The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniquesby Patricia Strange; Allen Strange

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<ul><li><p>The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques by Patricia Strange; AllenStrangeReview by: Michael SteinbergNotes, Second Series, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Dec., 2002), pp. 352-354Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/900623 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 20:44</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>Music Library Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Notes.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from 193.104.110.48 on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:44:01 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=muliashttp://www.jstor.org/stable/900623?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>NOTES, December 2002 NOTES, December 2002 </p><p>works. Even this judgment is accommo- dated to a nationalist framework, however, as when he says of the astringent Sixth Symphony that it "evoked the common cul- tural experience Vaughan Williams was having with his fellow English" (p. 116). The point is not to be dismissed-for one thing, identification with the harrowing vi- sion of the Sixth surely was one source of its public acclaim-but it also runs the risk of overstating the music's exclusively English orientation and appeal. </p><p>Whatever the book's shortcomings, Heffer's interest in the non-folk song works </p><p>works. Even this judgment is accommo- dated to a nationalist framework, however, as when he says of the astringent Sixth Symphony that it "evoked the common cul- tural experience Vaughan Williams was having with his fellow English" (p. 116). The point is not to be dismissed-for one thing, identification with the harrowing vi- sion of the Sixth surely was one source of its public acclaim-but it also runs the risk of overstating the music's exclusively English orientation and appeal. </p><p>Whatever the book's shortcomings, Heffer's interest in the non-folk song works </p><p>does represent a departure (hesitant, but a departure nonetheless) from the prevailing wisdom about Vaughan Williams. That this occurs in a book aimed at a popular audi- ence, where opinions change at glacial speed, demonstrates the trickle-down effect that the scholarship of Froglev and others is having. This is progress. </p><p>JULIAN ONDERDONK West Chester University </p><p>does represent a departure (hesitant, but a departure nonetheless) from the prevailing wisdom about Vaughan Williams. That this occurs in a book aimed at a popular audi- ence, where opinions change at glacial speed, demonstrates the trickle-down effect that the scholarship of Froglev and others is having. This is progress. </p><p>JULIAN ONDERDONK West Chester University </p><p>INSTRUMENTS INSTRUMENTS </p><p>The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques. By Patricia </p><p>Strange and Allen Strange. (The New Instrumentation.) Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. [xiii, 337 p. ISBN 1-55553-472-4. $26.95 (hbk.); ISBN 0-520-22409-4. $24.95 (pbk.).] Music examples, bibliography, discog- raphy, list of scores, internet resources, index. </p><p>The violin family is beloved for its seem- ingly infinite flexibility of sound, color, and nuance. For centuries the voice of the vio- lin has been prized for its proximity in character to the human voice, sharing its capacity for subtlety as well. Closer to our own time, composers have begun to branch out and consider the violin from differing points of view, exploring the instrument's possibilities for tonal colors and effects, al- ternate tuning systems, electronic modifica- tions, and the use of the violin body as a percussion instrument. The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques by Patricia Strange and Allen Strange attempts to catalog and explicate these possibilities, illustrating each technique with appropri- ate examples from the literature. </p><p>This is a voluminous work, evidently a labor of love, and the product of intensive thought, research, and experience. The book is well organized by type of tech- nique, grouping ideas into chapters entitled "Bowing," "The Fingers" (further divided into right and left hands), "Percussion Techniques," "Harmonics," "Tuning Systems," ". . . and Variations" </p><p>The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques. By Patricia </p><p>Strange and Allen Strange. (The New Instrumentation.) Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. [xiii, 337 p. ISBN 1-55553-472-4. $26.95 (hbk.); ISBN 0-520-22409-4. $24.95 (pbk.).] Music examples, bibliography, discog- raphy, list of scores, internet resources, index. </p><p>The violin family is beloved for its seem- ingly infinite flexibility of sound, color, and nuance. For centuries the voice of the vio- lin has been prized for its proximity in character to the human voice, sharing its capacity for subtlety as well. Closer to our own time, composers have begun to branch out and consider the violin from differing points of view, exploring the instrument's possibilities for tonal colors and effects, al- ternate tuning systems, electronic modifica- tions, and the use of the violin body as a percussion instrument. The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques by Patricia Strange and Allen Strange attempts to catalog and explicate these possibilities, illustrating each technique with appropri- ate examples from the literature. </p><p>This is a voluminous work, evidently a labor of love, and the product of intensive thought, research, and experience. The book is well organized by type of tech- nique, grouping ideas into chapters entitled "Bowing," "The Fingers" (further divided into right and left hands), "Percussion Techniques," "Harmonics," "Tuning Systems," ". . . and Variations" </p><p>(dealing with experiments with the form of the violin itself), "Amplification and Signal Processing," and "MIDI, Strings, and the Computer." In a field which thrives on creative experimentation and thus always growing and in flux, the book gives a feel- ing of some kind of completeness and authority. There are numerous music ex- amples establishing context for the tech- niques discussed, a bibliography of scores from which the examples are culled, and a discography of available recordings, guiding the reader who is interested toward avenues for further exploration. </p><p>Unfortunately, the book does not satis- factorily fulfill its promise as a practical compendium of the capabilities of the con- temporary violin. Its most egregious draw- back is the insufficient illumination of the sonic landscape. An accompanying com- pact disc with aural examples would have served to make this book quite a bit more useful. It seems reasonable to suppose that many readers of this book are likely to be composers wanting to expand their aware- ness of recently developed possibilities for the instrument. They will need to have at their fingertips not merely a listing of avail- able techniques, but also some grasp of the expressive gestures embodied in these tech- niques. Often there is no verbal description that can adequately convey the impact of the sounds produced. In one instance, when discussing Tamar Diesendruck's Etudes for Violin and a special use of the instrument meant to imitate the