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The Multiphonic Possibilities of Cello Strings: from Theoretical Investigation to Musical Practice

Applicant Fallowfield Ellen
Number 175304
Funding scheme Bridge - Proof of Concept
Research institution
Institution of higher education University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (without UTE) - FHNW
Main discipline Music, Theatre
Start/End 01.10.2017 - 30.09.2019
Approved amount 158'250.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Music, Theatre
Information Technology

Keywords (5)

Multiphonics; Contemporary Music; Cello Technique; Performance practice; Cello Pedagogy

Lay Summary (German)

1. LeadDieses Projekt erforscht die Spieltechnik der „Multiphonics“ für das Cello. Die Resultate werden in einer Smart Phone-App präsentiert und zugänglich gemacht.
Lay summary

2. Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojektes

Multiphonics nennt sich eine Spieltechnik bei der mehrere Flageolette gleichzeitig zum Klingen gebracht werden. Multiphonics werden von Komponisten für Streichinstrumente immer öfter verwendet, obschon die Klangkomponenten und die Spielparameter noch unklar sind. Daraus resultieren eine unpräzise Notation und eine begrenzte Anwendungsmöglichkeit. Die Erforschung der Multiphonics bei den Holzblasinstrumenten führte zu einer breiten Anwendung derselben in verschiedensten Musik-Genres. In Bezug auf die Holzblasinstrumente, ist das Ziel dieses Projektes, Multiphonics des Cellos besser verstehen und genauer beschreiben zu können. Dazu werden physikalische und akustische Phänomene untersucht. Als Ergebnis wird eine Smart Phone-App entwickelt, die intuitiv und praxisnah einem grossen Benutzerkreis von Komponisten, Performern und Musikinteressierten zur Verfügung steht.

3. Wissenschaftliche und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojektes

Dieses Projekt bildet eine Brücke zwischen Theorie und musikalischer Praxis. Die App wird ein wichtiges Werkzeug für Komponisten und Cellisten sein, die sich praktisch mit Multiphonics beschäftigen. Etüden werden als Anwendungsbeispiele für die Klangwelt der Multiphonics geschrieben und erleichtern das Verständnis dafür. Die theoretischen Forschungsergebnisse werden für Physiker und Akustiker von Interesse sein.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.09.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



I will investigate cello multiphonics, developing the innovative methodology devised in my previous research to expand current knowledge. To present these research results to musicians, I will create a smartphone application that will bridge the gap between theory and musical practice. This research will have a significant impact upon the composition and performance of music, the tools that amateur and professional musicians use to learn instrumental technique, and the physical understanding of stringed instruments. Multiphonics, complex sounds with multiple audibly differentiable components, have become an increasingly important area of interest for the most influential composers since the mid-20th century. Research into woodwind multiphonics followed a clear and productive path, from early use in jazz in the 1950s to musical and acoustical investigation, and the provision of resources for musicians. As a result, woodwind multiphonics have become established in performance practice across musical genres. Research into string multiphonics lags far behind, and consequently their musical use is significantly restricted. With this research, I will clarify string multiphonics and make them available to a wide range of musical practitioners.The investigation into cello multiphonics that I undertook in my Master’s Thesis, and subsequently published online, took an important step in describing the finger positions of eight multiphonics on each cello string and a subset of their pitch components from the 2nd to the 13th harmonic. A more thorough investigation into cello multiphonics is urgent if they are to become as assimilated into performance practice as woodwind multiphonics have been. I will ensure that the proposed smartphone application appeals to professional, student and amateur cellists of all genres by creating a practical, user-friendly interface and composing short etudes in different musical styles, including pedagogical etudes for young cellists. This will be the first smartphone application for multiphonics on any instrument. I predict an opening in the market for such resources and propose using the sales profits of this application to fund the production of applications for other instruments. This will create a new model for performance practice resources and change the way that instrumental technique is learned by musicians of all abilities and backgrounds.A separate section of the application will be aimed at physicists. In addition to related publications in acoustics-based journals, this will elicit follow-up research from acousticians and future collaborations between physicists and musicians. This networking of research is essential to the assimilation, standardization and musical development of instrumental technique.