6 ene. 2006

The vibraphone has a relatively "cool" and "pure" bell-like sound. It doesn't have that vocal warmth of a saxophone. So what it takes to warm it up, to compensate for this, is the use of vibrato. That's what makes it a "vibra"phone and not just a marimba or xylophone. What Milt Jackson does is to slow down this vibrato, creating a soulful oscillation that counterbalances the harmonic purity of the timbre. Miles Davis comes at the trumpet from the opposite direction, reducing vibrato to a minimum, so that the absence of oscillation itself gains a unique emotional power. It's not just the absence of vibrato, but the tension created by this absence. Coolness is not absence of heat but heat contained. Pitch is itself a rhythm. A vibrato then is the oscillation of a pitch, the rapid variation between two pitches close to each other. It can be narrow or wide, slow or fast, or varied. Think of how some horn players' vibratos become faster or wider toward the end of a long note.

5 comentarios:

Drew dijo...

I've always thought of the vibes as being an almost different instrument on the high and low ends. The low end is actually very smooth sounding. You have to hit the bars on the high end much more lightly because of the more brittle timbre, which cuts without much volume.

The other thing about the vibes is the information they bring out about the equal- temperament intonation system itself, which is actually quite harsh in some intervals, esp. when certain partials are emphasized. The upper end of the vibes brings this out, but the vibrato softens it, since vibrato makes the exact intonation of the interval ambiguous.

There's a great vibes player, Walt Dickerson, who uses no vibrato, like Miles, and gets that pure sound. He gets around the harshness of the upper end by using light, rubber mallets, which changes the timbre of the attach of the notes quite a bit. One of the interesting things about our perception of sounds is that it primarily keyed the attach and decay of the note, so if you have a different attack, it's a much different sound. The same is true when pronouncing words.

The other thing that Dickerson does is always play with a big, round bass support sound, as Miles Davis did. Using this kind of bass player provides what Miles called a "bed" for the trumpet tone, which can also be harsh. If you listen to joint total image of Miles and Paul Chambers on "It Never Entered my Mind, this is really apparent.

I've often thought about what the poetic equivalent of using a "bed" this way might be. Poetry that mixes edgy and sweet material in a very interactive way.

Jonathan dijo...

I hadn't thought of that low/high contrast. I think Milt exploited the low end better than almost anyone.

Poetry is more like a complex K cymbal that has all those harmonics in it at once.

Drew dijo...

I guess you could classify poets by what kind of ride cymbal they are? Berrigan is Zildjian Ping Ride maybe? Lezama Lima is a 20'' K. Jorie Graham is a 18'' Paiste 101 Brass. Lyn Hejinian is a Paiste flat ride....

Jonathan dijo...

I've played that game myself. It's interesting how you hear Hejinian as relatively bright "transparent" and lacking in overtones...

Henry Gould dijo...

try Russian church bells.