Joan LaBarbara – Voice is the Original Instrument

From Joan LaBarbara:

One of my earliest pieces, “Hear What I Feel”, was a self-exploratory, sensory-deprivation experimental work, designed to help me discover new sounds, delve into psychological aspects, as well as communicate with the audience on a pre-verbal level of awareness. After spending an hour in isolation with my eyes taped shut and not touching anything with my hands, I was led our into the performance space where my assistant had placed a variety of substances in six small glass dishes. As I touched the material, I tried to give an immediate vocal response to what I felt both emotionally and physically, without the benefit of visual information. I expected the shock of bringing a solitary state of mind into the heightened awareness of a performance situation to intensify my experience, and the poignancy of my “prepared” state to affect the audience. The sounds are presented here in their raw state; it is truly an experimental work with no intentional musical implications or designs. “Voice Piece: One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation” explores the color spectrum of a single pitch. “Circular Song” was inspired by the circular breathing technique of horn players. “Des Accords pour Teeny”, an exploration of multi-phonic technique or choral singing, was dedicated to Teeny Duchamp. In much of my early work I dealt with sound as a physical presence, sculpting it, building up layers in complex constructions, letting the flow of thought and the visualization of sonic gestures direct my studio art. Voice Is the Original Instrument was both a statement of purpose and a manifesto as, through various experiments and explorations, I tried to rediscover the basic function of the voice as the first means of expression as well as to release untapped sonic material. As I gave my classically trained voice its freedom, letting it direct me toward new places and ideas, I developed what was a unique vocabulary and used those sounds to score an orchestra of layered voices.

”Twelvesong was commissioned by and recorded at Radio Bremen, produced by Hans Otte. It was the first of my “sound paintings”, a sonic fabric which reveals itself over its twelve minute duration much as a painting is experienced: one takes in the whole and gradually, over time, notices more intricate detail. I placed the sounds onto tape much as a painter adds certain colors, gestures and strokes. I experience much of my vocal material visually before and as I produce the sounds, and many of my scores consist of or contain graphic elements” (liner notes by Joan La Barbara).

Leave a reply

Skip to toolbar