vocal in- flections of cartoon characters, the authors state: "This music must really be heard- the notation cannot convey the full sense of </p><p>(dealing with experiments with the form of the violin itself), "Amplification and Signal Processing," and "MIDI, Strings, and the Computer." In a field which thrives on creative experimentation and thus always growing and in flux, the book gives a feel- ing of some kind of completeness and authority. There are numerous music ex- amples establishing context for the tech- niques discussed, a bibliography of scores from which the examples are culled, and a discography of available recordings, guiding the reader who is interested toward avenues for further exploration. </p><p>Unfortunately, the book does not satis- factorily fulfill its promise as a practical compendium of the capabilities of the con- temporary violin. Its most egregious draw- back is the insufficient illumination of the sonic landscape. An accompanying com- pact disc with aural examples would have served to make this book quite a bit more useful. It seems reasonable to suppose that many readers of this book are likely to be composers wanting to expand their aware- ness of recently developed possibilities for the instrument. They will need to have at their fingertips not merely a listing of avail- able techniques, but also some grasp of the expressive gestures embodied in these tech- niques. Often there is no verbal description that can adequately convey the impact of the sounds produced. In one instance, when discussing Tamar Diesendruck's Etudes for Violin and a special use of the instrument meant to imitate the vocal in- flections of cartoon characters, the authors state: "This music must really be heard- the notation cannot convey the full sense of </p><p>352 352 </p><p>This content downloaded from 193.104.110.48 on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:44:01 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Book Reviews </p><p>the effect" (p. 197). There is no listing of a recording in the discography, leaving a reader eager to understand the intended effect frustrated and helpless. The flavor of different systems of tuning would also be significantly more vivid if heard on a recording. Fortunate composers will have access to a willing performer happy to par- ticipate in experimentation and creative searching, but a reference volume such as this one should not rely on such felicities of fate. </p><p>Another unsatisfactory aspect of the book is the absence of a clear explanation of the extent to which various techniques adversely affect the instrument. Some may render it unstable for the remainder of a performance while others may cause actual physical damage. In the first category the main problem is tuning. When the tech- nique of pulled harmonics is covered (whereby the string is pulled to the side to change the pitch of a natural harmonic, a practice discussed on p. 138), a composer needs to know that the technique will al- most definitely pull the string out of tune so that later natural harmonics will not give the notated pitch. (In fact this type of pulling is often used by performers to quickly lower the pitch of a string that has gone sharp.) More problematical is the fact that many of the techniques discussed may cause physical harm to the instrument. Often string players perform on extremely valuable and highly prized instruments, in- struments which are in the custody of the player for a short time relative to their long lifespan and must therefore be protected. The idea of applying rosin to one's thumb and dragging it across the back of such an instrument (described on p. 54) is an exceedingly disagreeable proposition. Although it is rare for players to travel around with a second instrument for such occasions, it is possible, and there are other ways to solve such problems. It is of the ut- most importance, however, for a composer considering using such a technique to be well-informed as to its practicality and prepared for the (understandable) resis- tance from performers. Expressive necessity trumps pragmatism, of course, but conse- quences must be expected. </p><p>Scordatura, retuning of the strings, carries a warning against tuning too high, which can break the strings or place undue ten- sion on the body, but tuning too low also </p><p>has its dangers. The sound post of the in- strument may shift or even fall, a danger of which performers will be wary. The left- hand "hammering" technique (p. 70), if used for too long a time, can even cause nerve damage to the performer. To be fair, there are occasional warnings of this sort, even if they are too rare and not vehement enough to assuage my fears of composers innocently employing some of the devices described here. The authors state, "A visit to the local repair shop for inexpensive or even free instruments could possibly deter- mine the feasibility of a performance" (p. 111). Appropriate warnings need to be attached to all techniques where they ap- ply, since anyone consulting this book will likely use it as a reference rather than read it straight through. </p><p>Music examples seem to be sloppily proofread, sometimes compromising their appropriateness. I am not familiar with all of the works cited in the text, but in those which are within my repertoire, I found sev- eral mistakes. For example, in the bars from Steven Mackey's Sonata for Violin and Piano (p. 84), misprinted notes make it seem that the technique of sliding the fin- gers down the fingerboard while crossing strings with the bow is not possible. In an- other example from Mackey's work, this time from String Theory, the authors illus- trate the pizzicato technique produced by lifting a higher finger from the string to sound the note underneath (p. 70). Yet in the improperly printed example, one pair of notes incorrectly stays constant instead of going down, making the technique inap- plicable. Finally, Mackey's On All Fours is in- appropriately cited in the section on sub ponticello playing, a technique that is not used in the work (p. 13). </p><p>Nevertheless, scattered throughout the book are some valuable bits of advice on how best to produce certain effects. The idea for placing the left hand on the op- posite side of the fingerboard from the normal position when bowing behind the fingers is a good one. The suggestion to produce a practice tape to facilitate learn- ing pieces in an unfamiliar tuning system is undoubtedly on the mark, as is the one for composers to use instruments with fixed tuning to create a pitch environment into which the string player can fit intuitively. A chart of available double stops on all strings will be of use, as will Darol Anger's </p><p>353 </p><p>This content downloaded from 193.104.110.48 on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:44:01 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>NOTES, December 2002 NOTES, December 2002 </p><p>detailed description of how to produce a "chop" (p. 21). In fact, composers and per- formers alike will find much here to facili- tate their mutual quest for effective use of the instrument. </p><p>I am less able to form a judgment on the final two chapters of the book which focus on electronics and MIDI. The tone of the book changes from that of a practical man- ual for composers and performers to a h...</p></li></ul>

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