Clarinet Ornamentation Techniques by Milan Milosevic

Note from Légère: Musical ornaments are the flourishs, trills, and fills that are not central to a melodic line but are added by performers to provide a sense of character and style to a piece; almost as if the artist is decorating a piece with their own contribution. In this month's Légère Artist Article Dr. Milan Milosevic discusses his experience with traditional Hungarian and Serbian folk performers musical ornamentation and articulation techniques.

Milan is a Doctor of Clarinet Performance and is the Music Director for the Vancouver College.  He is also a former member of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra as well as many other prestigious musical establishments over the years. 

Clarinet ornamentation techniques by Dr. Milan Milosevic

Throughout my early musical career and before immigrating permanently to Canada, various traditional music styles influenced my artistic vision. My hometown is located in Serbia with the capital city of Belgrade. Getting the clarinet position at the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra highlighted my early years of study at the University of Arts Belgrade. This position afforded me the opportunity to perform as a solo, chamber, and orchestral musician in neighboring countries including Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

However, only recently and with the help of The University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Arts Council, I went back to that region and conducted a fieldwork research with the Hungarian and neighbouring Romanian and Serbian folk performers in their natural performance environments. Throughout the eighteenth century to this day, such performers developed their own, an endemic variety of music ornamentation, structured with compounded ornamental variety, consisting the trills and mordent combinations and additional multiple articulation techniques.

I was genuinely surprised that there was a very little number of reliable sources and related literature covering these traditional clarinet ornamentation performance practices. Therefore, I've committed to design and carefully measure my six new visual depictions of the ornaments for the clarinet, accompanied by a practical guide in using the side-key and finger-bounce fingerings to achieve this embellishing effect. Importantly, for the best results, these ornaments should be used in a tasteful and well-balanced manner, such that they do not dominate or distort the original melodic line and texture.

I could hope to encourage clarinet performers to develop better understanding of these rather unusual hand-palm position requirements, and use them in a stylistically appropriate manner. The beautiful thing about this technique is that it can be performed on either the clarinet, or possibly, on a variety of saxophones, with the appropriately used similar instrumental side-keys. What I am certain of is that any technically proficient clarinet performer can achieve this transformative new performance skill and by doing so, expand its expressive musical vocabulary.

Note: I exclusively perform on Légère Reeds since the 2002, and use it in a variety of different solo, chamber music and orchestral settings, including the experimental one, on the tárogató - the Hungarian historical instrument.

Dr. Milan Milosevic
Pearls and Yarn - Milan Milosevic Trio

This is a demonstration of new clarinet ornamentation techniques, inspired by the Romanian traditional ornamentation and performed by Milan: