In recent years, the uniquely resonant properties of the double bass have attracted both composers and improviser/performers interested in exploring the implications of its distinctive sonic profile. Through the application of electronics, the insertion of foreign bodies into the instrument, the use of special techniques and articulations, or simply the isolation of its sound in a resonant space, innovative artists such as Adriano Orrù, Pascal Niggenkemper and Benoit Cancoin—to name just three—have created intriguing works that have taken as a starting point the double bass as a material fact—an object of wood and metal capable of producing tones with almost infinitely malleable overtone structures. Berlin-based sound artist Yair Elazar Glotman joins them with Études, a set of ten solo studies for an electronically enhanced double bass.
Glotman was trained as a classical double bassist and also studied electroacoustic composition. His current focus seems to be on electronics-centered sound art, some of which has made use of analogue tape loops. These latter come into play in the Études, in conjunction with the close placement of microphones and amplification.
Each one of Glotman’s études is in essence a study of one type of sound or sound quality. The first three—with the addition of the sixth, which is a kind of reprise or continuation of the second—are largely centered on the timbral kaleidoscope obtainable from a single pitch whether this is produced by slow, rhythmically regular bowing, by striking or by plucking. From this basic material, rumbling waves of sound crest and break on a plain of rattling and fluttering wood on metal. Whether these ancillary sounds are artifacts of a recording / amplification / feedback loop or of the performer’s physical gestures is difficult to say and probably beside the point as well. Subsequent études layer additional pitches or pitch sequences onto the ground drone, but in these pieces as well the main interest lies in the ways that looping, rhythmic stimulation of the strings and amplification push and pull out sounds and overtones ordinarily just latent in a tone.