Violins div a16 – a bagfull of articulations

I thought I’d try next a fairly common passage where the violins divide into 16 parts and display a plethora of playing techniques. It’s largely 4 quartets of violins each playing the same technique in rhythmic unison four part part block harmony.  The score calls for 24 1st and 24 2nd violins. So when their divided into 16 parts that’s 3 players per part. I use the VSL chamber strings for this section which actually has 6 players per part but works fine.

Here’s a PDF of the excerpt

and here’s the MP3

This passage is like putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together. Trying to fit VSL articulation patches with the various playing techniques required in the score. Rapid legato, rapid legato artificial harmonics, pizzicato, tremelo, trills, normal legato, spiccato, glissando etc. Sometimes there’s several choices of patches in VSL that may work and it’s about picking and choosing.

So far VSL is holding up pretty well. Sometimes the note range required in the score (Sorabji writes fiendishly high parts) is higher than the recorded range in the requisite VSL patch. This can be countered by using midi pitch bend but that only allows for a maximum of a major second up or down. I’m told that the VSL software allows you to transpose the patch range but I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

Two moments have proved difficult. The first is a straight glissando over two octaves. VSL have recorded octave glissando’s but only for solo violin and orchestral violins not chamber violins. I’ve used the solo violin and it works quite well you here the start note the octave glissando and the end note an octave higher. Bearing in mind all the other stuff going on throughout the orchestra even if you could pick out the glissando you’d be hard pushed to spot the compromise. The other problem was one moment where Sorabji asks for a tremelo two octave glissando for which there’s no work around so It’s just a glissando as before. But again even if you knew where it was and listened out really hard you wouldn’t spot it.

Playing at the same time as this excerpt there are 12 other lower string parts, 2 harps, glock, celeste, 2 horns and six wind parts.

Leave a Reply