This is the ultimate in open string music:
Quartetto for Three Violins and Cello
Here are some articles from the Internet
that explain about this unique music:
American readers of this blog need no introduction to Benjamin Franklin. For others, a reminder: His face is on the US $100-bill. Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and one of the most extraordinary geniuses ever known. Born into the family of a Boston candle maker, he was a writer, scientist, diplomat, entrepreneur, and, most interestingly for us – a musician.
Franklin played harp and guitar, and invented a version of the glass harmonica that nested the glasses and made the ‘instrument’ much easier to play.
And he wrote at least one string quartet! One is still lost, but there is a manuscript of a string quartet bearing his name as the composer is in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
It is a very experimental piece, showing off not just the musician but the scientist in him.
It’s written for three violins and cello rather than a standard quartet. The really interesting aspect is that all the instruments use ‘scordatura’. This means the strings are deliberately tuned to pitches other than normal tuning.
This enables the piece to be played entirely on open strings only, so the left hand is not required to touch the strings on the fingerboard at all. Only the right hand holding a bow is required to play the piece. Beginners could play the piece, though I doubt that was Franklin’s prime intention. More likely he was challenging himself to come up with the mathematical ingenuity required to devise the tuning system.
So what does it sound like?
The very first recording was made by the Kohon Quartet in about 1969. You can hear samples and purchase it here. (Note: it’s the last quartet on Disc 1 – it’s not very clearly labelled)
The video above is of a student quartet playing it. I wish the audio quality were better but you get an idea of the piece.
Below is a much better recording (transfered from LP), but the piece has clearly been rewritten for normally-tuned instruments. It defeats the purpose, in my opinion, but you can hear the tunes Franklin wrote.
- See more at: http://forgottenstringquartets.com/site/1750-1800/benjamin-franklin-quartet-for-3-violins-and-cello/#sthash.ejMejOLB.dpuf
Benjamin Franklin was a fine amateur musician who was very knowledgeable in the history, theory, and harmony of music. He studied music as a Science, and practised it as an Art. It is said that he could play violin, cello, harp, and guitar. When Franklin drew up plans for his home in Philadelphia, he specified a particular room for music and entertainment. It was on the third floor, painted blue, and became know as the Blue Room. It housed his musical instruments which included the Armonica, a viola da Gamba, a Welsh harp, a harpsichord and a set of tuned bells to help him tune his harpsichord which he said "when properly tuned, it's music exceeds what can be produced by common instruments, but (without the bells) too useless for me."
He loved to play duets with his daughter, Sally, she on the harpsichord and he on his "beloved Armonica." Of all the things Franklin accomplished, the Armonica gave him his greatest personal joy. Franklin loved to play Scottish songs as he felt their beauty lay in their simplicity.
Franklin loved to sing and often joined friends in evenings of song. He felt singing was a melodious way of speaking. He wrote lyrics to many songs which included "My Plain Country Joan", a song that extolled the virtues of his wife, Deborah.
Franklin attended many concerts in his lifetime, many in America but more in Europe where he spent over 28 years as Colonial representative in England and then in France as Ambassador. In fact, while in England in 1759, he attended the last concert of The Messiah conducted by Handel just eight days before the death of the composer. In his diary, Franklin wrote that he saw "the sublime old man, one of the sturdiest characters of modern times, led to the organ for the last time to conduct one of his works."
Use this document to tune your instruments
Quartetto / a/ 3 violini / con / Violoncello / Del Sig Benjamin Franklin