Glossary of non-Western cello techniques?

I remember reading about a book years ago that cellist, Frances-Marie Uitti (she invented a playing technique using two bows so that she could play four part polyphonic music on the cello), that would be a technical manual on alternative 20th century cello techniques. What she ended up publishing was a chapter in the Cambridge Companion to the Cello titled “The Frontiers of Technique” which:

In it the development of cello techniques is traced through the Darmstadt experimental era covering the uses of different bows and preparations, new repertoire, percussives, use of the voice and new uses of both hands.

I would still love to read a book length (or maybe dissertation length?) treatment of the subject, but as I was walking into the office debating whether to practice or do a little more organizing I had a tiny revelation that I should be documenting non-Western cello techniques in some form or another. I immediately told the wife of my plan to compile a glossary of world music terms that are relevant to the techniques and skills I’ve had to learn outside of orthodox music instruction channels.

Basically, the idea would be to have a place I can direct people to online (or in handout form for classes and workshops) to terminology from specific cultures so that I don’t have to continually define each and every term whenever I might write or talk about it. Ideally it would also give a description of how it can be done on the cello as well, and eventually might have audio if I get adventurous enough.

The biggest obstacle, is that I just do not know what all these ornaments, or techniques are called in the various countries. When I talk to Wendi (il Troubadore’s clarinetist) about some of the issues of translating non-Western folk music techniques to modern Western instruments we might refer to things like “that weird Bulgarian trill” (which I actually do know the name for: “tresene“) or what have you.

Knowing the terminology will just ease the issue of presentation, or even communication, but most importantly will also give some indication of the culture’s music of the technique from which it is being borrowed.

I realize that I haven’t gotten to blogging about the meat of anything here yet. Mostly I’m letting people smell the meal before it’s cooked, or maybe these posts are appetizers? Either way, keep reading folks, I’m sure I’ll have something with more substance here soon.

20th Century Bulgarian Music for Cello Solo

20th Century Bulgarian Music for Cello Solo
20th Century Bulgarian Music for Cello Solo

One half of the pleasure of doing research at a more general level (e.g. “Solo Cello Music Repertoire” rather than “Cello Repertoire by Popper”) is finding gems you’d never think to come across. Earlier I found a full CD recording of 20th Century Bulgarian Music for Cello Solo. I’ve never heard of any of the composers, much less the compositions.


The other half of the pleasure is finding the scores to these works.

track listing:


1. Fantasia for Cello solo, Op. 15 by Petar Khristoskov
2. Sonata for Cello solo by Marin Goleminov
3. Kells by Georgi Arnaudov
4. Reflected Meditation by Milcho Leviev
5. Augusburg Polka for Cello by Milcho Leviev
6. Bis by Emil Tabakov
7. Sonata for Cello by Dimitar Tapkoff
8. Entrata e Capriccio for Cello by Simeon Pironkov
9. Rhapsodic Improvisation no 1 by Rumen Balyozov
10. Rhapsodic Improvisation no 2 by Rumen Balyozov
11. Sonata for Cello solo no 1, Op. 39 by Nikolai Stoikov

Namaste and Wai

Kind of a cool photo of Carenza and me after our set at the Burlesque Benefit show (Punk Rock Night, the Melody Inn, 10-14-2006).  She is doing, what some belly dancers have adopted from India, the Namaste gesture. And though what I’m doing looks similar, I’m Thai, and in Thailand we do a similar greeting called Wai.

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Carenza bint Asia and Jon Silpayamanant giving each other "high wai's"

the rest of the photos from our set begins on this page (photo 597):

Of course, this came at the end of a set that consisted of one Bulgarian dance (Graovsko horo), one Albanian folk song that I sang (Ani Mori Nuse), two of our (il Troubadore) original pieces that we play for belly dancers: Sands – which is an Arabic/Indian fusion piece; and Sensitive which is an Egyptian styled ballad, one Bhangra Techno tune that we sing in Punjabi (Daler Menhdi’s Tunak Tunak), and on Columbian pop song that we sing in Spanish and Arabic (Shakira’s Ojos Asi). We like to cram in as many cultures into a set as possible, eh? 😛