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Alternative Voices

Alternative Voices: Essays on Contemporary Vocal and Choral Composition

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Alternative Voices
    Book Description:

    Istvan Anhalt, himself a composer of many vocal works, has written an interdisciplinary study of the innovative vocal and choral music that has emerged in Europe and North America since the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5631-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Istvan Anhalt
  4. 1 Theme and recent background
    (pp. 3-22)

    A trend has been noticeable in music since the mid-1950s: the appearance of a succession of new compositions for the voice that use it in ways other than exclusively in the ‘usual singing mode’ (see note 1 to the preface). Spoken, whispered, murmured, and hummed delivery is combined in these works with normal singing and with such marginal sounds as coughing, sighing, audible breathing. While some pieces use a syntactically correct text, others employ language in different kinds of construction. With respect to treatment of texts, some works emphasize, or at least preserve, intelligibility; others reduce it to a greater...


    • 2 Berio’s Sequenza III: A portrait
      (pp. 25-40)

      InSequenza IIILuciano Berio has created a vocal portrait of a woman,* probably North American, who goes through a series of puzzling and disturbing vocal behaviours, making us wonder why she expresses herself in this manner and what she wants to convey to us. It seems that she is in no mood to address us through a coherent discourse, spoken or sung, and perhaps she is incapable of doing so. She seems, during much of her delivery, to be oblivious to our presence and to her environment. The thought may occur to us that she is acting in a...

    • 3 Ligeti’s Nouvelles Aventures: A small group as a model for composition
      (pp. 41-92)

      György Ligeti’sNouvelles Aventuresis a story in music, vocal and instrumental, about three people. The language used is artificial, invented by the composer himself. Far from sounding like gibberish, it appears as a pseudo-language possessing clearly observable properties such as a limited phonemic repertoire, restricted assemblies of phonemic dyads and longer chains providing structure and order, as if it were the language of a newly discovered tribe or perhaps an enactment of the linguistic evolution of such a group. Such a supposition may suggest certain Jungian echoes, resonances from a shared phylogenetic past or from the early history of...

    • 4 Lutosławski’s Trois Poèmes d’Henri Michaux: Voices of a multitude
      (pp. 93-148)

      At first impression this work appears as a statement of the collective soul of a community, an utterance pensive, aggressive, and distant in turn, supported by instrumental sounds of considerable complexity and of many hues. Repeated hearings, and a study of the score, bring out numerous details of such ordered intricacy that one’s attention slips away from the broad expressive contours of the work, and one becomes occupied with the special nature of the component structures, with the composer’s methods of work, and with the fascinating strategy required for the performance. However, as soon as a clear enough understanding of...


    • 5 Blurred boundaries
      (pp. 151-175)

      Of all the people who plan structures in the domain of vocal sound, or who cause such events to occur, only a few normally call themselves composers. The others profess to be working as vocal performers, playwrights, actors, stage-directors, poets, media sound-effects persons, clergymen, linguists, lawyers, Inuit shamans, sound-engineers, psychologists, announcers, advertising specialists, auctioneers, and so on. However, the work of these latter can and does at times bring the practitioner close to or into compositional activity.

      A composition is an event, or a plan for such, in the domain of sound and silence, designated by one or more person(s)–...

    • 6 Deep themes, not so hidden
      (pp. 176-208)

      ‘Cosmogony myth … sacrifice … mystical writings … a … totem … a primitive initiation rite … the symbolism of a temple … ceremonial costumes and dances … sacred stones … agricultural ceremonies … Each must be considered as a hierophany in as much as it expresses in some way some modality of the sacred and some moment in its history … We must get used to the idea of recognizing hierophanies absolutely everywhere, in every area of psychological, economic, spiritual and social life. Indeed, we cannot be sure that there isanything– object, movement, psychological function, being or...

    • 7 Orpheus resurgent … perhaps
      (pp. 209-243)

      We shall focus in this chapter on some aspects of the use of voice and language by selected contemporary composers. We shall occasionally find it more apposite to speak about ‘vocal-tract behaviour’ than about ‘language use,’ when the acoustic material will not fit in the framework of language, however broadly defined. Depending on our focus of attention, we shall speak about a fragment of music as acoustical data, as a physiological process, and/or as a musical-semiotic event. The following themes will be discussed: audible breathing, various utterance modes and types, speech-sound concentrations, diverse abstract and other kinds of phonemic and...

    • 8 Alternative voices
      (pp. 244-268)

      I promised at the end of chapter 7 to comment on John Beckwith’sGas!. One is perhaps reluctant to bring to bear the paraphernalia of analysis on this short (barely four minutes long) and simple-sounding piece. Its sounds and surface structure are quite slight: a middle-sized group of vocalists recite in a low-key fashion a collection of words and texts taken from south-central Ontario traffic signs. These words could have come from almost anywhere and everywhere, from any locality or area in North America. For this reason, one is willing to accord a certain broad topicality and generality to the...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 269-290)
  8. List of compositions
    (pp. 291-300)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-320)
  10. Index of names and titles
    (pp. 321-328)
  11. Index of subjects
    (pp. 329-336)