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CLASSICAL  March 2007

CLASSICAL March 2007

Subject:

Re: Unusual Instruments

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 5 Mar 2007 08:29:14 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (55 lines)

Rainer Hersch <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 

>I must stress, I am looking for instruments which occur in what might
>call the standard repertoire, by which I suppose I mean pieces you are
>likely to hear in the concert hall.  The John Cage Piano Concerto (1963)
>directs at one point that turkeys should be let out of a coffin.  Fun,
>but doesn't count.

The difficulty for me in trying to answer your question has to do with
the notion of standard repertoire.  There are percussion instruments
like the wind machine in Daphnis and Chloe, but that is part of the
percussionist's somewhat standard bag of tricks.  Then one will find a
few pieces like the Kodaly Hary Janos suite which require a cimbalon...also
needed in Stravinsky's Ragtime.  I recall that Mendelssohn's Midsummer
Nights Dream incidental music calls for an Opheclide.

Bernard Herrmann used, as I recall, a serpent or two in his music for
Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Then as we get less familiar, Cowell
used salad bowls in his 11th Symphony.  Henry Brant calls for the ocarina
in several of his works...I heard it in the concert hall when he
participated in a performance of his Spacial Concerto for Piano and
Orchestra.  Antheil called for airplane propellors in his Ballet Mechanique.
Respighi (Pines of Rome) and Rautavarra (Cantus Articus) ask for recorded
sounds of birds.  Piston asks for a barking dog at the end of one of the
sections of the Incredible Flutist.  John Adams (Knarley Buttons) calls
for the sound of a cow.  Hovhaness "And God Created Great Whales" asks
for the sounds of...amazingly...whales.

There are a few pieces that are still played that require the use of a
theremin...and fortunately there a few players who still specialize in
that instrument...but those piece aren't exactly standard repertoire.

Some percussion ensemble pieces call for things like brake cylinders.
Leon Kirchner's music for orchestra has a passage which requires glass
wind chimes.  And then, one of my favorites, the Don Gillis Concerto for
4 touchtone telephones and orchestra...I have a tape! but it isn't exactly
standard repertoire.  Same for some of the Hoffnung Festival pieces...as
I recall a work by Arnold which requires vacumm cleaners and in another
piece...  was it Dennis Brain playing on a garden hose.

Then there are odd combinations of standard instruments, like the cluster
of four piccolos in Ligeti's Atmospheres....bowed notes played on
vibraphone in Ginastera's Estudios Sinfonicos and Schwantner's Percussion
Concerto.

Shall I go on...

Karl

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