Colours of the Wind

Colours of the Wind is a duo composition for Gao Yin Sheng (高音笙) and Bass Clarinet. Three main objectives have been pursued while exploring the colours of different wind instruments from different cultures: (1) Unfold the common playing techniques that are usually employ in the existed repertoires; (2) Seek new possibilities in playing techniques, and (3) Identify the similarities and differences in related techniques between the two instruments.

The composition begins with a section of constant high intensity. This is followed by a long section with a range of low to high intensity. Discovered playing techniques, both common and uncommon, were collected and distributed within different sections of the piece in order to demonstrate various tone colour combinations. These include a solo passage that represents the uniqueness of the instrument, as well as an interactive passage that generates a coherence or holistic atmosphere with the chosen collection of playing techniques. For example, a loud passage is presented with a combination of chords on Gao Yin Sheng and multiphonics on Bass Clarinet; or a soft passage which is presented with a vocal passage on Gao Yin Sheng together with lip glissando on a long note held by Bass Clarinet.

Journey for Seeking the Colours of the “Wind” (Instruments)

After I received the invitation from PGVIM for participating in AYE2020, I decided to use the opportunity to pursue an investigation of the Gao Yin Sheng and Bass Clarinet. Below I detail the journey of my musical collaboration and composition over the 5 months of the project.

Stage 1: Self-Study
  • Self-study with the available resources for learning the general structure and the common playing techniques of each instrument.

  • Below are the main references that I studied:

            1. Gao Yin Sheng

                      Book: The TENG Guide to the Chinese Orchestra

            2. Bass Clarinet

                      Book: The Bass Clarinet: A Personal Story
                      Website: https://heatherroche.net/

Stage 2: Meetings with the Players
  • 4 group sharing/discussions sessions organized by PGVIM

  • 1 to 1 meetings with the players 

  • There were three purposes at the 1 to 1 meetings with the players:

1. To double check information with the player about topics such as playing techniques, score examples, etc., which I had gathered from the references, including a sound collection in relation to the examples from the references.
2. To identify the limitations of the instruments in terms of playing techniques. For example, it is necessary to check with the fingering chart when choosing notes within a chord for Gao Yin Sheng.
3. To experiment with new possibilities/uncommon playing techniques.

Stage 3: Tone Colour Collection and Categorization between the instruments

Three main objectives were considered in the process of collecting relevant tone colours from the instruments:

  1. Unfold the existing playing techniques of the instruments that are commonly used in the standard repertoire.

  2. Seek new possibilities for the instruments.

  3. Identify the similarities and differences in the related techniques between the two instruments.

Table 1 below shows the playing techniques for the instruments which I employed in the composition, while Table 2 compares related techniques between the two instruments.

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Table 1. Playing Techniques

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Table 2. Comparison between Related Techniques between the Instruments

Stage 4 – Composing the Composition 

The composition begins with a section of constant high intensity. This is followed by a long section with a range of low to high intensity. Discovered playing techniques, both common and uncommon, were collected and distributed within different sections of the piece in order to demonstrate various tone colour combinations. 

Table 3 below shows the main elements that were employed in each section.

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Table 3. The Structure and The Main Techniques for Each Section

Stage 5 – Double Check with the Players to Avoid Mistakes

The completed draft was shared with the players for them to check. The purpose of this stage is to prepare a professional score and avoid notational mistakes.

Stage 6 – Finalize the Composition 

After the check by the players, the composition was finalized. All elements were compiled, including the title page, programme note, abbreviation and the finished score itself. 

Video Presentation
Video Examples

Here I share three video examples performed by Jocelyn Tan (Gao Yin Sheng Player):

Video 1. A Short Excerpt with all the Common Playing Technique of Gao Yin Sheng

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Video 2. A Solo Passage with a Combination of Tone and Voice

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Video 3. Air Tip – Blow slightly away from the Tube, together with a Chord

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References

Heather roche. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://heatherroche.net/

Sparnaay, H., de Man, A., & Roe, P. (2011). The Bass Clarinet: A Personal Story. Periferia Sheet Music.

Wang, C., Wong, S., & Chow, J. Y. (2019). The TENG Guide to the Chinese Orchestra. World Scientific.
 

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Chow Jun Yan

Singapore