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New Techniques – New Works

Håkon Thelin


Main chapters: Page

oibbinadocS 2
Light 6
Glasperlenspiel 11
Shared moments 19
Foxfire Zwei 20

List of sources 21

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New Techniques – New Works
Through musical examples, with basis in my own works, I aim to illustrate and discuss novel
playing techniques that has been subject to a recent development, beginning with the work
oibbinadocS from 2004 and extending through the fellowship period where I composed the
works Light, Shared moments and Glasperlenspiel. The techniques being part of this
investigation, which all are main constituents of my compositions, are based on harmonics
and multiphonics. While this presentation focuses on the flageolet techniques, a thorough
description of multiphonics is given in the text Multiphonics on the Double Bass.

The point of departure for my artistic work has been the discovery and ongoing study of the
music of Stefano Scodanibbio. From his early works around 1980 to Sequenza XIVb, one of
his recent works for solo double bass, we find a constant quest to create new variations on
the flageolet theme (ʻharmonicʼ and ʻflageoletʼ are used interchangeably throughout the text).
He has built an innovating musical language on the double bass by integrating remarkably
idiomatic combinations of harmonics and normal tones with a number of bowing and pizzicato
techniques. Works of Fernando Grillo and Salvatore Sciarrino, having inspired Scodanibbio,
also serve as guides in the notation of harmonics and related techniques. And examples from
compositions of Lars-Petter Hagen and Helmut Oehring, being central in my work during the
fellowship period, provide further illustrations of harmonics and multiphonics.

oibbinadocS (for double bass)!

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 Scodanibbioʼs 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

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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 Scodanibbioʼs 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 5 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 Scodanibbioʼs compositions, and naturally also in his re-
composing of Luciano Berioʼs 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

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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 5 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 5
th rd
or 4 artificial harmonic. I often get questions about why the major and minor 3 artificial
harmonics are never used on the double bass, and the general answer is that these
th th
harmonics are usually more easily played elsewhere as a 4 or 5 artificial harmonic. But
again, some exceptions occur. In the context of my own music, the change from the 4 to the
major 3 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 4 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 3 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 4 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 6 chord (F!/D). There are a vast number of possible combinations in the
rd rd
sliding between the chordal sounds, for example minor 3 to major 3 , minor 2 to unison,
th th th
augmented 4 to perfect 5 , minor or major 7 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

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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 Scodanibbioʼs development of the flageolet
techniques, this work was also an inspiration for the composing and style of Scodanibbioʼs
Sei Studi.

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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
th rd
harmonic, starting with a trill on the 4 artificial harmonic and continuing with trills on the 3
and minor 3 artificial harmonic of the same fundamental tone.

Ex. 8. oibbinadocS, page 2, line 3

Ex. 9. oibbinadocS, page 2, line 4

Light (for double bass and violin)!

The original idea for Light appeared when I was planning a series of concerts in different
lighthouses along the Norwegian coast. Evoking the image of a lighthouse, there are
pulsating elements in this work that establish a sense of light and recognition − short melodic
phrases sometimes suddenly appear in unison, like the beams of light. The sound of
harmonics shines through a diffused and misty atmosphere, and the untraditional playing
techniques found and underline the temperament of the waves and of the wind. In Light, I
borrowed a little ink from a score of Salvatore Sciarrino, to paint my picture of the sea and to
blend the sounds of past and present. To let the double bass make colourful harmonic
alterations in the (new) mix with the violin, to let the shadings meet and create interweaved,
living figures in moments of virtuosity, to let them bounce together on the strings and on the
body. As in Scodanibbioʼs duo for violin and double bass Jardins dʼHamilcar, where the
traditional rhetorical dualism between the instruments has been obliterated and replaced with
a singularity of sound and technique, I sought a homogeneous expression of sounds, which is
made possible through the novel flageolet techniques. But previously “unheard” sounds can
also in themselves be alienating and thus create imaginary cracks in the perception of the
uniform sounds. The work is technically demanding, but with a fleeting and subdued

