Musicworks #38 ‘Bridging Language’

Music while you sleep: Jean Cocteau 'Le Chercheur Dort' (from MW#38, p26)
Musicworks #38 front coverHelen HallR.I.P. HaymanMusicworks #38 side A

01 Helen Hall Winter Trees (excerpt) (2:05)
02 The A.U.U.C. Women’s Ensemble Oy U Polee Krenechenka (2:48)
03 Helen Hall Winter Trees (excerpt) (2:51)
04 Stella Trylinski The Cossacks Whistle (1:34)
05 The A.U.U.C. Women’s Ensemble Good Evening, Neighbour (1:36)
06 Penn(y) Kemp Simultaneous Translation (5:06)
07 Helen Hall Stoicheia (4:56)
08 Vedel Open To Me The Doors Of Repentance (1:01)
09 Serge Boldiress Conversation with Sibylle Preuschat (3:09)
10 St. Andrew Of Crete (4th century AD) The 3rd Ode Of The Canon Of Repentance (2:10)
11 Helen Hall Photoskia (2:06)

12 Paul Dutton Stereo Nose (6:06)
13 Susan McMaster Restlessness (1:31)
14 R.I.P. Hayman Yawn Quartet (with comments) (5:51)
15 Tekst (Richard Truhlar+Maria Zibens) Set 2: Readings From Julio Cortazar (2:05)
16 Steven R. Smith Factory (4:11)
17 bpNichol Eight States Of Denial For The 1980’s (2:53)
18 Steve McCaffery From Herodotus: The Histories (3:00)
19 R.I.P. Hayman Snore Sonata (3:29)

Total time 58:40
Cassette+journal released by Musicworks, Toronto, 1986

By including Russian Orthodox chanting, vocal- and pitch- based contemporary music and sound poetry, Musicworks #38 Bridging Language seeks vital forms of communal singing in contemporary practices. ‘Voices transform personal communication into community events’, writes editor Gayle Young (MW#38, p2) and in Russian Orthodox chanting, vocals are key to the communication between parishioners. But the Sound Ecology concept encompasses many aspects of environmental sounds: linguistics, ethno-musicology, liturgy, even over-looked human sounds like yawning and snoring. Musicworks #38 juxtaposes all of these in search of alternative tuning systems and a sacred dimension in sound art, since ‘voices express the musical, poetic and sacred aspect of our experience’ (Gayle Young, p2).

On side A, the music of Canadian composer Helen Hall is intertwined wtih Orthodox liturgy chanting in a surprising and chalenging dialogue. The cassette has excerpts from 3 of Hall’s works for voice: Photoskia, Stoicheia and Winter Trees. The last 2 compositions are mostly based on vowels sounds, the classical instruments (saxophone, cello, percussion)  interacting with the feminine vocals in spectral interjections, enhancing or contradicting pitch. Winter Trees is based on the Sylvia Plath poem of the same name, using its vowels sounds only. The composer uses the poem’s assonances and dissonances to morph the syntax into striking ullulations and jaw trills.‘The voice is the acoustic instrument with the greatest potential for timbral transformations’ (Helen Hall, MW#38, p4). The contrast with the less elaborated Orthodox voices is striking and one is left imagining the relation: the universally evocative power of phonemes; the women keeping the community alive; the sacred dimension of music. See Helen Hall’s blog at Art of Frequencies and her recent project Powerlines.

Richard Hayman aka R.I.P. Hayman is an American composer (b 1951, New Mexico) who studied music with John Cage, Ravi Shankar and Philip Corner, a.o. He was a founding editor of the NY edition of Ear Magazine, 1975-1991 [+]. A noted sinologist, he curated Tellus #19 New Music China, 1988. In the mid-1980s, Hayman was exploring the musical dimension of sleep and dream. He organised Dreamsound events for sleeping audiences, what he calls ‘social-musical slumber parties’ (MW#38, p24). To put audiences to sleep, he had a secret weapon: ‘I play Bach’s Goldberg Variations which was commissioned by Count Keyserling to put himself to sleep’ (from interview, tr.#14), though, to be honest, he also served camomille tea and warm milk (MW#38, p25). For this issue of Musicworks, he contributes sleeping sounds contingencies: a few volunteers were recorded yawning and snoring, and Hayman re-arranged it in the form of quartets. These 2 exhilarating, unusual tracks are arranged with a collection of sound poet recordings gathered by Canadian bpNichol. The best introduction to the world of sound poet bpNichol is his 1982 cassette Ear Rational (made available for download by the good folks at PennSound) and which contains the wonderful 1969 Dada-lama.

[Link removed 12/09. Complaint received]

1 Response to “Musicworks #38 ‘Bridging Language’”

  1. 1 MRoi July 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Very cool! Musicworks is awesome.– check it out! They still sell these cassettes, and I think they have them on CD too…

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