gut (violins and viols), parchment (folkloric percussions) etc. "Mix" is maybe a wrong word but inspiration clearly comes from that tradition. Do you surely know what baroque bowed looked like before they have been standardized? You can see it in iconography. One of useful websites I know is here: http://violadabraccio.com/violin.pictures/


  Re: Violin family instruments  Jim Tribble at 11:25 on 03 May 2008
 

Hi Dimitri, I have been concerned with what I call pure music for some time, I have deliberately looked at writing music that should be playable on different groups of instruments.

Similar to how I feel about Baroque music. I use Baroque techniques but am happy to use more modern inventions as well.

One of the sounds that is missing from modern music which I feel would suit my music is the viol family.

What would the violin family sound like with the purity of the fret. You could then have that purity of sound, and look towards perfect tuning to create wonderful harmonically rich sonorities. You would also have the option of having the stopped sound if the frets were not too prominent.

Just a thought

Jim

  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 12:31 on 03 May 2008
 

Hi Jim,

Thanks!

> I have been concerned with what I call pure music for some time, I have deliberately looked at writing music that should be playable on different groups of instruments.
***** This is a more creative approach - offering more flexibility and leaving more freedom to the performers. I don't know how much warmly welcomed it is in the modern composition, but during baroque epoch instrumentation was frequently omitted: it was up to the players which instruments to use or to sing (or even to rewrite something - even if they knew composer was there in the hall! and composers were sometimes surprised!

> Similar to how I feel about Baroque music. I use Baroque techniques but am happy to use more modern inventions as well.
***** Of course

> One of the sounds that is missing from modern music which I feel would suit my music is the viol family.
***** Actually, why is it missing? Is the fault with the composers who do not feel same as you, or is it on the part of the performers on viols who does not feel like performing contemporary music?

> What would the violin family sound like with the purity of the fret.
***** Why not to try? Though, I don't think it makes much sense given that there is the viol family.

> You could then have that purity of sound, and look towards perfect tuning to create wonderful harmonically rich sonorities.
***** I agree. What you are looking for is probably a rather archaic set of violins which sounds something between the viols and the violins. I made a set of such instruments for La Petite Bande last year. I am sure they will not use them with contemporary scores but with Schutz etc.

Sound-wise, they are indeed a consort. They don't look like conventional violins, though they are based on surviving examples (I went to study one in Geneva). If you were to write for a band of archaic violins, what music this would be? I'd love to get an idea.

Additionally, you must know about specific limitations and expressive possibilities of gut strings. Don't expect baroque violin (viol) players to know all about it. But, I could help you out with this and recommend a few reliable sources for further information.

Violins with pure gut (no metal wound strings) can make unbelievable sounds. Even those with metal on them can. I had a chance to play with Ricercar Consort for a few years where those sounds were explored ex tempore on stage. I am sure, however, contemporary music could make an interesting use of the "phonetic" sound-scape of gut strings (sorry for improvised terminology... I hope I don't make it confusing).

Have a look on what archaic "violins" look like in the oldest pictures, even during the time of Monteverdi (when the three-stringed viole da braccio were still common!)

Just another thought..

Dmitry


  Re: Violin family instruments  Jim Tribble at 19:32 on 03 May 2008
 

Hi Dmitri thank you for the response, you are right that there are already very good viol groups some of whom do play modern compositions, I was just speculating what it would sound like to have modern violin with frets? That would be a bold sound.

In the past I played medieval/renaissance viols, viola da braccio, rebecs, baroque violin, modern violin, viola, chinese cello (with a snake skin for a front plate and hexagon shaped) I have played all gut strings in various acoustics etc. I feel I have an understanding for the instruments and for gut sonorities.

But I don't feel that I can offer you much in your quest, as I am trying to write music that is not bound by one instrument or family.

I am also concerned with leaving out most of the instructions common to modern music (apart from improvised pieces though even here there are usually a lot of instructions). As a musician I feel that I get more out of a piece of music that I can explore freely from the page without endless unnecessary instructions. I wish musicians to enjoy playing the pieces and that this should be part of the experience of the piece.

I love the sound of consort music, especially viols they are really magical. I would like to hear what the consort of violins sounds like especially the small top violin (tuned D, A, E, B?) and a smaller cello to fill in the gap.

Thank you for liking my ideas.

