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The Clements Blog

Extended Instruments

Friday, 20th September 2013 | 4 comments

Every performer is familiar with how their instrument should sound: from knowing which end to blow down to how to produce a really clean tone with all the notes in tune. Yet what happens if you don't do what you're 'supposed' to do, and experiment with something different? Could the results be interesting, and even fun?

There have always been composers who have tried to push the boundaries of what instruments and voices are capable of, but in the 20th century this exploded into a whole world of what are known as 'extended instrumental techniques'. Here are some interesting and famous examples from the web.

The piano is probably the most familiar of all the instruments, and even a complete beginner knows how to get a note from it. The Hungarian composer György Kurtàg has written a series of piano pieces for children and beginners called Games, in which he explores different ways of playing the piano that might be more familiar to young performers. The results are often very beautiful, as this piece, composed entirely from glissandos, shows:

Even more flexible than the piano, however, is the human voice. Italian composer Luciano Berio realized that there was lots of music to be made using the full range of shouts, screams, laughs and howls. Whoever said singers should only sing?

Finally, a piece by the German composer Helmut Lachenmann, who has spent more time making instruments do new and unusual things than almost anyone else. This is a piece for orchestra so you'll see almost every instrument being played in an unfamiliar way. Why not try some out with your own instrument?



Saturday, 2nd November 2013

I just CANNOT see how this is music. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to play an instrument or sing well. Anyone can make popping noises with their mouth or run their hands up and down a piano!


Saturday, 2nd November 2013

I think its important that we push the boundaries in music and see what instruments and the voice are actually capable of when we remove the usual confines. Why should we be limited by conventions?


Saturday, 2nd November 2013

I agree with you oscar. Music is meant to be fun and interesting which this definitely is.


Saturday, 2nd November 2013

It sounds terrible!!!

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