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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
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.
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 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.