Jim


  Re: Violin family instruments  Misuc at 21:25 on 03 May 2008
 

Jim and I have had our differences, but astonishingly, I find that my feeling about these instruments are exactly similar. For many years I have been haunted by the idea of a 'utopian' concert-length piece for renaissance, 'baroque' and folk instruments to use the whole space of a venue (e.g. a church), based broadly mainly on French baroque models a musical equivalent to Poussin; ('Et in Arcadia Ego' and 'Landscape with Polyphemus' } but also including 'Apotheoses' for Satie, Boulez etc. I have whole notebooks of sketches. I have experience working with early music groups like 'Musica Reservata' and others) Only the possibility of a performance - preferably with a fixed deadline could enable me to finish it: it became a sort of unfinishable Finnegan's Wake or old children's playroom of fragments and broken images...

  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 00:15 on 04 May 2008
 

Hi Jim
> I was just speculating what it would sound like to have modern violin with frets? That would be a bold sound.
**** Indeed. THis should not be a big problem to try. Have a modern violin, change the upper nut with another one somewhat higher and tie the frets. Not many can be tied on the neck but this will give an idea if that's where you want to go... If this works, the shape of the violin can be modified to reflect some certain aesthetic-philosophic background. I am willing to work together with you, if this is what you are thinking about.


> In the past I played medieval/renaissance viols, viola da braccio, rebecs, baroque violin, modern violin, viola, chinese cello (with a snake skin for a front plate and hexagon shaped) I have played all gut strings in various acoustics etc. I feel I have an understanding for the instruments and for gut sonorities.
**** I am overwhelmed. You have a formidable experience! I have not played that many instruments myself.

> I am also concerned with leaving out most of the instructions common to modern music (apart from improvised pieces though even here there are usually a lot of instructions). As a musician I feel that I get more out of a piece of music that I can explore freely from the page without endless unnecessary instructions. I wish musicians to enjoy playing the pieces and that this should be part of the experience of the piece.
**** This is very interesting and welcoming approach. My guess is that it will give your music the chances it needs to be performed afresh each time. Maybe, it will even escape petrification when everybody knows how exactly it should be performed "correctly".

I love the sound of consort music, especially viols they are really magical. I would like to hear what the consort of violins sounds like especially the small top violin (tuned D, A, E, B?) and a smaller cello to fill in the gap.
**** Then you might have heard Hatchins consort? Personally I don't like the tiniest violin for its shrilling sound. But the one you mention is tuned lower. It's a sort of piccolo isn't it? Next month I play Brandenburg concertos where we have a violino piccolo, viols, double-bass, large violoncello and three small violoncellos da spalla (the spallas all made by me).
The sonorities are fresh. Also those of the germanic violins which I made last year: 1st violin slightly smaller than the second, the 2nd violin about the size of the common violin, 3rd violin like a viola, 4th violin like a huge (tenor) viola..... I'd like to hear your music. Where?

Dmitry

  Re: Violin family instruments  Dmitry Badiarov at 00:20 on 04 May 2008
 

> Jim and I have had our differences, but astonishingly, I find that my feeling about these instruments are exactly similar.
**** Then, from what I read, I feel we have our differences (how we could not?) but astonishingly we are thinking about somewhat similar things. When you have sketched your Arcadian instruments, let me know.




  Re: Violin family instruments  scott_good at 19:40 on 04 May 2008
 


JIM: "I am also concerned with leaving out most of the instructions common to modern music (apart from improvised pieces though even here there are usually a lot of instructions). As a musician I feel that I get more out of a piece of music that I can explore freely from the page without endless unnecessary instructions."

Yes, I agree in part, but then isn't notating a quarter note intrinsically a very specific instruction? This note, this length, this spot.

And the other concern I have with this is that it will restrict your composition to using only the most commonly held notations - anything irregular will have to be ignored as it would require explanation.

I have performed works with extensive instructions that ended up being quite liberating for performance once the new notation was learned. In fact, often these are the pieces that allow for maximum creative input from the performer, as the instructions are about interpreting the improvisation (as you have mentioned).

But, I would agree that the degree at which scores are often overly notated with dynamics, articulations, and verbal instructions leaves little room for a player to "make it there own". And I do love playing baroque music for this very reason - so much room for interpretation.

  Re: Violin family instruments  Misuc at 22:52 on 04 May 2008
 

Notation is very difficult if you are trying to be not quite precise about things which are not naturally precise by nature. To refer to another forum, the chief reason why my pieces are not more often performed (something which makes me mad, by the way) is that I mostly use a cross between conventional and graphic notation, which is metronomically of what I hope to be the right degree of ambiguity/spontaneity . Players understand how this works quite easily if I am there to conduct or explain. But the scores do not get past reading panels. [Perhaps this is sometimes also because I am not or perhaps because I am known to them personally.]

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