Christophe Bertrand – Sanh

From the Chinese word “Sanh” that means both three and scattered, Christophe Bertrand developed the concept for his 2006 trio of the same name for Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Cello. He uses three different instruments to manifest the concept of three. For the more abstract concept of scattered, however, Bertrand utilizes various forms of scattering within the music. He utilizes scattering in orchestration by messing with the ordering of instruments in their entrances like in the opening section of the piece to create dense orchestration sequences. Around 2’20”, Bertrand scatters the music through asymmetrical lengths of gesture and increasingly complicated ornamentations. By about 5’10”, the instruments become scattered by their rhythmic non-alignment. In this section, he uses techniques of phasing borrowed from the minimalists, but filters them through a more complex rhythmic lens. By creating non-alignment in both the pitches themselves and the tuplet figures above them that, for example, sometimes shift from 10 to 9 to 8 to 9 and back to 10, he makes the phasing patterns much less straightforward while still allowing the listener to hear the process by which the phasing occurs. There are other methods he employs to scatter the music, but these ones stuck out to me in particular. Bertrand is very skilled at designing intricate musical textures that are fun to listen to like those described above and this piece really shows off this ability.

I like how Bertrand has opted to keep both the cello and bass clarinet in their high registers through much of this piece. The timbres of the high registers of both these instruments create a very nice blend with the piano. If you didn’t know better you might think it was clarinet and viola or violin at times because it gets so high. He really demonstrates the versatility of both these instruments to do more than just bass and the virtuosity of the performers to handle playing in these difficult registers.

Next post will continue to examine the music of Christophe Bertrand. Please feel free to comment with any thoughts, ideas, questions, or anything else! Enjoy the music!

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