Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing: After Hokusai

I recently performed a beautiful piece by Judith Shatin titled Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing: After Hokusai for amplified clarinet and fixed media influenced by a Japanese print with the same name. image001This piece depicts the delicacy of Hokuasi’s print through very soft clarinet tones, almost in audible double stops, fluttering tongue, and the interweaving of clarinet and electronic sounds. Often when I perform works with electronics there is a disconnect between the clarinet sound and electronics; this is not the case in Cherry Blossom. In this piece the electronics and clarinet compliment each other in a delicate duet creating the effect of a close up survey of every detail in the print.

The extended techniques in Cherry Blossom are clearly explained in the performers notes. Having fingering and symbols clearly explained makes approaching this work very accessible. Additionally, the electronics setup is not challenging. I practiced this piece with the fixed media playing through iTunes. In performance the fixed media was also through my iTunes on my laptop to larger speakers with a mic to amplify my playing. In performance and practice I used the timer in iTunes to align with the fixed media. Another option is to use a stopwatch. I also used a stopwatch in a performance because my computer screen wasn’t visible.

The most significant performance challenges in this piece are voicing the multiphonics and linking gestures and musical ideas together. In my preparation a lot of time was spent finding the appropriate tongue position and air speed to make the delicate multiphonics speak. Often I used techniques opposite to traditional clarinet playing such as slow warm air and a low tongue position. Creating a musical line out of each gesture was also challenging. An example of this is shown below beginning at 4:35.  In this example there are multiple extended techniques including multiphonics, flutter tongue, and multiphonic trills that need to be tired together into one gesture. I approached this phrase with the note D as the unifying pitch. D is played in

Example

the first clarinet multiphonic, then the clarinet pitches moves away from this pitch. During this departure the electronics still reinforce D and G. The clarinet then moves back to D in the last three whole notes and is transformed with a multiphonic, and then a trilled multiphonic.  Each event functions to change the colour of the pitch D. Understanding that D unifies this phrase makes it clear that D must be alway presents and the whole gesture organically shifts colour around this note. The effect is of panning closely over the wrapped thing in the Hokusai print. The close blend of the clarinet and electronics suggest the transparent and twisted quality of the wrapped thing.

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