Monday, November 13, 2006

Prog Not Frog Radio Presents: The Voice of The Moon # 021 With The Herbalist (Audacity and Experimentation: How Far Can the Human Voice Go?)

First of all, my most sincere apologies for those who waited until Monday to get the show. I had some complications during the weekend that delayed the release of #021 but here it is…


How far can you go in music???

Let’s find out…

Today’s show will test your musical listening abilities. We’re going to abandon the realm of popular music completely and we will go far and deep into the world of experimental music.

I will present to you all three different ways of treating the human voice, all of them framed inside the scope of avant-garde composition.

The first example from 1955, is the famous “Songs of the Youth” (“Gesang der Jünglinge") by the renowned German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928- ) . This work consist in the blend of a child’s Voice heavily treated and mixed with electronic generated sounds. Gesang Der Jünglinge is considered one of the most important compositions of the XXth century because it integrates for the first time ever the space into the composition, using a system of five speakers to create a sonic pentagonal aura. Thus, space becomes another instrument. Unfortunately this quality can’t be appreciated in stereophonic sound but… there’s another important issue. Gesang Der Jünglige is the first work of Total Serialism because Stockhausen serialized pitch, timbre, duration, register and dynamics of every sound in the composition.
(For more about serialism please go here:
All we will say is that serialism somehow treates music in a sort of arithmetical way, creating variations of elements during the composition that follow certain pre-established patrons.)

Our second example of experimentation with human voice and other elements is the Missa Umbrarum (Mass of the Shadows) by the American composer Daniel Lentz (1941-). This is a work for voices and struck or rubbed wine glasses. Although the performance notes by the composers can be quite extravagant (the singers must actually drink the wine during the performance to change the pitch of the sound produced by the wine glasses), Missa Umbrarum is a marvelous musical journey. Dean Suzuki, from the important electronic magazine considers Missa Umbrarum one of the top 25 musical recordings of all time. Judge for yourself.

Finnally we will sink into an imaginary, remote past while listening to the work of Meredith Monk (1942-) a celebrated American composer very much interested in neo-ritualism and the possibilities of the human larynx beyond singing. Meredith Monk has integrated spoken word, grunts, cough, whispers and every other sound possibly made by the human vocal apparatus into her music. Although this might seem weird, she creates incredibly beautiful atmospheres and transporting musical stories that have made her one of the most popular experimental academic composers of our times. We willlisten to the marvelous Dolmen Music a Meredith monk's work from 1981.

Only three works for this show. But three works that I consider extremely important to understand that we need to stretch our listening abilities as much as we can. We need to go the extremes of musical experience. We need to go beyond normality, to be free, to be able to…

… Keep listening…!!!

Image: Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: "Still a Tadpole already a Frog" (oil on wood)
See more Irene's paintings at If you can buy one. She is great!


Anonymous said...

Many thanks Herbalist, very much appreciate this collection of fine gems! :)

skaarse said...

Thanks again! I must admit that I have not listened too much too this kind of music. But I try too broden my musical sfeare.
I have listened carefully too the entire show, and it will need some relistening.
I admire your currage too post this kind of music, it only means that you have confidence in what you are doing.

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