A new chemistry of sound: The technique of multiphonics as a compositional element for guitar and amplified guitar

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... For example, a detailed explanation of the acoustics and psychoacoustics of multiphonics is not provided, the sounds suggested are limited in number, and the amplification of the sounds is not explored. I have attempted to address most of these literature gaps in my research [14,15]. ...
The author recounts how she came to carry out artistic research on guitar multiphonics when composing a piece for solo guitar. Furthermore, she explains how the investigation gave rise to a new form of usage of that unconventional technique.
The technique of guitar multiphonics is an unconventional performing technique that gives rise to sounds of unusual colours, in which it is easier to perceive multiple pitches. In most compositions that employ the technique, this is done conventionally – there is hardly any variation in the beginning and/or end of the sounds. The piece presented in this article uses multiphonics in a new way. This was arrived at by the author unintentionally when conducting artistic research during the compositional process of the third piece in which she used guitar multiphonics. With the new form of usage of this technique there is variation in both the beginning and end of the sounds, as these gradually arise from, and vanish into the continuous sound of an open string. In the piece, this is used as a pedal tone that sounds insistently most of the time.
Considerable research has been made into the harmonic properties and playability of woodwind multiphonics, while the utility of string multiphonics has received far less attention. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing amount of interest in the topic, and several publications have been devoted to acoustic guitar multiphonics. Primarily written for non-guitarist composers, these studies range from the scientific to the practical. Variously, they describe the sonic qualities of the multiphonics, discuss methods of performing them, or examine their spectral content and morphology. Until now, published research into guitar multiphonics has been limited to the acoustic guitar and has examined only its three lower strings. In this study, we analyse multiphonics on all six strings of the electric guitar and present a catalogue of harmonic aggregates on strings 3–1. We test these multiphonics on five different guitars and examine their response to three commonly used analogue effect pedals (compression, overdrive and distortion). In order to precisely indicate the spectral components and harmonic nodes, we have used the Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation (HEJI).
This article presents selected results from a research project on cello multiphonics at the Hochschule für Musik Basel within which I am producing updated fingering charts in a smartphone application and affiliated online repository. The article details work that has informed this resource and illustrates results that reveal critical questions and point to future areas of interest. I begin by introducing cello multiphonics and contextualising my previous findings, then discuss pitch content, ‘chain’ multiphonics and the balance and intonation of multiphonic components.
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