Scorched Songs was inspired by the work of Cai Guo Qiang (http://caiguoqiang.com/), a Chinese artist who primarily uses gunpowder as his tool for creation. His craft involves various lines of colour being carefully added and distributed onto large sheets of Japanese hemp paper, creating the whole image he has in mind. The works are prepared over a period of months but are fixed within just a few short seconds after a fuse is lit and the canvas ignites.
Similarly, the source material for each movement is ‘scorched’ through processes and fused as a new musical object in time. The individual titles are taken from popular songs by bands which had an important influence on me as a bass guitarist such as Cream, Freelance Whales, Metallica and Milburn. The movements are given below.
I – Lights close their tired eyes
II – Vaguely attracted to rooftops
III – Off to Neverland
IV – Pass me a book and I’ll read you a sonnet
The piece uses a number of techniques to transform these source materials in an ‘incendiary’ manner. These include modifying the attack on the instrument giving pitches a more aggressive timbre, by using phonemes like ‘k’ or ‘t’. Sometimes the flow of air through the instrument is altered to produce a distorted sound or to create multiphonics which are very resonant and unstable. All the information for the multiphonics used in the work were taken from Spectral Immersions: A Comprehensive Guide to the Theory and Practice of Bass Clarinet Multiphonics by Sarah Watts.
There are also lyrics written above the stave, which the performer is required to speak into the instrument whilst fingering the pitches as they would normally on the instrument which creates an echo effect of speech
Below is a link to a recording made by the fantastic Sarah Watts, who I am incredibly grateful to for the time she took to work on this piece with me at the RNCM.