ACTOR – UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL, CANADA
E-Rock is a composition for violin, bass clarinet, trombone, and vibraphone/small percussion that explores klezmer-inspired music while complexifying it and imitating different instruments and musical styles. The piece was composed for a CORE (Composer-Performer Orchestration Research Ensemble) group at the University of Montreal in the context of the international ACTOR (Analysis, Creation, and Teaching of ORchestration) research partnership. The CORE project promotes collaboration between composers and performers to investigate and solve orchestration-related problems particular to this heterogeneous chamber ensemble, with an emphasis on achieving blend. Participants were also introduced to concepts related to orchestration by presentations on topics such as aural sonology, semantics, and perceptual grouping processes in orchestration.
It is difficult to compose a piece that underlines blend and the marriage of timbres for such a heterogeneous ensemble: there are difficulties arising from the composition of the ensemble and there are the difficulties inherent in the style in which one chooses to compose. The decision to draw on Klezmer music for inspiration allows for unity in the ensemble: the violin and clarinet are staples of klezmer music, brass instruments are often present in klezmer bands, and the vibraphone, a keyboard instrument, can take on the role of the accordion. The imitation of other styles and instruments within E-Rock allows for a diverse exploration of blend and further unity within the ensemble. To mimic a jazz band, the clarinetist imitates a snare drum using percussive effects, such as beatboxing and slap tongue; the vibraphone becomes a piano through a comping pattern; the violin turns into a double bass through low pizzicato, while the trombone remains a trombone by playing a melody with the plunger mute. In addition, slight timbral variations allow instruments to imitate each other to achieve blend. For example, at the beginning of the piece, the bass clarinet plays poco slap to match the timbre of the violin’s pizzicato.
Certain passages in E-Rock contain textures inspired both by interactions with the performers and the terminology of aural sonology. Thinking of orchestration in terms of grainy or dystonic soundscapes and discussing how the performers would translate them into sound or musical gestures offered ways to treat the ensemble as one instrument and allowed for a deeper exploration of blend. Overall, collaborating with the performers greatly shaped the outcome of E-Rock. Group and individual meetings provided solutions to technical, musical, and blend-related problems, while structured and free improvisation sessions gave way to spontaneous results that were either directly implemented into the piece or further developed by the composer. Finally, presentations illustrating how the performers would approach blend for this ensemble illuminated numerous timbral combinations that influenced the composition.
Ultimately, E-Rock demonstrates numerous approaches to blend and ways to unify a heterogeneous ensemble, be it by a common style, by imitating other instruments/genres, or by creating textures that make the ensemble more than the sum of its parts.
Keywords: blend, heterogeneous, orchestration
Eliazer Kramer is a pianist and composer from Montreal. Eliazer holds a bachelor’s and master’s in piano performance from the Musikhögskolan in Piteå, Sweden, and the University of Gothenburg, respectively. In 2016, Eliazer obtained his Diplôme d’études professionnelles approfondies (DEPA) in piano performance from the University of Montreal under the guidance of Paul Stewart, and in 2017, he completed his master’s in composition under the tutelage of François-Hugues Leclair and Denis Gougeon. In 2016, Eliazer composed the music for the viral animation video, ‘Le clitoris’, and in 2017, he was named one of the winners of the Concours de l’OUM, University of Montreal’s orchestral composition competition. In 2018, Eliazer completed his DEPA in composition with Denis Gougeon. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in composition at the University of Montreal under François-Xavier Dupas and Caroline Traube. His works have been performed in Canada, USA, Sweden, Japan, Cyprus, Turkey, and Finland.