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Main content: Glissando in contrary-motion

Pedagogical objectives

  • The student is able to create a smooth glissando.
  • The student is able to distinguish at any given moment, a unison, a cluster or an octave.

Pedagogical intentions

  • Familiarize the students with the glissando process.
  • Introduce students to notions related to the superimposition of pitches (cluster, microtonality, unison, harmonic relations).
  • Improve the students’ pitch discrimination.
  • Help students master the glissando technique with gestures using the speed/pitch tool.




En option: on active le [métronome], entre 100 et 200, ce qui crée un son continu.


École Au-Coeur-Des-Monts, St-Pie, Québec. Enseignant : Jean-François Senécal


Ref. Iannis Xenakis, Metastasis, (1953/54)

Divide the group in two.

  • The teacher proposes a sustained “tonic” sound such as [aaaaaa], from the bank “Human sounds”.
  • The conductor (teacher or student) initiates a unison by adding one student at a time.
  • The conductor directs a slow glissando in contrary-motion, one group descending and the other ascending. Trigger each glissando, one after the other in order to assure the “cluster” effect.
  • Assessment: were the gestures of the conductor followed faithfully? Was it possible during the exercise, to perceive when the sounds created a unison, a cluster, micro-intervals, an octave?

Proposal for a creative activity

  • The teacher asks the students to imagine a scenario involving sliding sounds (glissando). For example, create a calm, night ambiance. Many shooting stars streak through the sky. Imagine the “sound” of the Northern Lights… For inspiration, listen to the sounds in the sound-bank “Sliding sounds”.
  • Once a scenario is agreed upon, each student must find or (better still) create appropriate sounds.
  • Decide as a group, how to start. Create the ambiance by carefully listening to one another.