(c) 2013 Karjaka Studios
Ravi Kittappa is a man of his time, and Quince has always loved his music and conversation. Here he discusses the inception of Decantions II:In August at the Color Field Festival in Madison, WI, Karl Larson, Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and the other Color Fielders were sound checking my piece Diasporas (http://snd.sc/1b7AYDY) and I commented that it was funny how everyone pronounced the name of the piece a
slightly different way.
"Well. . . isn't that what the piece is sort of about?" Amanda asked. Without going into too many particulars of the piece, I can say that her short remark hits the nail in the center of its head.
Amanda has a knack for cutting through the bullshit and dropping wisdom and profundity in a totally matter-of-fact way, as if it was obvious all along. It shows me how insightful she is and just how oblivious I can be. These moments always prove valuable.
After the premiere of one of my pieces at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute (where Amanda and I were both fellows), Amanda very simply asked me, "If the piece is a comment on chant, wouldn't it make sense to have a version with singers?"
Her question struck a chord with me and also presented me with a challenge, one that I gladly took up.
The piece that Amanda was referring to is called Decantations, a piece that ended up being the first in a series with that title. It was written for the fellows of the Bang on a Can Summer Institute and Evan Ziporyn. The score calls for sruti boxes, which are drone instruments from India that serve as a simulated tambura for Indian musicians to play along with. I have seen these instruments coax people into extemporizing melodies and spontaneously breaking out into song. I have also seen these instruments used as a basis for groups to chant over.
Here's my take on chanting: In lieu of written forms, either because a written alphabet does not exist or because people are unable to read it, chanting can serve as a very broad and very effective method of indoctrination.
During one of my many trips to India, I witnessed a small child who was unable to read, yet was able to recite the entire Suprabhatam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fjw_6AntJo) in its entirety. This young innocent person was thus indoctrinated and brought in among the followers with very little understanding of the words being said, and without awareness of the caste system that they were becoming a part of. I also see parallels in the US amongst yoga enthusiasts and new agers who often chant words in Sanskrit, oblivious to the meaning of the words.
I wanted to provide an antidote to the sruti box playing a part in this type of brainwashing and allow for introspection within its sound, giving way to individualized thought - a sort of "de-doctrination."
In essence, Decantations is the anti-chant.
I decided to look for a text that could suit this purpose and found myself pulled toward the Siddhar poets. The Siddhars are interesting figures because they are revered like Hindu saints, but they lived the lives of ascetics, removed from society and the Hindu clergy.
Here are the words that I chose to set (translated from Tamil) from Sivavakkiyar circa 10th Century AD:
"Considering the planted stone to be god
placing four flowers upon it
circumambulating and mumbling. .
could it be a mantra that you speak?
Will the planted stone reply when god is inside you?" In the performance of the piece the singers of Quince do a mighty fine job of singing the text in the original Tamil. I suppose you could listen for yourself and see: http://snd.sc/1b7EZZh
Not only is Jonn Sokol one of the nicest guys on the planet, he's also a brilliant composer. His sense of harmony, counterpoint, and text setting are matched only by his wickedly unique style and captivating story-telling.
Here, he talks about "Le Saleve," one of our favorites and a true standout among vocal ensemble rep:
)Both musically and poetically, Le Salève is a marked moment in time, wrought from and bound to memory, which breathes and behaves in a space specific to that
memory. And though the author, Jessica Rooney, was aware of my affinity with the concept of memory and my propensity for textural evolution and development when
writing the text, it was her narrative flow with which I became most invested. Or, most transformed, musically speaking. Her commingling of hyper-sibilance and
syllabic similarity with candid narrative imagery found an instant musical counterpart—such to the effect that I remember thinking “Wow, the piece is writing itself!”—and the combination of these disparities has ever since affected my output.
The music is, naturally, a direct reflection of the text. The opening “shhh” becomes a recurring element, and dovetails into the following string of s-words. Sung at different speeds, the individual words become lost in sibilance and blossom into a textural cloud, in turn becoming a backdrop against which harmonious chords emerge, as if conjuring or extracting memories from the cloud.
The nature of these chords is bittersweetness. Though direct and familiar-sounding—and to a degree, a play on the nature of some a capella and barbershop arrangements—there is an element of disquiet as the chords ceaselessly seek rest and closure. Whether falling in tumbles or rising in stretches, the chords often become disassembled in conjunction with the narrative, until, re-composed at the end, they descend exposed and unresolved.
Exciting news: The Aaron Copland Fund for Music
has awarded Quince a grant to record our first album! We've been working with some amazing composers for the past 4 years, and it's an honor to bring their music to you.
Stay tuned as we feature profiles of each composer/work we'll include on the album!
We're also honored to work with recording engineer Bruce Bartlett, who is a celebrated researcher in recording techniques and a master microphone designer. Check out his work here
This week, the ladies of Quince are hard at work on a brand-new piece by composer Rob Honstein - we'll be performing Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 at the National Pastime Theatre in Chicago. Purchase tickets in advance HERE!
WERKplaats is a co-production of Ensemble Dal Niente and High Concept Laboratories WERKplaats is a performance, a gathering, an evening born of extensive artistic collaboration.
Join Ensemble Dal Niente
, Quince Vocal Ensemble, and High Concept Laboratories for an evening of new works tailor-made for the performers, featuring current and former members of High Concept Labs' Sponsored Projects Program: composer Robert Honstein
, visual artist Liz McCarthy,
and Ensemble Dal Niente. After the performance, audience members are encouraged to stick around for an acoustic set / afterparty by the Grant Wallace Band
. Free drinks will be provided throughout the evening.
FEATURINGCarrie Henneman Shaw
, soprano, and Quince Vocal Ensemble (Nathalie Colas
will be singing in place of Liz, who had a conflict
(b.1988): new work (2013, WORLD PREMIERE) for solo cello Alexandre Lunsqui
: Glaes (2007) for piano and percussionMorgan Krauss
(b.1985): Overcast (2013, WORLD PREMIERE) for bass flute, bass clarinet, and baritone sax Santiago Diez Fisher
(b.1977): Moving as not moving (2012, US PREMIERE) for bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, electric guitar, viola, cello, and bass
AFTERPARTYGrant Wallace Band
Quince is gearing up for our concert featuring new works by composers from Columbia College Chicago. We're thrilled to work with these talented composers. Chace Wall, who invited to come sing, answers our questions about CADRE, music, and Columbia College composers:
1. How did CADRE form and how did you get involved?
CADRE formed roughly ten years ago as a means for students who were highly dedicated to learning about contemporary music to meet and discuss matters that were important to their developing craft. In its beginnings, it was simply a weekly get-together for committed composition students, but in the past five years CADRE has developed into a more serious collective dedicated to promoting contemporary music and furthering the education of any student who takes an interest in the group.
I became involved in the organization around a year and half ago after being initiated into the composition curriculum, and couldn't have been more excited to find people who were as invested in writing and listening to contemporary music as I was. While it was initially a bit intimidating to walk into a room of upperclassmen, the wealth of knowledge that I gained from the listening sessions and group discussions that I participated in was completely undeniable, and the CADRE meetings quickly became the highlight of my week.
2. What has the organization done for the program and for the students involved?
CADRE has long been an important factor in the viability of Columbia's composition program. The organization gives students a much-needed opportunity to know one another outside of the context of the classroom, to know and learn from the work of their peers, and to communicate about the successes and failings they experience in their own work; ultimately creating a community of composers who not only learn from the faculty, but from one another. Lately, we've begun organizing readings of miniatures played by capable members of the group, which will give our composers extra opportunities to hear their work and the work of their peers. Additionally, we've been working on establishing a YouTube channel to host works by Columbia composers, giving the students an additional avenue for self-promotion.
3. What is it like to write for the ensembles, which are different every year? Is it strange to write for players that you may have never met?
Composing for vastly different ensembles each year can prove to be an intimidating task, but is not an altogether new experience for the students at Columbia, who generally have to cope with a new instrumentation every semester. Though approaching the contemporary voice is an especially unique challenge, what has me truly excited about this year's concert is that we finally have the privilege of working with a pre-established ensemble as opposed to one derived from the group's collective imaginings. This means that the composers are writing music for Quince Ensemble as opposed to, for example, violin, flute, and clarinet. Knowing who you're composing for is, as any composer knows, a huge advantage and one that students rarely have, as we're so often assigned a generic instrumentation and have no idea who will be performing our work.