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Novel techniques of the double bass are found in rhythmical, percussive figures, where I mix
techniques of col-legno, left and right-hand pizzicati and hammer-on, arco tenuto bowings and
jeté on the body of the instrument. Already in the opening of the piece, the bow is placed on
the body in a position under the strings. An sweeping tenuto bowing plays together with left-
hand pizzicatos, on harmonics and as hammer-on/pull-off pizzicato, as illustrated in example
1. The col-legno on the strings (harmonic or ordinary tone) is played by hitting the strings
string IV and I from the underneath. In this way, combinations with playing on the body and on
the strings are made possible. Chords are also being utilized by placing the left-hand in
positions where a fingered bass-tone on string IV, being hit col-legno from the underneath, is
played with a left-hand flageolet pizzicato on string I. The right-hand is moved to its normal
position for playing of the octave flageolet pizzicatos in the yellow box, and thereafter returned
to the position beneath the strings. !

Ex. 1. Light, page 1, with markings


The violin follows the double bass in a harmonic, chordal play, which is either split up in
broken chords or in repeated double stops of two harmonics. The harmonic material in the
violin is derived from chords used by Salvatore Sciarrino in the second movement of his Sei
Capricci for solo violin (see example 5). New harmonies emerge when mixed with the double
bass. On the last line of example 1, encircled in the brown box, we see a suggestion of a
rhythmical and harmonic interplay, which is later in the piece progressively unfolded in a
nearly minimalist manner, to remind of the imaginary puls of the waves and the wind. An
example of this section is shown in example 2. Here, the double bass performs polyrhythmic
figures with the techniques explained in example 1: Combinations of arco battuto and jeté on
the body of the instrument, with chords of left-hand flageolet pizzicato and col-legno battuto
from underneath the string. Harmonics on string I are also being played with col-legno buttuto
and col-legno jeté together with hammer-on pizzicato on the lower strings, as seen towards
the end of the example.

Ex. 2. Light, page 8


From 1990 until 1994 Scodanibbio composed a cycle of duets for every combination of what
he calls the real string quartet; violin, viola, cello and double bass. In the first of these duets,
Jardins d´Hamilcar (1990) for violin and double bass, he creates long unison passages for the
two instruments using the interchange between ordinary tones and flageolets. In example 12,
the line of the double bass is mirrored by the violin in a passage that almost provokes a
schizophrenic reaction by the rapid changes of harmonics and ordinary tones. This allegory is
also noticed by Enzo Restagno who writes in his text for the CD of the Six Duos that “…the
stretching of the registers, thanks to the use of harmonics, ends with the attribution of a
double personality to the single instrument”.

Ex. 3. Jardins d´Hamilcar, page 2, line 4

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The six pieces manifest the compositional, technical and poetic ideas of Scodanibbio, through
six distinctly different works in which memories, meditations and fantasies are mixed together
in the meeting between the two instruments/personalities. The immediate sonic impressions
are contrasted by the works poetic and literary influences. The Jardins d´Hamilcar reveals in
its title a reference to the opening words of the novel Salammbô (1862) by the French writer
Gustave Flaubert: C'était à Mégara, faubourg de Carthage, dans les jardins d'Hamilcar... "It
was at Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar, that the soldiers whom he
had commanded in Sicily were holding a great feast to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle
of Eryx. The master was absent, their numbers were large, and accordingly they ate and
drank in perfect freedom."

Jardins d´Hamilcar encompasses the novel techniques and the new virtuosity in equal relation
between the double bass and the violin, and the piece prevails an unprecedented technical
tour de force. In particular, the homogeneous expression of sounds and the unison passages
was transmitted into the soundscape of Light, although the fleeting and subdued expression,
which I seeked, limits, or suppress, the extreme virtuosity which is so prominent in Jardins
d´Hamilcar. In Light, simpler and shorter melodic phrases suddenly appear in unison, like
beams of light through the mist:

Ex. 4. Light, detail of unison passage, page 7, line 5

The violin is played mostly on the lower strings in the low positions, but combined with the
harmonics, one also reach the high, transparent, and fragile sounds of the instrument. The
origins of the shimmering flageolet quotations, from Salvatore Sciarrinoʼs Sei Capricci, are
encircled in example 5. Compared to example 6, one can see the similarity from Sciarrinoʼs
original and my own re-interpretation, or rather re-setting, of the music. The extracted material
is simply organized in a new succession, and coloured by the presence of the double bass.

