Flute Summer Course 2015
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Etude 5: Multiphonics
* for copyright reasons some parts of the score are blurred.
However, one should not think that we now can play the flute like a piano or a guitar. Up to the nature of the flute that is indeed not possible but also not desirable. Here our main interest is - similar to the other extended flute techniques - to use the multiphonic as a modern and fascinating tool to help us to further develop our flute playing, especially body and sound control. At the same time, we will learn that a multiphonic is like an attractive sculpture of sound. Also, we will see that the multiphonic is a natural extension of both the harmonic and the bamboo tone and that our investigation and understanding of both these techniques will be of great value and importance when studying multiphonics. So be sure to study these topics first.
From Harmonic to Multiphonic
In a nutshell: to perform a harmonic we actually filter one harmonic out of the harmonic series by applying the vocalization of one specific vowel. Now, to perform a multiphonic we go one step further and we need to filter two sounds out of the harmonic series by the vocalization of two vowels. By combining two vowels we acoustically prepare the mouth cavity, but also the breath flow and the embouchure, to support two sounds simultaneously.
Exercise for Singing Vowels
In a second study in this exercise we sing the vowel of [ee], imagining the [ee] sound in the higher part of the mouth cavity. Now we first gradually add and later gradually remove the [o] sound, which we locate again in the lower part of the mouth cavity, until we end again with only the [ee] sound.
When speaking we often used the lips to produce the different vowels (though this is quite language-specific). However with this study our focus is to change only the mouth cavity, especially by changing the position of the back of the tongue. Here we should avoid to involve the lips, keeping them in a relaxed and nearly closed position. Have a look in a mirror to check that you are not making any significant lip-changes when when performing this [o] and [ee] exercise.
Audio samples: of vocals Shomyo
Multiphonic FingeringsHere let's take a closer look to the fingerings in relation to the multiphonic. With the bamboo tone topic we have learned that we can divide the fingerings of the flute into two categories:
Multiphonics sound ugly?In new music compositions in the flute literature, we see that the fork-fingerings are the most frequently used fingerings for creating a multiphonics. Since the intervals of fork-fingerings often include more dissonant intervals, we seem to often associate the multiphonic with a kind of harsh and unpleasant sound. However, if we perform multiphonics on the basic fingerings we will also be able to create consonant intervals, resulting in very pleasant and beautiful sounds.
One more thing to mention is that if you really feel attracted by multiphonics and bamboo tones, it is recommended to use an open-hole flute. Simply the amount of interesting fingerings is so much more extended on an open-hole flute, since we can also make use of the five small centre-holes and its combinations (only the rim is pushed down, while keeping the centre hole uncovered).
Audio samples: multiphonics
Studying multiphonicsTo study any multiphonic we follow these four basic steps:
- Play a long note on the lower pitch. Use the vowel [o] to support this sound. Imagine the [o] located in the lower part of the mouth cavity.
- Play a long note on the higher pitch. Use the vowel [ee] to support this sound. Imagine the [ee] located in the higher part of the mouth cavity.
- Play slowly and legato from the lower to the higher pitch. While doing so, change the vowel from [o] to [ee]. Next take a breath and do the opposite: play slowly and legato from the higher pitch towards the lower pitch while changing the vowel from [ee] to [o]. This is certainly not an easy step, but indeed most challenging and interactive.
- Now, intend to play both pitches simultaneously. Concentrate first on the lower pitch, supported by the [o] vowel located in the lower part of the mouth cavity. Additionally play the higher pitch supported by the [ee] vowel located in the upper part of the mouth cavity. Avoid any additional lip-tension.
In exercise (B) we see two samples with each the four basic steps to study. You can recognize the first fingering as a basic fingering, consequently creating more consonant intervals (in this case a fifth). The second fingering however is a typical fork-fingering and indeed creating a more dissonant and intense interval (here a ninth).
Next you will find a variety of some interesting multiphonics to study in Exercise (C). Each of these multiphonics can be studied with the four steps as described before.
Transposing multiphonicsIn Exercise (D) we simply transpose a multiphonic by moving the 'acoustic ending situation' up or down. To do so, transpose the first open hole, as well as the amount of closed holes after the initial open hole, up or down.
Etude 5: MultiphonicsIn the Etude 5: Multiphonics from the etudebook For the Contemporary Flutist we can find a variety of multiphonics. Basically throughout the piece, there are just two multiphonics on one breath-phrase. If we compare this to painting, we may imagine each phrase like one slow brush movement. Now, halfway such brush movement, we change the brush-position or the direction, changing the image of the painted line. Strive for such calm and natural atmosphere throughout the piece. Imagine you are painting. In that way, we may experience the multiphonic not as just two simultaneously sounds, but as a most attractive sculpture, as an object of sound.
A most fruitful ToolIt is true that the subject of multiphonic can be quite complex and demanding. In general it can be difficult, or extremely difficult, to perform a multiphonic with stability. However, we should remember ourselves that we first of all want to use the multiphonic as a tool to develop. And this tool is really useful and effective, even when we do not manage to reach as far as a 'perfect' result. Using such a tools should first of all be enjoyable, stimulating your imagination and extending your possibilities for controlling your mouth cavity. In that way, the multiphonic as well as the other extended techniques will certainly help you to play your Bach, Poulenc, Takemitsu or whatever other music with a more flexible and enjoyable sound.
For the Contemporary Flutist Online
Etude 1: Wind Tones
Etude 2: Harmonics
Etude 3: Difference Tones
Etude 4: Bamboo Tones
Etude 5: Multiphonics
Etude 6: Whisper Tones
Etude 7: Singing Unison/Parallel
Etude 8: Polyphonic Singing
Etude 9: Diverse
Etude 10: Circular Breathing
Etude 11: Flute and Movement
Etude 12: Graphic Notation & Impro