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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000392.txt from 2000/01

From: Tony@-----.uk (Tony Pay)
Subj: Re: [kl] Berio Sequenza IXa
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 03:11:27 -0500

On Wed, 12 Jan 2000 23:12:19 EST, Labadorf@-----.com said:

> Hello all! I've been away for a while, but back again with a few
> questions about Luciano Berio's Sequenza IXa for clarinet.
>
> Can anyone tell me if the suggested fingerings in the music are
> multiphonics or quarter tones?

Some of them, those that apply to a single notated note, are intended to
be change of tone colour or 'vowel'. There is a piece called 'Agnus'
(an extract from Berio's 'Opera') for 2 sopranos and 3 clarinets, where
the sopranos change vowel on single notes, and the clarinets use
different fingerings to obtain a similar effect. Sometimes a small
change of pitch is inevitable, but that's not the primary intention.

The notated fingerings are in no way obligatory, by the way. In fact,
you can do a lot better than most of them. Imagine that the effect you
want is a change of vowel (oo-ee-aa-oo-ee-aa) and experiment.

I found that sometimes *three* different fingerings was overhopeful, and
could get a better effect by just alternating the two best ones.

With regard to the multiphonics (fingerings applying to two-note chords
in the section around K): unfortunately these fingerings were designed
for a full Boehm clarinet with a low Eb. They just don't work on an
ordinary one.

When I first played this piece in London, in a concert conducted by
Berio, I borrowed a full Boehm clarinet to do it. Later, I developed
the technique of putting a strip of Blutack around a C clarinet bell (an
A clarinet bell works too, but less reliably) that I placed on the
floor, and when the moment arrived, I just plonked my Bb clarinet down
on it and picked it up, thus extending the effective length of the
instrument and enabling me to get the chords required.

Of course, I had then to use a fake fingering for the B natural, but
that wasn't too hard. Getting the chords to speak reliably was harder,
though.

I then made a more reliable extension out of an old shampoo bottle, but
when I played the piece in Berio's presence a few years later, he didn't
like it. "You can't use that *suppository*!" he said.

We then developed a version between us (I visited him one time at his
house near Florence to do it) that changed the notes of the chords, and
therefore worked on a normal clarinet. I have a copy of this version of
those few bars that I can send as a zipped GIF (or JPEG, or whatever) to
anyone interested.

*However*, he lost the piece of paper on which it was written, and when
I gave him a copy at a marathon Sequenza-evening in London where we all
had to play from memory:-(, he complained that I'd changed the notes.
"No, *you* changed them," I said.

But he didn't remember, and unfortunately he wasn't in the mood to
be argued with. Still, he didn't object to that bit in performance, and
I now always play the version that works on the ordinary clarinet, and
perforce change the notes, even though it never got published.

I don't think that bit of the piece is all that important, or even, dare
I say it, a very good bit anyway. Berio seems to like the way Claude
Delangle plays it on the saxophone (someone arranged it, John Harle I
think), and obviously there the chords are completely different. But
having heard that version done by Delangle and others, I don't agree
that the piece as a whole works -- I think the clarinet can create a
much preferable atmosphere.

> Is there a reference that I can check for more information on
> performance of the piece or even performance of Berio's music in
> general?

You could ask me about any specifics. I played with him a lot.

But on the whole, I don't like to make general pronouncements. I think
you should find your own way to do it.

Starting by playing pretty much what's written isn't a bad idea;-) (You
know, the written speeds, the written pauses, the written dynamics, the
written slurs, the...etc. When people play it to me, professing to need
help, that always seems to be the bit they haven't thought of. Funny,
that, isn't it?)

> Can anyone suggest a recording?

I've never heard what I thought was a good one, but that doesn't mean
anything -- I've only heard 3 or 4.

In my view, you shouldn't pay too much attention to what other people
have done in this sort of piece. It's between the printed page and you,
really. And when I say that, I don't mean that you should do *just what
you like*, as I indicated above. There are plenty of different ways to
approach it without in any way changing what's written.

Tony
--
_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd Tony@-----.uk
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE GMN family artist: www.gmn.com
tel/fax 01865 553339

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