Sunday, December 07, 2014

mouth music # 29

Extended Voices is an apt title for this album, for the simple reason that all of the works here either extend the human voice physically or enlarge the performance situation of choral music.

In Pauline Oliveros’s jet-propelled Sound Patterns, the conductor deals with precise, difficult rhythmic structures that have many changes of tempo. The singers improvise pitches within broad areas of high, middle and low and are asked to produce a varied assortment of sounds, including whispers, tongue-clicks, lip-pops and finger-snaps. The vocal noises, along with tone clusters produced by the pitch improvisations, create a humorous, electronic effect.

In Robert Ashley’s She Was a Visitor, the performer finds himself
 in a decidedly different choral situation. The chorus is divided into groups, each headed by a leader. A lone speaker repeats the title sentence throughout the entire performance. The separate phonemes of this sentence are picked up freely by the group leaders and are relayed to the group members, who sustain them softly and for the duration of one natural breath. The time lag between the group leaders’ utterances and their pickup by the group members produces a staggered, chant-like effect, with the sounds moving outward from the nearest performer to the farthest. It is possible that in a concert performance, the audience could, with minimal instruction, also participate.

Christian Wolff in Cambridge by Morton Feldman is a simple, two-part work, consisting of a succession of chords and single notes sung quietly by the chorus. There is no text. The conductor chooses the duration of each sound on the basis of breath control and harmonic weight.

Chorus and Instruments (II), a longer work also by Morton Feldman, has alternating sections of free and strict tempos, plus the additional colors of tuba and chimes.

In Solos for Voice 2 by John Cage, each singer is asked to make their own realization of the piece, using material, including sheets of transparent plastic, supplied by the composer. By superimposing certain sheets on others, the singer determines several aspects of his vocal part, including vowel and consonant sounds, dynamics, approximate pitch areas and time decisions. The electronic version of this work was developed by Gordon Mumma and David Tudor. The singers’ sounds are picked up by several types of throat, lip and cup microphones, are fed into a complex configuration of electronic equipment and are then processed in real time during the performance. In the Ichyanagi work that gives this album its title, singers use musical instruments, such as slide whistles, to extend the range of their voices. At the same time, electronic instruments transform the voices in terms of timbre, range and dynamics. The written score consists mostly of sustained sounds and glissandos of varying lengths and speeds. The development of the material depends upon a cueing arrangement that instructs the singer to perform in relation to sounds he hears another performer make. Extended Voices also includes a prerecorded tape, composed of purely electronically produced sounds, that functions as complementary or accompaniment material.

The vocoder used in North American Time Capsule 1967 by Alvin Lucier was designed by Sylvania Electronics Systems to encode speech sounds into digital information bits for transmission over narrow band widths via telephone lines or radio channels. There is no written score for this work. The performers are asked to prepare material using any sounds at all that would describe to beings far from our environment either in space or in time the physical, spiritual, social, scientific or any other situation in which we currently find ourselves. The performers’ sounds are fed into the vocoder and are modified during the performance both by the sounds acting as control signals and by the manual alteration of the vocoder components.

-- from the liner notes by Alvin Lucier