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Andrea Clearfield : Reflections on the Dranyen: DOz



Andrea Clearfield

Les Productions D’Oz: 12 pages


For anyone not in the know (as I wasn’t), the dranyen is a long-necked, double-waisted and fretless lute. It is usually hollowed out of a single piece of wood and can vary in size from 60 cm to 120 cm in length. The dranyen does not have a round sound hole, but rather rosette-shaped ones like a lute. This piece was commissioned by William Kanengiser as part of ‘The Diaspora Project’, one that wants to set up an alternative web that is run by the people that use it rather than the large organizations, and Andrea Clearfield is an award – winning American composer who has written many works for a multitude of instrumental and vocal ensembles and this latest work of hers attempts to honour traditional Tibetan and Himalayan music by producing music that could have been played on the Dranyen, including microtonal bending , plucking with the back of the nail like one would use a plectrum , very strong vibrato on long – held notes, and many other percussive techniques.

So when you open this piece up to play, the pages are littered with many strange notations all throughout the piece, and one glance tells any player that if your technique is not considerable you will get nowhere with this piece, that was chosen as the set- piece for the 2022 GFA international Artists Competition .It is of considerable length at almost 10 minutes and any curious players should look at the wonderful live performance on YouTube.

Just to use the first page as an example, the first 11 bars that are there, use 8 different time signatures, the pages is littered with many very fast runs where the actual note vales are to be so quick that no actual note lengths are given. The wide vertical vibrato starts the piece. and then the striking of the notes with the back of the index finger nail, artificial harmonics , campanella runs, microtonal bending and all of these techniques mixed up in a very complex fashion, one after the other, and that is only the first 11 bars of a 203 bar piece

It is superbly written and to be fair, very carefully notated on the pages but it really is an immense handful and to be honest a piece that many players will take one look at and go elsewhere. It is that unusual, and many players technique will simply not be up to it. However if you have a wonderful technique and an eye and an ear for a piece that is utterly individual in every single respect then this piece might fit the bill.


Chris Dumigan

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