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Program 707: String Theory

KALW Broadcast Date: July 31, 2022 | Host: Mark Abramson

In this program, we’ll play music for strings, from composers and performers who utilize what are commonly called “extended techniques” – non-traditional, unorthodox, or quote unquote “improper” ways of invoking sound from these instruments. Extended techniques allow music makers to use unusual sounds or tone colors in their work. In classical music, an early example is Berlioz’s use of col legno, violinists striking their strings with the wooden side of their bows, in his Symphonie Fantastique. John Cage is well known for his invention of the prepared piano, and Cage cited Henry Cowell as an inspiration for some of his experiments with non-standard ways of playing. Other examples of extended technique might be bowing below the bridge, or bowing muted strings to get ghostly harmonics. Jazz musicians often use non-standard playing techniques in their compositions and improvisations, as do rock guitarists – think Jimi Hendrix’s version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

To illustrate, we’ll be playing tracks from 5 new recordings from composers who use this practice in their work. We start with a solo work by Theresa Wong, a composer, cellist, and vocalist who lives and works here in the Bay Area. Then we’ll hear a duet with Wong and another Bay Area artist, Ellen Fullman. Ellen is a composer and instrument builder known for her Long String Instrument, a 70 foot span of numerous strands of wire played with rosin coated fingers. We’ll listen to a piece by composer and sound artist Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, a native of my hometown, Honolulu, Hawaii. We’ll play a new three-movement work from Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, played by the Spectral Quartet. And we’ll end the program with two works from a 2019 album of duets with composers by violinist Jennifer Koh – one with Wang Lu, the other with a veteran of two Other Minds Festivals, Tyshawn Sorey.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Titles: Nightwatching
Composer: Theresa Wong
Performer: Theresa Wong: cello, voice, tonkori, prepared piano
Recording Title: Venice Is A Fish (2014)
Record Label: Sensitive Skin Music
Catalog Number:

Harbors album cover

Title: Harbors Part 1
Composers: Theresa Wong & Ellen Fullman
Performers: Theresa Wong, cello; Ellen Fullman, long string instrument
Recording Title: Harbors (2020)
Record Label: Room40
Catalog Number: RM4123


Titles: With Eyes the Color of Time
Composer: Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti
Performers: String Orchestra of Brooklyn
Recording Title: Enfolding (2022)
Record Label: New Focus Recordings
Catalog Number: FCR331


Titles: Enigma
Composer: Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Performers: Spektral Quartet
Recording Title: Enigma (2021)
Record Label: Sono Luminus
Catalog Number: DSL-92250


Titles: Her Latitude
Composer: Wang Lu
Performers: Wang Lu, electronics, Jennifer Koh, violin
Recording Title: Limitless (2019)
Record Label: Cedille Records
Catalog Number: CDR 90000 191


Titles: In Memoriam Muhal Richard Abrams
Composer: Tyshawn Sorey
Performers: Tyshawn Sorey, glockenspiel; Jennifer Koh, violin
Recording Title: Limitless (2019)
Record Label: Cedille Records
Catalog Number: CDR 90000 191

black and white photo of man with shoulder-length hair and dark clothingWadada Leo Smith headshot with trumpet
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