for three string instrumentsany combination of three bowed string instruments (1974)
|Duration||minimum: approx. 8 minutes|
|Premiere||August 5, 1974; Darmstadt Ferienkurse Für Neue Musik, Studiokonzert III (awarded the Kranichsteiner musikpreis by the city of Darmstadt, Germany); Gaby Schumacher and Ronald Crutcher, cello • Andreas Pflüger, bass|
|Technical requirements||Three scores are required for performance.|
Stephanie Griffin, viola; Meaghan Burke, cello; James Ilgenfritz, double bass
Improvisation is at the core of Alvin Singleton’s gorgeous string trio Be Natural (1974), its title a pun on the B-natural note that is passed around throughout the piece but is always droning, a groaning river flowing underneath jittery textures... near the end, a ferocious duet for viola and cello gave way to a passage of music that was quiet, mellow, simply gorgeous.
- Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times
Be Natural is a work for any three bowed stringed instruments. It brings into the Singleton list of works one featuring improvisation by the players. The score in essence calls for a game involving musical elements, none of which are in traditional notation. None, that is except for the pitch B natural a half step below middle C, which must be sounded and held by at least one musician throughout the piece. Additionally the rules of this game call for each player to perform the pictogrammed notational requirements indicated in 9 different “boxes,” calling for “loud” or “soft” “long” or “short” notes and passages to be improvised against the constantly-sounded B natural. Of course all 3 musicians sounding the B simultaneously for a long time, which happens at both beginning and ending of the piece, can also have a surprisingly psycho-musical effect on the listener.
An early work by Singleton, it reflects an experimental trust in the musicality of the performing artists, much as choreographers when they set up situations that allow their dancers to come up with movements consistent with the spirit of their pieces. But the piece has met with consistent success since its world premiere in Darmstadt, Germany, where it won the 1974 Kranichsteiner musikpreis awarded annually by the city of Darmstadt. And in addition to this high praise, Singleton reports that the work has been performed by elementary school children and sounded wonderful—quite a feat for contemporary music! Needless to say, no two performances of Be Natural will ever be the same.
– Carman Moore