The voice as musical instrument
A seminar held by the University of California, San Diego's music department, spring 2019.

In spring 2019 the UCSD Music Department hosted a series of talks, by nine UCSD music faculty members and one guest, that explore the use of the human voice as a musical instrument from their different perspectives. The speakers include composers, performers, and researchers. We hope that this will serve as a repository of knowledge and ideas of interest to musicians everywhere.
Anthony Davis

Apr 3. Anthony Davis: Writing Opera While American
The evolution of music in the United States reflects our historical shift from a European culture into what is now a Black diaspora culture. To write operas in this context a composer must make the voice function operatically while also speaking to the American present. Two of Davis's operas, X and Amistad, put these issues in the foreground.

Natacha Diels

Apr 10. Natacha Diels: Meaning Without Sense
Nonsensical utterances in the service of music, both as narrative and counterpoint. Using music by Shelly Hirsch, Chris Mann, Sam Scranton, and her own recent pieces as examples, Diels demonstrates a range of expressive nonsense brought to the forefront of meaning through voice in music.

Miller Puckette

Apr 17. Miller Puckette: Electronics and Voice
Examples of things you can do with a computer and a voice: analysis/synthesis to deconstruct and reconstruct the act of singing, for instance, to make a singer whose throat acts as an unstable resonator; isolating individual glottal pulses; or deconstructing vocal sound into individual sinusoidal tracks.

Roger Reynolds

Apr 24. Roger Reynolds: The Voice as Ultimate Instrument
The most powerful Instrument of Musical Communication is the evolutionarily achieved human voice. It conveys explicit messages, simultaneously inflecting the way we understand them. A guided tour through my vocal works, which use: text glossing; extended vocal techniques; choreographic spatialization; registral contrast; digital signal processing; amalgamation of speech, song, and percussion; extreme declamation.

Nina Sun Eidsheim

Apr 24. Nina Sun Eidsheim: The Organology of Voice
A recent revival of organology, critical organology, offers a new inroad into considering the body and its materiality outside self-perpetuating dogmatic language, find a way to deal head-on with voice as a material, vibrational practice, and illuminate where and how vocal vocabulary and concepts are weighed down by millennia of gendered misconceptions. In doing so, I seek to contribute to a discourse that will separate voice and body from gendered disparities.

Wilfrido Terrazas

Apr 24. Wilfrido Terrazas: What My Flute Playing Owes to Vocalists Trying to Sound Like Instrumentalists
Terrazas discusses the influence of Joan La Barbara's and Carmina Escobar's vocal artistry in his own flute playing.

Ed Harkins and Philip Larson

Apr 24. Ed Harkins and Philip Larson: The Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (EVT)
Between 1973 and 1985, experimental singers at UCSD published a lexicon of extended vocal techniques, improvised, sang new works by composers such as Roger Reynolds, Joji Yuasa, and Warren Burt, and spun off the duo known as THE. Among many other adventures, the group once was obliged to record Für Elise, for Phillips, with no preparation.

Steven Schick

Apr 24. Steven Schick: The Percussionist as Vocalist: the Interpretative Challenges of Combining Performance Modalities
When instrumentalists vocalize, they engage a synesthetic world where gesture, sound and speech collude in the process of music-making. Because of its communal origins and the proximity in the long history of the percussive art among the acts of playing, speaking and moving, percussion playing highlights opportunities and challenges of combining performance modalities.

Nancy Guy

Apr 24. Nancy Guy: Touched by Sills
After Beverly Sills died, her most ardent fans spontaneously started gathering and communicating, sharing their passion for Sills. Even while taking part in this group, Guy was drawn to the question of what force was pulling this disparate group together, hoping to learn how singers and their voices bring meaning to peoples' lives.

Susan Narucki

Apr 24. Susan Narucki
Susan Narucki describes how her relationship with her instrument has evolved over forty years through her engagement with the works of Charles Ives, György Kurtág, and Claude Vivier. Of late her search has led her into collaborative projects that directly engage social issues, such as the chamber opera Quatro Corridos.

Curated by Miller Puckette.