CATALOGUE OF CELLO SOUNDS / NEW EXPRESSIVE MEANS
From the Composer-Performer Collaboration of
John Ehde and Knut Vaage, 2017-20
by John Ehde
Here follows a description of sound material discovered at initial improvisational sessions and later refined through investigation, etudes and notated into works.
Description: Open C string, mute string, hoarse overtone may appear. Free bowing, very light pressure.
Technique: Left hand lightly muting C string at 4th position. Preferably quick bowing with very light pressure. Move bow rapidly with short and long strokes, also sideways if needed.
Sound: Airy, brushy sound with occasional overtones and soft, scratchy noise. Wind, whispering.
Expressive possibilities: Coldness, peaceful expectation, stillness, mystic whisperings (beauty or horror?).
Random Harmonics on one string:
Description: Like above with left hand moving rapidly ad lib, searching for overtones. Sul Ponticello placing the bow close to the bridge may be used.
Technique: Bowing as above (Fig. 2), left hand moving up and down the fingerboard with very light pressure, rapid finger movement, causing appearance of random overtones and scratchy sounds. Occasionally less bow pressure to enhance overtones/noise.
Sound: Like a wind-organ, overtones appearing randomly in the airy sounds. Sometimes clear, sometimes harsh and noisy, but bright and colourful.
Expression: Soft, with voice or flute-like sounds.
“Duo Etude 1”, No. 3
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 6
“Svev”, letter X, No. 3
“Hybrid Spectacle”, letter A (solo cello), letter Q (all stringed instruments) “Night Song”, bar 251
Random Harmonics on all strings
Description: As above but changing strings rapidly ad lib.
Technique: As above, with rapid movements across all strings. Focusing on different registers and/or strings
Sound: Wind organ, overtone explosion, flute or bell-like sounds.
Expression: Peaceful meditation, falling through the sky, voices (beauty or horror?).
“Duo Etude 1”, No. 4
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 6
“Svev”, letter X, No. 4
“Hybrid Spectacle”, letter Q
“Night Song”, bar 268
“Night Song 2”, bar 118
Description: Brushing string lengthwise with the bow, firmly up and down on one or more strings. Grip bow with hand “like a beginner”.
Sound: Scraping, hoarse. Slow, light bow movement for airy whispering sounds. Fast/rhythmical movement with slight pressure for groove and crush-like sounds.
Expression: Weightless whisperings(slow). Metallic groove(fast). Beatbox.
Groove behind bridge:
Description: Bow normally behind bridge, short brush. First at the point of bow, then at the middle of bow, searching for a mix of notes and crush. Longwise bowing may be added.
Sound: High pitches and crush-like sounds.
Expression: High pitches groove, “latin” (2 strings or more in rhythmical patterns).
“Duo Etude 1”, letter A
“Svev”, letter Y, No. 2-3
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 6, 2nd system
Bow on Body:
Description: Smooth transition from bowing behind bridge to edge of cello body. Cello may be twisted to the left for more convenient angle.
Technique: Bow on body of instrument, firmly up and down, preferably at point of bow.
Sound: Caressing, airy, whispering, light wind.
Expression: Soft, almost inaudible groove. Ghost dance. Excellent finish when a long diminuendo al niente (total silence) is wished for.
"Duo Etyde 1”, letter A, No. 4
“Svev”, letter Y, No. 4
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 6, 2nd system
Description: Rhythmical strokes alongside strings with metal piece of bow by frog.
Technique: Turn the bow around and hold it close to the frog. Left hand mute strings. Strike string/strings rhythmically longwise with metal part of frog, beginning approximately at the middle of the string, moving towards the end of the fingerboard and the bridge (change pitch) and back.
Sound: Light tapping with tonal changes as the bow moves along the string/strings. Like rain or hail on a windowpane. Comic figure climbing up and down a ladder, etc.
Expression: Light rain or hail. Tonal staccato movement in high register. “Space pizzicato”. Light jumping/dancing movement.
Description: Same as “Metal-strokes” but using the wooden stick of the bow col legno.
Technique: Hold the bow normally and tap string/strings longwise with stick, starting at the middle of the string, moving towards end of the fingerboard and the bridge and back.
Sound/Expression: Same as metal strokes but softer/darker timbre.
“Etude 1”, No. 5
“Svev”, letter I, No. 2
Description: Same as “metal/wood-strokes” but using small glass object (small glass/bottleneck for guitar, etc.).
Technique: Hold object in your right hand. Left hand mute strings. Tap strings sideways and back as in previous effects.
Sound/expression: Same as earlier but sharper and with more clear pitch, “Dancing insect”.
Glissando with metal part of bow, glass object or wood:
Description: Left hand pizzicato with right hand depressing string with metal part of bow, wood or glass object making a glissando.
Technique: Right hand places bow with metal part of frog, glass object or wood (bow stick) firmly, slightly below middle of string. Left hand pizzicato, where after right hand moves swiftly up or down for sounding glissando. The attack of the left-hand pizzicato may have to be sharp and decisive.