Ex. 5. N.2 from Sei Capricci, page 1 with markings


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Ex. 6. Light, page 4, line 1 and 2 with markings

My notation of the arco tremolo and jeté is derived from the notation of Sciarrino and
Scodanibbio. The signs differ from the traditional consensus in that the jeté is notated with the
usual sign of the tremolo, and the new tremolo sign is an ornamentation of the old notation:

Ex. 7. Light, page 3 line 5

In a sudden shift of character, emerging from the undulating reharmonisation of the

quotations of Sciarrino, a lively, homogeneously virtuosic soundscape appears on page 4 of
Light. The instruments awake to play games with each other, of active imitation and following,
from calm common whispers to a gust scenario of catching oneʼs wind. The techniques of
flageolet arpeggios and arco jeté make ground for the section, which is technically very
challenging, as one must make the most out of the consonant and dissonant double-stops.

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Again, it is the timbral exchange between consonance and dissonance that is the supporting
idea behind this section of the piece. The first lines of the section are shown in examples 8a
and 8b:

Ex. 8a. Light, page 4, line 5

Ex. 8b. Light, page 5, line 1-3

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Glasperlenspiel (for double bass and tenor voice)
The unusual combination of bass and voice in Glasperlenspiel creates great expressive
possibilities, which are enhanced by the freedom achieved through extended instrumental
techniques. I have been lucky to be able to work with the singer Frank Havrøy on techniques
for overtone singing that in this piece are combined with my own techniques of harmonics on
the double bass. Glasperlenspiel is organized according to an alternating use of two poems,
Zu einer Toccata von Bach and Das Glasperlenspiel, which are taken from Hermann Hesseʼs
novel by the same title,!

Zu einer Toccata von Bach

 Das Glasperlenspiel

Urschweigen starrt... Es waltet Finsternis...
 Musik des Weltalls und Musik der Meister
Da bricht ein Strahl aus zackigem Wolkenriss,
 Sind wir bereit in Ehrfurcht anzuhören,
Greift Weltentiefen aus dem blinden Nichtsein,
 Zu reiner Feier die verehrten Geister
Baut Räume auf, durchwühlt mit Licht die Nacht,
 Begnadeter Zeiten zu beschwören.
Lässt Grat und Gipfel ahnen, Hang und Schacht,

Lässt Lüfte locker blau, lässt Erde dicht sein.
 Wir lassen vom Geheimnis uns erheben
Der magischen Formelschrift, in deren Bann
Es spaltet schöpferisch zu Tat und Krieg
 Das Uferlose, Stürmende, das Leben,
Der Strahl entzwei das keimend Trächtige:
 Zu klaren Gleichnissen gerann.
Aufglänzt entzündet die erschrockne Welt.

Es wandelt sich, wohin die Lichtsaat fällt,
 Sternbildern gleich ertönen sie kristallen,
Es ordnet sich und tönt die Prächtige
 In ihrem Dienst ward unserm Leben Sinn,
Dem Leben Lob, dem Schöpfer Lichte Sieg.
 Und keiner kann aus ihren Kreisen fallen,
Als nach der heiligen Mitte hin.
Und weiter schwingt sich, gottwärts rückbezogen,

Und drängt durch aller Kreatur Getriebe

Dem Vater Geiste zu der grosse Drang.

Er wird zu Lust und Not, zu Sprache, Bild, Gesang,

Wölbt Welt um Welt zu Domes Siegesbogen,

Ist Trieb, ist Geist, ist Kampf und Glück, ist Liebe.

Following the verses of the two poems, Glasperlenspiel is divided into sections that are
repeatedly interwoven. Like characters from ʻCastaliaʼ, the performers partake in a dialogue,
an intellectual ʻKlangspielʼ with Hesseʼs words. A dissection of words and phrases shapes the
textual and phonetic part of the voice and numerical series (derived from the poems)
constitute the structural basis for the different sections of the work. Hence, the composition
becomes a game with text fragments and musical phrases, in which the explicit
communication, or a precise interpretation of the texts, is secondary to the attempts of
expressing the very subjective feelings that arise when reading Hesseʼs words.