4. It seems like the composers at Columbia College are often adventurous and experimental with their composition projects and processes. How are composers approaching the voice? Will this project be different than past projects for mixed ensembles?
I think it's fair to say that we've all approached the voice from an adventurous and thoroughly contemporary standpoint, but the individual approaches of each composer vary quite drastically from one to the next. Pieces like Danny Hynd's “SWARMS” and Monte Weber's “Chanting Atmosphere” focus quite heavily on extended vocal techniques and utilize amplification as a means of exploring breath and other similarly quiet aspects of the voice. Keegan Meuris' “Far from the Tree” approaches the potential for rhythmic counterpoint and melodic contour in spoken word. My own “Veils” focuses less on extended techniques and more on rhythmic canons and the myriad colors the voice is capable of producing via syllabic transformation, both in the realm of sung pitches and in colorization of the breath.
What's most different to me about this project versus the mixed ensembles that we've composed for in the past is that we have the opportunity to more thoroughly explore a single instrument. Having only the voice to work with, I think, creates a situation in which the composer is freed by his or her limitations. As opposed to considering a few things about many instruments, this helps us come to intimately know and think deeply about the voice's capabilities. I believe these works will be much more exploratory and individualistic than what we've seen in the past, and I couldn't be more excited to hear the end result of everyone's hard work.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) can be an extremely helpful tool for singers. It can also be very confusing! If you plan to use IPA in your piece, consider these thoughts...1. IPA doesn't always sound the way it looks:
Especially the vowels! If you want an "e" sound like the word "bee," the symbol is [i]. Weird, right? Sometimes we get scores that ask for [o] as in "Bob," and we get confused. Then you get annoying emails from us:) 2. Make sure your guide is consistent:
If you include an IPA guide in the notes of your score, make sure the rest of the piece stays consistent with these notes. 3. PLEASE INCLUDE NOTES!
It is so crucial that composers be very clear about their expectations. If you have really, really, really
clear notes before your score, you'll get fewer annoying emails from us :) :)4. About those tongue-chart things:
If you want an [a±] vowel, and it's truly the ONLY
vowel sound that will do the job, consider including a recording for the appropriate sound. Those tongue chart
things are helpful, but we won't get the exact sound until we hear it. 5. CONSULT A SINGER:
The best advice. I think I finish every blog this way...
Oh! And check out these neat-o IPA sources!IPA Keyboard!WIKI IPA!IPA Source!
When Quince books a concert, one of the first concerns we have is - "What the heck are we going to sing?!" There are many considerations in play - "Who's our audience?
What do we have available? What new things can we bring?". . .and the one we hate having to think about: "What can we do if one of our members can't be there?" We're pretty fond of each other - and given the option, would rather sing with everyone present. However, the occasion arises where one of us has a prior engagement. (That's what happens with four busy, in-demand performers
When we started performing together, we began building an arsenal of varied repertoire - and as we've grown, we've acquired more works through commissions, recommendations, or our own digging. To this point, we have performed mostly quartet
repertoire, with an occasional trio
, duet, or quintet
. It's fun to mix up the texture from time to time. As we discover more repertoire for smaller combinations of lady voices, we gain versatility, and options for when one member must be absent. Among our plans: Feldman's Three Voices
(in arrangements for four when we can, and with the original scoring), Scelsi's Sauh
duets, and an arrangement of the dearly departed electronic outfit Coil's "Christmas is now drawing near". In addition, we have scores
that afford us the flexibility to sing with a reduced instrumentation when necessary.Past the issue of performer availability - we have experimented with several concert formats. We've performed many potpourri-programs, featuring short works by various composers of the last few decades. At a recent concert at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, we
performed (as a quintet) a few longer works, to excellent audience response. With Three Voices
, it will be ONE evening-length piece, our first presentation of such a work...Now, I turn to our audience to ask - what do you prefer? A buffet of lovely short works? One long work? A mixture of the two? We asked a similar question once regarding what we should feature on our debut album. . .now's your chance to chime in! Leave us a comment detailing your "Ideal Quince Concert"!
