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Extended Techniques for Flute:


Polyphonic Techniques  John
McMurtery

Patricia Gray
This work is produced by OpenStax-CNX and licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0†

Abstract
This module contains video, audio, and text related to extended techniques for ute in contemporary
music.
John McMurtery Website1

1 Singing While Playing Ex. 1


Play Movie2
George Crumb, Vox Balanae (opening)

Figure 1

∗ Version 1.1: Oct 20, 2006 8:29 pm -0500


† http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
1 http://www.johnmcmurtery.com
2 http://www.johnmcmurtery.com/ET/QT/PTsp1.mov

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The technique of singing and playing the ute simultaneously was pioneered by jazz musicians and
developed by composers seeking not only new sounds for the instrument, but ways to utilize the ute as a
polyphonic instrument. It is produced by forming a normal ute embouchure and literally singing through it.
Several possibilities exist for singing and playing simultaneously: singing pitches dierent from ute notes;
singing pitches in unison with ngered notes; or singing in octaves with the sounding ute pitches. The
latter two are most eective because the resonance of the tube is enhanced by the frequency of the vibrating
vocal cords.
The example is one of the most famous in contemporary music: the opening of George Crumb's Vox
Balanae. Although Crumb species the passage to be sung an octave below the written ute line, it may be
performed in unison to accommodate female performers. The excerpt also features the technique of covering
the embouchure hole completely and singing through the ute while ngering specic pitches (notated in
the top line).

2 Singing While Playing Ex. 2


Play Movie3
Ofer Ben-Amots, Avis Urbanus (p.2 sta 3)

Figure 2

The technique of singing and playing the ute simultaneously was pioneered by jazz musicians and
developed by composers seeking not only new sounds for the instrument, but ways to utilize the ute as a
polyphonic instrument. It is produced by forming a normal ute embouchure and literally singing through it.
Several possibilities exist for singing and playing simultaneously: singing pitches dierent from ute notes;
singing pitches in unison with ngered notes; or singing in octaves with the sounding ute pitches. The
latter two are most eective because the resonance of the tube is enhanced by the frequency of the vibrating
vocal cords.
This example, from Ofer Ben-Amots' Avis Urbanus, contains a unique use of singing and playing. The
utist sustains a single note, while singing the highest pitch possible for the voice and bending the pitch
downward. Because of an acoustical phenomenon known as "resultant tones," the listener hears two simul-
taneous glissandi, one upward, and the other downward. Ben-Amots' notation clearly reects the resultant
sound.
3 http://www.johnmcmurtery.com/ET/QT/PTsp2.mov

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3 Multiphonics
Play Movie4
Edward Taylor, Voices in the Night (VIII, mm. 19-24)

Figure 3

Another technique for creating polyphony on a ute is through use of multiphonics, two or more notes
sounded simultaneously. These require the utist to possess extremely precise control of the embouchure
and airstream, as well as the memorization of nonstandard ngerings. Further limitations exist: not all
combinations of notes are possible, some work only at specic dynamic levels, and the ease of production can
vary greatly from instrument to instrument. Composers should rst consult one of the sources listed in the
bibliography, and then work with a performer, before employing multiphonics into a work. Also, performers
nd it extremely helpful if composers specify the ngerings to be used. This passage from Edward Taylor's
Voices in the Night illustrates an eective use of multiphonics.

4 Articial Polyphony
Play Movie5
James Romig, Sonnet 2 (m. 21-4)
4 http://www.johnmcmurtery.com/ET/QT/PTm.mov
5 http://www.johnmcmurtery.com/ET/QT/PTsap.mov

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Figure 4

Another device composers use to create polyphony is based on an aural illusion. In James Romig's Sonnet
2, the following performance note appears in the score: "To create the illusion of sustained sound in the
lower voice, the staccato note in the upper voice is to be played as quickly as possible before returning to
the lower note." If the performer is successful in creating continuity in the two separate lines, the resultant
eect is like a ute duet. The technique works best in reverberant acoustical spaces.

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