Sound: A quite loud sounding glissando, tonally audible all the way, like a “gentle surprise” or “underwater bells”. The glass object probably makes the loudest and clearest glissando.
Expression: Slow-motion fireworks, weightless jump.
“Etude 1”, No. 2, 4 and 6
“Svev”, letter H, No. 4
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 3B
“Hybrid Spectacle”, letter P, No. 2
Description: Hard pressure with bow for crush like sounds.
Technique: Hold bow normally and press hard into string or strings, slowly over pressed movement with random stops. Left hand may mute strings for dampened and even sound.
Sound: Forceful, noisy, horror-like, door opening slowly, spooky voice.
Expression: Horror, fear.
“Svev”, letter N
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 5
“Hybrid Spectacle”, part 4, No. 2 (solo cello), letter A, No. 3 (all strings)
Crush, searching for 8va basso:
Description: Same as “crush” with overpressure searching for 8va basso.
Technique: Slow heavy overpressure with bow, close to fingerboard, searching for sound one octave lower.
Sound: Double bass, horror voice.
Expression: Cramped fear, anxiety, suffocation.
Description: Scratching in uneven movement, holding bow with both hands, moving it alongside strings.
Technique: Hold the bow horizontally with both hands. Move slowly longwise strings with firm pressure. Change strings for variation and “pitch”. Never lift bow from strings.
Sound: Scratchy, brutal sound with random stops and “cracks”. Horror-like sounds, grotesque voices, bones breaking.
Expression: Fear, horror, pain, anxiety, aggression, constructing/deconstructing.
“Etude 2”, No. 1
“Svev”, letter P
Bowing on side of bridge:
Description: Slow bowing strokes on the side of the bridge.
Technique: Hold bow vertically and bow slowly with firm pressure on the side of the bridge, preferably above the wings of the bridge.
Sound: Main sound is a wind-like, whispering noise, partly lightly scraping, like wind or a ghost’s voice. Press more firmly, searching for pitches, whistling sounds and overtones.
Expression: Whispering, expressive wind, ghost-like voices, wind blowing through an old house.
“Etude 3”, No. 1 - 2
“Svev”, letter K2 No. 3 (cello)
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 14
“Hybrid Spectacle”, part 2, letter A
Description: Circular movements with the bow on one or more strings.
Technique: Left hand muting string or strings to be used, hold bow normally or with a “beginners grip”. Use circular movements from end of fingerboard to the bridge, using one string only or across two or more strings. Bowing speed must be consistent, using at least half the bow on each stroke. Bowing speed may be varied according to the desired effect or intensity. For quicker speed use less bow.
Sound: Distorted pitch with scraping noise and overtones when bowing close to the bridge. Like a machine or an intoxicated minimalistic state of mind. Machine-like movement, whispering, scraping, old door or window moving in the wind.
Expression: Hypnotic feeling, meditative, intoxicated groove, cruel, softly insisting, poetic mantra.
“Etude 3”, No. 3
“Night Song”, beginning, etc.
“Night Song 2”, beginning, etc.
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 11
“Hybrid Spectacle”, letter A, No. 2 (solo cello), letterD, No. 5 (all string instruments)
Pizzicato behind neck:
Description: Pizzicato on all string behind neck bridge, using nails or guitar pick.
Technique: If needed, use both hands for rapid pizzicato with nails or guitar pic, behind neck bridge of cello.
Sound/expression: “Drops”, rain, light “tickling” feeling.
Description: Bowing behind bridge using metal windings by the frog.
Technique: Twist the bow so the metal windings come close to the strings. Make a short rapid stroke/arpeggio across all strings, using the windings only.
Sound/Expression: A “quacking”, scraping sound.
Col legno jeté:
Description: Col legno jeté on one string while moving the bow from the fingerboard towards the bridge, changing the pitch.
Technique: Turn the bow around to col legno position. Drop the bow with a controlled jeté (bounce) beginning at an exaggerated sul tasto position, while moving the bow towards the bridge. The movement might be short or long, fast, or slow. The movement may be reversed.
Sound: Rapid high-pitched drops with changing pitch going up or down depending on movement of the bow.
Expression: Joy, laughter, tickle, muted space harp.
Ruler under strings:
Description: A small ruler (10-20 cm) is inserted under strings and hit to vibrate.
insert ruler under all 4 strings close to the neck. By hitting the ruler from above or underneath a rattling noise will appear. By moving the ruler up or down the pitch of the effect may be altered.
Sound/expression: Frantic rattling, percussive motion with natural diminuendo, a “bouncing diving board”.
Description: A small rubber ball is dragged across the body of the instrument, creating a low, voice-like sound.Technique: Use a small, compact rubber ball/bouncing ball with a stick inserted as a handle. Drag the ball, firmly pressed on the body of the instrument. The pitch will change according to speed and which part of the instrument that is used. Other parts of the cello may also be used – the side of fingerboard, string holder, end pin, etc.
Sound: Low, groaning/singing sound. “Whale song”.
Expression: Melancholy, crying, complaining, pain. “Whales in love”.
“Hybrid Experience”, No. 8
“Hybrid Spectacle”, part 4, letter G (solo cello)