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.