(1991) Female Voice and Tape

Listen (excerpt)

Circuits is a piece for female voice and tape (24 pre-recorded voices), written for singer / composer Joan La Barbara. During a ten-day period we spent in New Mexico, I studied La Barbara’s vocal techniques and experimented with the unique acoustic qualities of her voice. An intriguing element of her performances is the kind of energy she infuses into the music. While I was writing Circuits I began to think of breathing as an ‘energy system’ essential to the physical act of singing and wanted to integrate this rhythmic energy with the physical, athletic quality La Barbara brings to performance.

The harmonic structure of the piece is based on the overtones of the most resonant pitches of La Barbara’s voice. Multitracking the same voice many times reinforces the unique resonance of that voice, and creates a kind of simultaneity that takes the music out of a linear sense of time.

The rhythmic structure is based on a 5-second cycle of breathing in and out – La Barbara’s natural breathing rhythm. In each section of the piece, the 24 tracks begin in structured time and then slowly each of the tracks begins to move out of the established tempo and rhythm of the piece and into a freer interpretation of the material.

circuits excerpt of score

[This is an excerpt of the Circuits score for 24-track tape, where tracks 1, 3, and 4 move out of structured time.]

Performances & Broadcasts

* Scotia Festival of Music, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 2003
* Sound Symposium, Newfoundland, Canada 2001
* Motion Ensemble Concerts, New Brunswick, Canada 2003
* Festival Jusqu’aux Oreilles, Montréal, Québec, Canada 2003
* Merkin Concert Hall – Singing Beyond Words New York, NY USA 1996
* Subtropics Music Festival Miami, Florida USA 1992
* Music Gallery – Joan La Barbara – Solo Concert Toronto, Canada May 1992
* Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville
Victoriaville, Québec, Canada 1991
* Radio-Canada Broadcast, Canada, 1991
* CBC Radio Broadcast: Two New Hours, Canada, 1992

The support of the Canada Council for the writing of this piece is gratefully acknowledged. Circuits is dedicated to Joan La Barbara.