Last night I went to hear a concert of Berio’s first ten sequenzas, put on by the Darmstadt: Classics of the Avant Garde series. It was a night of wonderful performances. I was especially moved by Josh Modney’s performance of the violin sequenza (no. 8), Chris McIntyre’s version of the sequenza for trombone (no. 5), and Daisy Press’s singing of the sequenza for voice (no. 3).
The sequenza for voice particularly stood out for me (last night was the first time I’d heard it live). I don’t write a lot of vocal music, of any variety. The voice, as an instrument, has always been somewhat enigmatic to me. But after Daisy’s amazing performance, I got to thinking about the vocal works which have really moved me, and I thought I’d put up a quick post with a few of them. There are more, of course, than these, but these are the first that come immediately to mind. They all strike me as wonderfully playful. It seems extended vocal techniques (the incorporation into music of vocal sounds not typically thought of as musical – speech, groans, laughs, gargles, tongue pops, even coughs), require a commitment to playfulness in a way that those for other instruments often don’t (except in certain instances the trombone). If the performer makes that commitment, the result is really fantastic.
First, here’s the Berio (I like this one, but Daisy’s was better):
Of course, Pierrot Lunaire…
One I’ve just discovered: George Aperghis’s Beaux jours après la pluie (Beautiful days after the rain):
Here’s two short ones from The Books, “Bonanza” and “PS” (both from the album “The Lemon of Pink”)
The incredible Messa di Voce
Lastly, there’s a piece called Erotic by Pierre Schaeffer, a movement from his musique concrète masterpiece Symphonie pour un homme seul. There is a video up on Youtube, but it’s very, as they say, NSFW, so I don’t want to post it here. But just search “schaeffer erotic” on youtube and you’ll find it.