The opening is sung without words, except for a theme-fantasy called “Liebeslied”, which
uses some central text fragments from Das Glasperlenspiel as well as the melodic material in
its original intervallic form (borrowed from a toccata of Johann Sebastian Bach). In unison
with the double bass, the vocal part continues with rhythmified singing and recitation of
passages from Zu einer Toccata von Bach, interrupted by verses of Das Glasperlenspiel
where a flowing melodic line characterizes the double bass – vivid and brilliant in its dialogue
with the singer who more calmly contemplates on fragments and phonemes from the text.
Here, a third character is introduced through the voice of the bass player who, like a listener
from the ʻoutside worldʼ, tries to imitate the erudite scholar with a monotonous but clear
articulation. Unable to fully grasp what is expressed, he ends up producing an unredeemed
caricature of the voice of the ʻMagisterʼ.

The double bass part is based on improvisations and re-writings of phrases from the music of
Scodanibbio, which were subsequently organized in rhythmical structures according to the
numerical series derived from the text. Many of these inspirational phrases of Scodanibbio
are found in his work Due pezzi brillianti, which exhibit a perpetuum mobile that I wanted to
transform into a more free and improvisational character. A general comparison between the

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flowing vividness of the rhythms and the brilliant expression of Scodanibbio, and the
transformation into my own ideas, can be seen in examples 1 and 2. An immanent paradox is
that while the breathing music of Scodanibbio originally belongs to an intuitive creative
process, the music in the sections of “Das Glasperlenspiel”, being strictly organized in
structures, actually prevails a greater sounding expression of freedom and rhythmical flow.

Ex. 1. Due pezzi brillanti, from page 2

Ex. 2. Glasperlenspiel, page 5, line 5, and page 6, line 1-4


On the last line in example 2 we can see a pulsating drone, using enharmonic sounding
flageolets on the G and D-string, that is inspired from Scodanibbioʼs writing, as illustrated in
the following:

Ex. 3. Due pezzi brillanti, page 6, line 2

Another example of shifts of enharmonic tones between two strings is seen in example 4,
where the two last tones in each triplet are either in unison or octave relations. The glissando
movement is inspired by the artificial harmonics glissandi seen in example 5.

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Ex. 4. Glasperlenspiel, page 10, line 2

Ex. 5. Due pezzi brillanti, page 4, line 2-3

A signature of movement and sound, a real trademark characteristic so to speak of

Scodanibbioʼs playing is in my opinion displayed in example 6. A slow arpeggio sweeps over
the strings, mixing harmonics with ordinary tones to create a harmonic spectrum which, in the
normal tuning of perfect fourths, also enables intervals of thirds, minor seconds and
augmented fourths, all within the differing dimensions of the pitches. As Wolfgang Korb writes
about Due pezzi brillanti: “…these two ʻbrilliant piecesʼ combines rapid, initially brief runs of
(normally sounding) tones with arpeggiated or dotted figures made up of harmonics –
constantly interrupted by brief caesuras that seem to mark a new ʻapproachʼ each time. These
brief alternating sound shapes are then connected together into longer chains of notes that
constantly change between fundamental and overtone spectra”.

Ex. 6. Due pezzi brillanti, page 3, line 2

And then my own interpretation of the above phrase:

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Ex. 7. Glasperlenspiel, page 12, line 4

As a contrast to the flowing legato multitude in the sections of “Das Glasperlenspiel”, rapid
cascades of repeating notes appear in a virtuosic staccato, in double stops where the stopped
notes circle around the flageolet pedal tone. Also here we can see an incremental inn and out
movement of consonant and dissonant harmonies. By comparing examples 8 and 9 one can
see my own extended version of Scodanibbioʼs original musical and technical idea.

Ex. 8. Due pezzi brillanti, page 7, line 5

Ex. 9. Glasperlenspiel, page 6, line 1-2

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A musical synthesis of the material from both main sections of the piece (“Das
Glasperlenspiel” and “Zu einer Toccata von Bach”) marks the ending of the last “Das
Glasperlenspiel” verse, followed by another appearance of the “Liebeslied theme” – this time
as a solo double bass fantasy – that transits into the last verse of Zu einer Toccata von Bach.
Here, the music radically changes character. Aphoristic utterances echo into textures of
floating consonant and dissonant harmonies. The ʻlistenerʼ now approaches a possible
understanding of the text, and lets the reverberating music colour his interpretation. Towards
the end, as the music gradually consolidates the past and present and resolves into its old
shape, the initial Bach melody leads into the final and quiescent “Liebeslied”.

Example 10 shows the opening of Glasperlenspiel. The double bass passage is played
pizzicato with both hands, where the upward note-stems indicate left-hand pizzicato (marked
in blue) and the downward note-stems indicate right-hand pizzicato (marked in green). The
rhythm on the middle staff-line indicates the summed rhythm of both hands, for the ease of

Ex. 10. Glasperlenspiel, page 1, line 1


The virtuosic two-hand flageolet pizzicato technique was developed and perfected by
Scodanibbio. The side of each thumb is placed over the harmonic nodes in thumb position,
left-hand usually covering the two upper strings, being plucked with the index and ring finger,
and right-hand covering the two lower strings, being plucked with the first and index finger.
The most complex usage by Scodanibbio of the two-hand flageolet pizzicato can be heard in
the third part, called Voyage Interrupted, of his monumental work Voyage that never ends
(1979-1997). This piece was never notated, but a similar usage of the technique constitutes
the sixth movement, Farewell, of his Sei studi from 1981. Similarly improvised, the score of
this movement suggest only fragments of patterns that can be used.

Ex. 11. Details from Farewell, the 6.movement from Sei studi

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My particular notation of the flageolet pizzicato technique is a variation of Scodanibbioʼs
writing from Sequenza XIVb, as seen in example 12. Contrary to the notation in his early
works, the hands are here notated on the same staff. Already in the beginning of the work he
introduces a new variation of the flageolet pizzicato, imitating the Sri Lankan Kandyan drum,
by drumming on the body of the bass at the same time as playing flageolet pizzicato. The
introduction continues with flageolet pizzicato in both right and left hand, before entering a
passage that resembles the rhythm and sound of the tabla drum.

Ex. 12. Sequenza XIVb, page 1, with markings


The purple arrow in example 10 points to a right-hand pizzicato multiphonics. The thumb is
placed on the side of the string and simultaneously released while being plucked hard with
the index finger. This should produce a complex sound consisting of the fingered harmonic,
the surrounding harmonics and the fundamental. In example 13, we see another detail where
the purple arrow points to the right-hand pizzicato multiphonics.

Ex. 13. Glasperlenspiel, page 11, line 5

A distinctive pizzicato figuration, which appears at several spots during the pizzicato sections,
deserves a special notice. The figure, shown in example 14, mixes all of the pizzicato

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techniques constituting the sections; left-hand hammer-on and pull-off, and flageolet and
multiphonics pizzicato.

Ex. 14. Glasperlenspiel, page 9, line 2


The red box in example 15 surrounds a “percussive” pizzicato figuration “à la Boivin” which I
describe later in the illustrations from Shared moments. The figurations used in
Glasperlenspiel are the same as in Shared moments, except that the percussive knock on the
body of the bass has been completely replaced by pizzicato multiphonics on the 4-6
harmonic partial on the A-string. Still, the figure remains its repetative percussive function,
although the pizzicato multiphonics provided a more tonal sound to the figure. The figure
always ends the pizzicato sections of Glasperlenspiel, for example as shown in bar 125-126
of example 15.

Ex 15. Glasperlenspiel, page 12, line 1 and 2

The last part of Glasperlenspiel, the whole third verse of Zu einer toccata von Bach, is
constructed on the idea of the text being recited with the accompaniment of percussive
harmonies on the double bass. After each recited phrase, the music echoes into a line that
changes between consonant and dissonant harmonies. The pitches and rhythms of this
whole section are organized from number rows generated from the text and applied on
melodic fragments from a Bach toccata.

