ICA New Music Weekend 2021: So You Want to Distort the Clarinet?

So You Want to Distort the Clarinet?

Patrick Englert


Compared to time-based (delay, reverb) and pitch-based (chorus, phaser, flanger, etc.) effects, distortion effects are not as commonly used with clarinet in electro-acoustic compositions. This proposal takes the stance that the unique harmonic spectrum of the clarinet and how that spectrum interacts with various styles of microphones is the barrier to expanding the use of distortion-based effects with the clarinet. Understanding the interaction between the instrument, microphone, effects, and amplification method can greatly improve the chances of producing the desired sound.

The presentation will begin with a discussion on the harmonic spectrum of the clarinet, specifically how it supports and deviates from the simple description of ‘every other overtone.’ To illustrate, the presentation will utilize spectra captured from different styles of microphones including a piezoelectric contact pickup, piezoelectric ported-barrel pickup, and classic air microphone. Following will be a discussion on how distortion-based effects work and an examination of the four main types: boost, overdrive, distortion, and fuzz. Finally, a quick overview of amplification, mainly the difference between tube and solid state systems, will round out the information needed to discuss how the various parts of the system interact. Audio examples will be utilized throughout to demonstrate various concepts discussed. Other concepts discussed include feedback, headroom, gain, signal chain, and clipping, among others.

When: 10/16/2021 | 1:30 pm

Featuring: Patrick Englert, clarinet

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