The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

May 30, 2017

the approach to sound, sarangi and viola samples sarangi viola viola

sarangi's played with nails/cuticles generally of the first
three fingers on the left hand; the bow is heavy and i use
bass rosin. the notes are played with glissandos and slurs;
what occurs between notes is at least important as the notes
themselves. there are 35 drone strings which help with
intonation. it's very difficult to play. the viola's played
by pressing the strings down on the finger board (the strings
are never pressed down on the sarangi); intonation is exact
and glissandos are an effect - notes are generally intoned
independently. when i move from sarangi to viola, i tend to
play quickly and nervously, bowing too hard; it takes a few
minutes to adjust. muscle memories. here are three pieces,
two of sarangi (slow/medium), one of viola. you can judge
the playing for yourself. the sarangi is meditative to play,
even with my problematic ability. the viola's exhilarating.

the result is deep epistemological differences between and
among pitches and their production. both instruments reply
on bowing, but the onset and decay of pitch on the sarangi
is based on a continuity of experience; and on the viola,
an almost industrial divisiblity - one needs only look at
temperment, treatment of pitch notation including standard
orchestral A, and so forth. of course there is considerable
writing on all of this; on the other hand, actually playing
the instruments, one after another, tends towards movement
styles that are greatly at variance, and fascinating in
terms of finger movement, bow pressure, and even attitudes
towards music, sound, production, and environment themselves.
(further, there seems to be almost something 'unnatural' in
pressure exerted 'backwards by the fingers - in other words
in the direction of uncurling - with the sarangi; the viola
seems much more natural (unless of course it's played in
the western position, the instrument held between the chin
and shoulder).)


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