Luke Bedford on the instrumentation of Through His Teeth:
Through His Teeth is scored for eight instruments. It’s quite a small ensemble, but I tried to get as big a range of colours and sounds as I could out of that. So there are quite a few instruments that are capable of playing chords. There is a harp, there is an accordion, there’s various tuned percussions, and there’s violin, cello and bass. And against that there is also a clarinet and a trumpet. It’s a kind of small, mixed ensemble.
I tried also to balance it as much as I could, so I count the accordion as a sort of wind instrument. So there’s a clarinet, trumpet and accordion doing some wind-side of things, there are three strings, and then the harp and the percussion as tuned instruments.
Because of the quartertones, it had to be instruments that can play them better than others. Obviously for the harp, percussion and accordion, it’s not easy to get quartertones on, but for the other instruments, especially the strings and trumpet, it’s something that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I decided that the singers were not going to be singing in quartertones – these are only heard from the ensemble. It’s partly a practical thing: some singers can obviously sing quartertones, but others find it very hard. And for a while I wondered whether if the note was strong enough in the ensemble, whether it would be ok to use it in the voice. But in the end I decided against it: partly just to keep things clear in my own head, but also for the singers – they’ve probably got enough to do anyways without worrying about the quartertones.
So it’s something that is happening from the music surrounding the characters really, it’s something in the air. They never go into that directly.