The echoing harmonies are formed using double stops on the double bass, consisting of a
harmonic or an ordinary tone and an artificial harmonic, together with overtone singing in the
voice. In this way, I try to create a heterogeneous, floating chordal sound between the double
bass and the voice. The chordal passage seen in example 16 is extended by a rhythmical
pattern, and the harmony changes only slightly through glissandos in the beginning and end
of the passage. The accompaniment of the recited text (bar 169), where the two-hand
pizzicato techniques are used, is notated on a system of two staffs, the upper staff for the

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right hand and the lower for the left hand, in order to make the reading of the actions clear.
Multiphonics pizzicato are used both on a natural harmonic (7 partial on the A-string) and on
an artificial harmonic (4 partial from the C fundamental).

Ex. 16. Glasperlenspiel, page 15, line 5

Another example of the writing in this section is illustrated in example 17, where a complex
harmonic line extends over five bars, accentuated by the rhythm and also to a certain extent
coloured by melodic fragments.

Ex. 17. Glasperlenspiel, page 15, line 2 and 3

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Shared moments (for double bass and tape)

In Luciano Berioʼs 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
Boivinʼs ZAB ou la passion selon St..Nectaire, which are performed with the hands and
resembling that of the Persian tonbak drum. I didnʼt 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 5 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 1 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 4 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 5

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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
Hagenʼs 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 Scodanibbioʼs 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 ʻcontrastsʼ are created out of a harmonic chord material found
in Norwegian folk music, similar to Hagenʼs approach, using different harmonies than those
constituting Hagenʼs part. The contrasting material is therefore of harmonic, timbral and
rhythmic character.

Ex. 3. Hymn extension


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
composerʼs 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:

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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 9 harmonic on the D-string) in bar 5 which forms a chord with the C-sharp

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

List of sources:

Feisst. Sabine: Exploring the Art of Solo Writing: Luciano Berioʼs Sequenza and Nine Other
Works, CD sleeve notes for Luciano Berio: Complete Sequenzas, Alternate Sequenzas &
Solo Works
Korb, Wolfgang: CD sleeve notes for Stefano Scodanibbio Geografia amorosa, Col-legno,
2000, translation by Steven Lindberg
Restagno, Enzo: CD sleeve notes for Stefano Scodanibbio Six Duos, New Albion Records,

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Attachment 1
Attachment 2

For Double Bass Solo

Molto tenuto Lars Petter Hagen

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Attachment 3

Col-legno battuto, on strings I and IV.

Creates a chord when combined with
left-hand flageolet pizzicato (red box).

Left-hand flageolet pizzicato. Creates a

chord when combined with col-legno
battuto on string IV (black box).

Left-hand hammer-on and pull-off

Arco battuto, then arco jeté on the body

of the instrument

Arco tenuto on the body of the


Left-hand hammer-on and pull-off on

string III, combined with octave flageolet
pizzicati on string I
Attachment 4
Attachment 5
Attachment 6

Attachment 7

"Percussive" figuration à la "Boivin"

Left-hand pizzicato (upwards note-


Left-hand hammer-on

Right-hand pizzicato multiphonics

Right-hand pizzicato
Attachment 8

Imitating Indonesian drums. Flageolet

pizzicato with the right hand, while left
plays percussion on the body of the

Two-hand flageolet pizzicato

Imitating the tabla drum. Mixture of the

two-hand flageolet pizzicato and left
hand pizzicato on the IV-string.

Melodic line. Mixing the two-hand

flageolet pizzicato with octave pizzicato.
Attachment 9

Ordinary left-hand pizzicato. The thumb

is placed on the A and being plucked
with a finger, in this case being plucked
as a pull-off from the above fingered C-

Left-hand hammer-on

Right-hand pizzicato multiphonics,

moving upwards the A-string from the
5th-7th partial

Left-hand pizzicato
Attachment 10

“Rhythmizised bounces” created by a

mixture of left-hand pizzicato (on the
upper note) and col-legno battuto (on
the lower note).

Rimbalzo verticale

A recurring figuration which use three

different attacks: battuto with the tip of
the bow, left-hand pizzicato and

The pizzicato section uses the two-hand

flageolet pizzicato technique, where the
left-hand actions are notated on the
upper staff and the right-hand actions
on the lower staff. The left-hand also
use hammer-on (marked with a +), and
the right-hand plays some percussive
sounds on the body of the bass as well
as col legno battuto with the bow.
Attachment 11