Risonanze for Clarinet & Electronics

Risonanze was composed in the summer of 2016. The title (in Italian because I was based in Milan at the time) means ‘resonances’ or, in the literal way I have used it here, ‘re-soundings’ which occur after the clarinet soloist plays, or at the same time, by way of multiple delays allied to pitch shifters or multiple pitch shifters. Then there is the ‘freeze’ reverb where the soloist’s staccato notes are prolonged and built up into ‘chords’ which are then sampled to form the basis of new, bell or gong-like, inharmonic timbres. In fact, every sound you hear in this work is derived, directly or indirectly, from the sound of a clarinet. Also, ‘pre-echoes’ of fragments from later in the piece can be heard superimposed on the live clarinet part, most noticeably towards the end of the first part. Finally, particularly at the beginning of the second section, we hear very faint ‘overtones’, derived from routing the soloist’s sound through several pitch shifters, transforming the timbre of the solo clarinet’s long, sustained notes.

There are risonanze in the rhythmic domain also. All of the work’s rhythmic structures consist of a single non-retrogradable rhythm that is always presented with an expanded or contracted variant of itself superimposed. Thus diverse, though related, composite rhythms are created. The ratios of the variants to the original range from the relatively simple to the extremely complex and, in numerical terms, irrational (examples 1 & 2).

Example 1

Example 2

While it is difficult for a player to realise such rhythmic relationships with absolute accuracy, others with closer ratios such as 15:16 (the ratio which, in terms of pitch, creates the interval of a minor second) would be impossible. These are then assigned to the electronic parts and sounded via inharmonic timbres (example 3).

Example 3

Towards the end of the second section particularly, the relationships in the clarinet part become so complex that indications of the rhythmic ratios are dispensed with and the soloist is invited to base his or her interpretations of the rhythms on the spacing of the notes on the page (example 4).

Example 4

This raises interesting questions, in my mind, about the connection between the realisation of rhythms notated in the manner of the school known as ‘the new complexity’ and what can be performed or, indeed, perceived. Even if such rhythmic relationships were to be performed with absolute accuracy, would the listener recognise them?   The answer is probably ‘no’. Even though there are performers who might come very close to 100% accuracy, the problem of perception persists. It is interesting to reflect on how rhythms such as these would be notated – even by a musician of some sophistication – from dictation. It would certainly seem that the human brain will tend to ‘resolve’ such rhythmic relationships so that they fit into more familiar schemata, and the resulting notation may well be much simpler than the original. This, in turn, begs the question as to whether this music should have been notated more simply in the first place – a question that certainly arose in my mind as my Sibelius software replayed what I had written. To me, the initial answer is that ‘it is what it is whatever it sounds like’, but a potential performer might well see things differently: he or she, in a sincere desire to realise the composer’s intentions accurately, might well sense too onerous an undertaking before them.

You can hear the whole work on SoundCloud by following the link below. Your comments are most welcome!

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