Fahad Siadat (performer, composer, and founder of See a Dot Music Publishing) as well as Laurel Mehaffey and Dr. David Harris are vocologists from an organization called VoiceScienceWorks led a workshop today called “Music Without Words” focused on the mechanics, accessibility, and compositional use of vocal extended techniques. This field remains relatively unexplored compared to that of any other instrument family, a fact that the presenters attribute to the widespread attachment to the pure “cathedral” tone. Through demonstration of techniques like overtone singing, vocal fry, and yodeling as well as their effective use in compositions by Toby Twining (one of the leaders in this movement), Martha Sullivan (of C4: The Choral Composer-Conductor Collective) and Fahad himself, these choral artists proposed that this kind of exploration of vocal timbre is the future of choral music. And although some of these ideas may seem extreme, especially compared to the more traditional choral tone, the presenters showed that this exploration can begin simply by singing pieces that direct the singers to belt (which the professionals from VoiceScienceWorks emphasize can be taught to be done safely) or even just by with chords of heterogeneous collections of vowels, creating new textures that bring the 21st century choral sound closer to reaching its full potential. Fahad believes that choral ensembles could be treated more like a symphony orchestra, with timbral combinations available as a new compositional tool; at this point, the music is written and readily available (www.seeadot.com) but now these innovative composers simply need performers and conductors that are willing to experiment and take these types of risks in performing new music.
-Jacob Kerzner, '18
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