Extended techniques became popular in the early 20th century, when the boundaries between classical and jazz blurred. Composers began to borrow some of the sounds heard in blues and bebop. Probably the most famous example of the first use of extended techniques is the clarinet’s drawn-out trill that moves into a bent glissando at the beginning of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924). Extended techniques do not appeal to everyone, but the fact that we can still find new timbres from well-established instruments – some that have barely changed in a century – is an achievement worth celebrating.


Rebecca Saunders - Caerulean

Carl Rosman (clarinet)
Huddersfield Contemporary Records HCR 12CD

Caerulean features multiphonics, air sounds and glissandos (notated as ‘sexy gliss’), as well as circular breathing.

Jörg Widmann - Viola Concerto

Antoine Tamestit (viola)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902268

Widmann has his soloist tapping the fingerboard and drumming the chinrest. The bow is used ‘normally’ only midway through the work.

Liza Lim - Sonorous Body

Manfred Spitaler (clarinet)
Hat Hut Records LC 6048

A showcase of the clarinet’s remarkable range with microtonality, keyclicks and both slap- and flutter-tonguing.

Almeida Prado - Cartas Celestes

Aleyson Scopel (piano)
Grand Piano GP746

Prado calls his harmonic language ‘transtonality’ – his Cartas Celestes features almost every type of sound the piano has to offer.

Takemitsu - Voice

Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Warner Classics 9029570175

As the title suggests, the flautist becomes a vocalist in Takemitsu’s Voice, speaking into the instrument.