9th session: Friday 8th April

Meeting room 1, lots of light.

IMG_8046You rarely come across references to the technique col legno battuto (struck with the wood of the bow) in early music, although Biber famously uses the effect in his la Battalia Sinfonia of 1673. And you never come across col legno tratto (bowed with the wood of the bow); this latter technique produces an almost inaudible sound on modern metal-covered strings and is not often used …BUT… we discovered that with gut strings it produces a very useable eerie variation to bowing with the hair as normal. Gut was the normal string material until well into the 20th century; so when Webern wrote his 4 Pieces for Violin and Piano op.7 (1910) he was not intending the negligible sound that is now produced by that technique on metal strings. A bit of experimentation with col legno harmonics ensued and the germ of a new piece perhaps.

Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies (1888,1895) are fascinatingly humble sketches, now universally recognised and very popular despite the fragility and modesty of their material. They convey a scene more than anything: a mood rather than any striking musical or rhetorical detail. We tried a few different ways of orchestrating them, and found that plucked chords simultaneously on both guitar and viol had a pleasingly harp-like effect, in keeping with French impressionistic soundworld of Debussy who made orchestrations of them in 1897. satie

Oblique et coupant l’ombre un torrent éclatant
Ruisselait en flots d’or sur la dalle polie
Où les atomes d’ambre au feu se miroitant
Mêlaient leur sarabande à la gymnopédie

[Slanting and shadow-cutting a bursting stream
Trickled in gusts of gold on the shiny flagstone
Where the amber atoms in the fire gleaming
Mingled their sarabande with the gymnopaedia]
-J.P. Condamine de Latour (1867-1926)

We spent some more time on the DeVisée suite and the Romanesca by Marini. Also the Schop, which led us to discuss Dowland’s Lachrimae (which we will look at with the lute) and his song In Darkness Let Me Dwell which is a beautiful but darkly gothic piece. Putting it into a programme will require setting it up with care, bringing the appropriate mood by degrees; perhaps it should be presented between the Lachrimaes of Dowland and Schop?

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