Some of you curious types have asked to read my dissertation on inward singing, and you definitely will be able to in the near future, but for now I've created a quick list of important facts:
1. REVERSE FLOW
: Inward singing uses reverse airflow, so that you’re literally inhaling while you sing. (ok, maybe you knew that…)
Inward speech is found on every continent
3. OLD MUSIC:
Inward singing is found in many traditional styles of singing through the world, including North America
(check out 3:30).
4. NEW MUSIC:
Many living composers have used inward singing in their music, including Helmut Lachenmann, Georges Aperghis, Joan la Barbara, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Meredith Monk, Nicholas Demaison
, Michael Baldwin
, Jamie Leigh Sampson
, Christopher Chandler
, and so many more…
The most common form of notation for inward singing is up-bow for inward (˅) and down-bow for a return to outward (Π).
Inward singing uses the vocal muscles in a very different way, so it can be quite tiring. The body thinks you’re trying to breath, so it naturally pulls your vocal folds apart. Therefore, when we sing inwardly we’re completely resisting our body’s normal tendency (sorry, body!)
We naturally sing higher during inward singing. Try it!
The spectral analysis of inward singing shows that the voice is resonating in a different way, and much less, as compared to outward singing.
9. CIRCULAR SINGING:
One time, Joan la Barbara
alternated between inward singing and outward singing continuously for 8 minutes. I’d like to see Kenny G do that...
10. TENACIOUS D: Jack Black
also alternated between inward and outward singing, but Joan still has him beat.
- posted by Amanda
temA by Helmut Lachenmann
Another tour is wrapped and we’re back to our respective towns throughout the country, but for a brief moment Quince was reunited and we hurled ourselves through the Midwest with intention, with songs, with sruti boxes and djembe’s, and with friends along the way. The best part about tour? Going to amazing cities with hidden charm and meeting awesome people. These were some of the highlights: BOWLING GREEN
Ah, our beloved BGSU, you always treat us so well! Thank you for hosting us at the ever-inspiring New Music Festival (presented by MACCM
and Kurt Doles). We sang a very chill, very iconoclastic piece by Harold Budd, experienced our first “Inuksuit” by John Luther Adams, spent time with old and new friends, and even presented a concert at one of our favorite spots, The Happy Badger
. It was the perfect place to begin tour – right where we started! CHICAGO
This was our second concert on the third coast, and what a blast it was! After an afternoon workshop at Chicago's High School for the Arts
, Quince headed uptown for an evening of music. At High Concept Labs
, one of the hot spots for experimental performance in Chicago, Quince and friends shirked the rainy night with new songs, wine, and cushy couches. Thanks to everyone who came out, we’ll see you again very soon ;) ST. LOUIS
Quince returned to Kayleigh’s home town for a residency at Kirkwood High School. It was such a privilege to work with their students (we sang colors!) and to perform in their stunning concert hall. The workshop proved to us, once again, that high school students are totally hip to contemporary music. We even learned something about eachother (who knew Aubrey was into Def Leppard
??). The concert demonstrated that Kirkwood really does it right with choral music! Congrats to everyone who performed on the concert! Truly stunning. KANSAS CITY
Quince loves Kansas City! The restaurants, shops, and cafes are all so chill and the people are fantastic. Our concert was at the Westport Coffeehouse
’s theatre, an awesome space (and great lighting!). With delicious coffee upstairs and a huge tap selection next door, what more could you ask for? OMAHA
Our final stop was Amanda’s hometown of Omaha. For this concert, hosted by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art
, Quince was joined by Sara Perez (soprano) and composer Marek Poliks. With a massive tech setup and lots of percussion logistics, we definitely filled the space! Thanks to everyone who helped setup and schlepp for this concert, and to everyone who loaned us equipment. It was a team effort!THANK YOU!!
Finally, endless thanks to everyone who hosted us! When you’re on the road, nothing beats a bed and a home-cooked meal! Gary, J.J., Denise, Deb, Susan, Tom, Diane, Steve, John, Gail – you’re all amazing!! THANK YOU!
Stay tuned for our next escapades…
We're already halfway through the fall tour (where does the time GO?!) - Liz posted
about it over at her site. ...the biggest challenge thus far? Fitting everything in a Ford Taurus sedan.