Pierluigi Billone – 1 + 1 = 1

I have been unable for the past two days to have any time to sit and listen to music because of attending concerts, my student teaching work, and travel, but now I am back with a vengeance. For today’s entry, I listened to contemporary Italian composer Pierluigi Billone’s MAMMOTH piece for two bass clarinets, 1 + 1 = 1. This piece clocks in at a whopping 70’ of run time, but remains quite interesting throughout. Because this is such a large work I have divided my comments into two sections to effectively cover the contents of this piece. The first, general comments, are larger observations of the piece while the second section of comments examines specific locations in the piece.

General comments:

This piece is basically a textbook on the possibilities available when writing for bass clarinets. Almost everything you can think of from key noises, slap tonguing, glissandi, multiphonics, harmonics, distortion sounds, and more are used to create the textures of this piece. Billone displays a true mastery of bass clarinet timbres with this piece. I love the use of silence in this piece as well. Billone is not in a rush with the music and it allows the extreme length of this piece to not be overwhelming. In general, the volume is also quite soft which allows the music to be beautiful even when very tight beating between sound waves happen in glissandi occurs. The use of extreme high register in figures that move from niente to a louder dynamic and back into nothing create a really incredible sound like a bowed vibraphone or gentle feedback. This is especially cool when he creates such tranquil moments through the combination the sounds of low and high registers through multiphonics. The spoken parts are very cool, but are at times unfortunately hard to hear (at least on my cans). Some parts get too busy and loud too fast for me, but the pacing of this piece in general is largely exceptional. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and look forward to becoming more familiar with other pieces by Billone (especially considering that they aren’t all so extremely long.

Specific comments:

beginning to 106-I didn’t realize that this piece was over an hour long so the idea for specific comments only came to me by ms. 107

ms. 107-so soft, so etherial. Incredible sound.

ms. 123-single sixteenth is an amazing touch before fermata of silence to contrast the lugubriously thick long sounds that precede it.

ms. 143-love the alternate fingering tremolo effect

ms. 158-the key clicks work so well in this texture.

ms. 163-slap tonguing sounds very cool

ms. 177-the very low glissandi work very well being loud here as an interjection.

ms. 191-when the low glissandi become dominant in the texture here, they feel prepared because of the material that begins in ms. 177

ms. 268-the build to forte here is so good because you have to wait such a long time for it to happen! Better yet, it leaves just as fast as it came!

ms. 280-love the slow oscillation between harmonics.

ms. 285-ah, finally high frequency beating for an extended period. High register bass clarinet playing can be so beautiful.

ms. 315-this gets so tense!

ms. 321-the oscillation effect from 280 is gorgeous when both bass clarinets are doing it together.

ms. 345-this section that dwells on the major second feels so harmonious and content.

ms. 426-calmissimo has to be one of my favorite indications I’ve seen in a score.

ms. 438-wonderful effect with the keys and slap tonguing over the multiphonic third in the other part.

ms. 449-fermata of silence is the perfect length here and is placed at just the right time. There has been so much music, that a moment of palate cleansing right here feels just right.

ms. 460-bass clarinets are also wild animals fyi. These sounds are interesting but do become somewhat tiring after a while for me. I like it more when the distorted sound is a bit more spaced out and subtle in dynamic shading.

ms. 526-perfect example of subtle use of distortion effect in this piece.

ms. 558-the slow oscillation between very low and high is so blurred and smooth. You end up kind of feeling the low notes like an exquisitely soft bass drum and the high note just sails on top of the sound.

ms. 583-the spoken parts here emerge so well because of the texture in the bass clarinet writing around them.

ms. 600-this section that starts here is another perfect use of the distortion effect. They give great depth and color to the extremely deep sounds of the “real notes” below them.

ms. 632-there was such a long break from dense rhythmic activity that this music is a very welcome diversion

ms. 660-the fermata of silence after the spoken part is excellently placed in the music.

ms. 688-love the downward glissandi on the low notes that interrupt the texture of the very high harmonics.

ms. 715-the accents are awesome here!

ms. 720-the gracenote-like low notes are a nice gesture.

ms. 743-the cross-rhythms of the spoken parts are a delicate touch to the piece.

ms. 761-the vocal rhythm sounds almost like plain speech because of how the rhythms are arranged.

ms. 799-the alternation of vocals and very long notes in the clarinets during this section is wonderful.

ms. 889-I really like the close beating of the glissandi here and in earlier measure of this movement.

ms. 904-the harmonics that begin here are so sonorous and help bring the energy down for a satisfying conclusion to this piece.

ms. 906-the slap tonguing provides a nice rhythmic element to the harmonics that surround them.

ms. 918 to the end-the close beating patterns sound so cool and are a perfect way to end the piece.


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