Saturday, July 26, 2008
SUBHARMONICS: How the word gets spread
OK, this is the reason why I am generally staying and called a HERMIT. Which is what my French husband called me, when we first met: "Mari why do you live like an hermite?" (rhyming with "termite" with a silent 'h' French style :) I find myself to be peculiarly in self-imposed exile. I like creating and performing, but generally staying quite neutral. Combined with raising two small children and the daily chores, maybe I am not as busy as I should be. Maybe later, when my son is older.
Just a few days ago, I noticed that my YouTube entry on my interactive performance with a Guitarbot (musical robot) received 2,000 views in one day, also coinciding with various blog posts on my Subharmonic technique. I thought just responding to some of the messages in case some people might find the way over here. As I write everywhere that I first played Subharmonics in public in my solo recital debut concert in Merkin Hall, NYC 1994, the initial public interest peaked about that time. I have been expanding, improving the technique ever since, namely writing works for myself so that I would get better at it. Now all of the sudden this week, the 'buzz' is hot. Even my French sister-in-law send me a short article on yahoonews in French.
UPDATE: I found out the reason for the sudden burst of hits. The site called Noiseaddicts published a very nice article on my technique entitled "The sounds that shouldn't be" :) It generated tons of hits, thus even my sister-in-law finding a snippets on a French news :)
I find it interesting how news gets propagated and distributed. The Norwegian visit was in May 2006 when Dr. Alfred Hanssen at the University of Tromsø requested that I come there to record for his research. I gave a small concert there as well as an interview on Norwegian radio. It was never really reported at all, but later it got reported to Physics Today that year (I think it was). Then I saw several news picking them up, and I also was contacted by researchers from various countries as well. Then nothing, really, except for occasional questions from random people. So how did this 7-22-08 Subharmonic buzz started? No idea :)
To answer those who mentioned George Crumb, I had an opportunity to speak with him back in early 90s at a Kronos concert. He does notate those low notes as "pedal notes" and the principle is the same. Except that I have yet to hear a successful production of those notes. My technique is quite a bit more controlled. I do produce not only one octave below (Crumb's pedal note), but major 7th, minor 9th, major and minor 3rds, and on the good day, perfect 5th. It is combined with very controlled placement of the bow as well as the pressure---it doesn't take too much pressure as some seems to believe. It just have to be just the right amount---also the bow speed.
Some wonders why I am 'getting all the credit' for doing this, but honestly I don't think that is my fault :) There were some scholars claiming that Paganini did it first--very likely he was able to do it better than I---but please show me a piece that he wrote FOR Subharmonics--there is none. As far as I know, I am the first one to really push and use Subharmonics as the legitimate violin range, not as a mere sound effect, or a musical 'joke' that violinists have been doing for centuries it seems. I like to imagine that the first person to do it was probably an old gypsy man, a few hundred years ago, by a camp fire who was fooling around with the instrument trying to scare kids with a weird sound :) I have never claimed that I was the first one ever to do this technique---on the contrary, I was taught a variation of this technique by my old Belgium-Jewish-Russian teacher named Armand Weisbord, who was an old family friends with Heifetz. This technique derives (for me personally) from a bowing exercise called Son Filé, a slow soft sound to be played on the bow as long as possible. It is a practice to steady your bow and improve the sound production. I just took them very far, which became part of my technique for musical expression.
OK, back to my hermite life, got to put the kids to bed :)
Oh the picture is my violin, hooked up with transducer mic and some measurement viewer, by Dr. Bill Bennett Jr at his home. Before Dr. Hanssen, Dr. Bennett, the Professor Emeritus in Physics at Yale Univ., contacted me to include me in his musical acoustics book published by Princeton University Press.