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Water
Portraying water with Violin, Viola or Cello.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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ELCBK
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September 3, 2021 - 1:22 am
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Water has many different sounds: some dainty, rhythmic and soothing, melodical, boisterous, even deafening. 

How would you go about playing water on your Violin, Viola or Cello? 

The French Composer, J. Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), composed "Jeux d'eau" (Water Games) with this question in mind, but for piano. 

Ravel included the quote "Dieu fluvial riant de l'eau qui le chatouille..." on the manuscript, from Régnier's Cité des eaux, a volume of poems. Roughly, that translates to "River god laughing as the water tickles him..."  

In this rolling sheet music & audio (Xandertrax), you can see/hear the ways Ravel was able to grasp the feel of water. 

Jeux d'eau - Maurice Ravel (1901) 

Water is unique in that if given the chance, it will flow forward - like time and music. 

What about taking a few minutes to think how you can get your bow & strings to mimic what you hear in Nature? 

 

Not French, but the Zatōichi film musical scenes in the rain, is excellent!  Handel's 3 Suites of "Water Music" gives me absolutely no feeling of water.  The avant-garde "Watermusic II" by William Basinski gives me a little sense of water, but not much.

I've always been fascinated by water sounds - especially in garden features, patterns of light on the surface and within... and how it feels.  Water was always an inspiration in my glass artwork.

- Emily

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AndrewH
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I'm pretty sure that Handel's Water Music suites were not intended to sound much like water at all. They were written to be played by a huge orchestra on a barge, and easily audible outdoors, that's all.

One of the first things that come to mind (and I'm only including music that involves strings) is Debussy's La Mer. I could easily start a whole classical music thread of music inspired by the sea. Maybe I should...

 

Not French at all, but Brahms's Violin Sonata No. 1 is nicknamed the "Rain Sonata". I spent some time learning the first movement of it while I was recovering from my car accident last year and temporarily playing mainly violin.

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AndrewH
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A few more water-inspired pieces that I've played in orchestras in recent years:

 

Anatoly Liadov, The Enchanted Lake

 

Bedrich Smetana, Vltava (The Moldau) -- by the way, the "flowing water" motif you hear in the background through much of the piece is the viola section alone for almost the entire time.

 

Schumann, Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish"), inspired by a trip down the Rhine.

 

Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral") -- the second movement is titled "Szene am Bach" (Scene by the brook) and has the most obvious portrayal of running water; the fourth movement portrays a thunderstorm.

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Gordon Shumway
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Saint-Saens scored this to include a glass harp, but not a lot of recordings feature one

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway
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Andrew

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Wow!

I'm very intrigued by Bedřich Smetana's, "Vltava" & I want to take a much closer look at Anatoly Liadov's, "The Enchanted Lake". 

The others weren't quite as literal - and looking for possibly effects I might be able to achieve, playing a single instrument... you've given me an awful lot to go over! 

I can see experimenting with combinations of bow strokes and dynamics - then maybe some small motifs.  Think I'm going to have to study some sound bites of real water features before I continue.

 

I know you like to practice near the water.

How would you think to play dancing raindrops, trickling water, the rush of a small brook, or the splash of stepping in a puddle - on your viola?  

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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September 3, 2021 - 1:29 pm
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Wow, Stefan Jackiw plays with so much feeling. Nice one @AndrewH 😁

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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ELCBK
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@Gordon Shumway -

Really enjoyed the Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals - "Aquarium"! 

Unfortunately, none of the string instrument parts sound like water. 

The Piano parts do, though! 

I certainly would be up for trying the piano parts on my 5-string!   At least sections of it. 

 

Thank you! 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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ELCBK said
@AndrewH -

I know you like to practice near the water.

How would you think to play dancing raindrops, trickling water, the rush of a small brook, or the splash of stepping in a puddle - on your viola?  

- Emily

  

I think it would depend on context. The running 16th notes in Vltava are a good way to portray fast-running water, while the motif used in The Enchanted Lake or the second movement of Beethoven's 6th (smoothly alternating between two notes) works well for a slower stream. Scale passages, if articulated a certain way, can evoke water too. Maybe pizzicato or spiccato for raindrops or splashes?

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AndrewH
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I feel like I should add the Socially Distant Orchestra's performance of Aquarium last summer. This was a full orchestra arrangement, rather than the original chamber scoring.

 

I wasn't part of this (it was one of three pieces recorded at the same time where musicians could sign up for only one of the three, and I chose to play Vivaldi instead) but it shows the upper strings the entire time (I do think they sound watery at times) and I think all the fish imagery might be appreciated.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Yes!  The run of notes really gives the feeling of movement. 

Was also thinking surges or swells within a bow stroke would help - and alternating loud/soft, but maybe not a predictable pattern. 

I still love the piano part in the Aquarium - can see it played maybe spiccato on violin.

I don't have much time to play around with this right now, but I will. 

 

Thanks - this has been fun! 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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More classical music and water:

 

Mussorgsky, Dawn over the Moscow River (from the opera Khovanshchina)

 

Wagner, Siegfried's Rhine Journey (from Götterdämmerung)

 

R. Strauss, Don Quixote -- the 8th variation, "The Unhappy Voyage in the Enchanted Boat," has Quixote on a runaway boat drifting downstream with no way of steering it. This embedded video goes straight to that part of the piece.

t=1756s

 

Rachmaninoff, The Isle of the Dead

 

Hamish MacCunn, Land of the Mountain and the Flood -- there's a lot of flowing water effects in the strings, especially the violas.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Wow - these are great!  Guess 'water' is quite the muse for everyone!

Some pretty great interpretations. 

Around 2 minutes into "Dawn over the Moscow River" caught my attention - Don Quixote, too. 

...still have to go over more in some of the others. 😊

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Fiddlerman
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September 7, 2021 - 9:38 am
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I love the creativity.
@andrew - Nice touch with the dancer on the Saint-Saëns video. :)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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AndrewH
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ELCBK said
@AndrewH -

Could you help me out by moving the Composers that aren't French? 

Sorry, I realize it was hard to tell where I started this thread - you're getting me carried out to Sea! 🤣

  

Of the composers I posted, only Debussy and Saint-Saens were French (and Saint-Saens was first mentioned by someone else).

Brahms, Schumann, Beethoven, Wagner, R. Strauss - German
Liadov, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff - Russian
Smetana - Czech
MacCunn - Scottish

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ELCBK
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Here's a very interesting piece, "Water Passion"!

“Water Passion” is a multicultural/multimedia oratorio, written by acclaimed Chinese composer Tan Dun to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach, whose “St. Matthew Passion” provided the initial inspiration for this work. The music is a theatrical mix of water bowls, drums, strings, Tibetan bells, chants, digital sounds, Chinese opera and Tuvan throat singing, with a dash of jazz and postmodernism, all filtered through Tan Dun’s adventurous sensibility. (University Of California Television - UCTV)

Tan Dun's Water Passion - La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest 2012

 

I was thinking of Water, as Rain - and even though it's not a 'Classical' piece, Eurythmics' "Here Comes The Rain Again" comes to mind.  The lyrics say rain, but I think the music alone does a great job of making me imagine a relentless rain shower! 

Maybe also John Coltrane's, "After The Rain" (a lighter shower😊) - most other "Rain" in popular music doesn't 'sound' like rain, to me.

- Emily

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