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VOCAL IMPROV ENSEMBLE

Spring 2002


This course meets once a week for an hour and a half. Please come ready to sing. [N.B. It is expected that you already know enough about vocal production to distinguish what is healthy for your instrument and what is not. Even so, you should plan to check in with a vocal coach periodically through the term.]

Between meetings you will be asked to:

  1. listen to singers and singing, and think about the how and why of what you’re hearing
  2. plan and create your own semi-improvised vocal performances.

You will be evaluated on the effective expression, clarity of design, open-minded technical & conceptual expansion and overall artistic growth demonstrated by these performances.


Week 1–2/26/2

Meet. Experiment. Dream. Plan.

HW: Listen to:


Week 2–3/5/2

Discuss listening. Experiment. Model solo a cappella improvisation assignment.

HW: Create a solo a cappella improvisation on a single word, short phrase or your own name, to perform for the class at our next meeting. One minute or less. Extend your vocal technique.


Week 3–3/12/2

Perform solo a cappella improvisations. Discuss as we go.

HW: Listen to:

Bessie Smith--- get a feel for
  1. her style
  2. the times
  3. the lingo

Read Kings of Jazz: Bessie Smith, by Paul Oliver
Crossett Library:  MAIN  /  ML420.S65 O4 1959


Week 4–3/19/2

Finish solo a cappella improv’s. Talk about Bessie Smith. Reënact her. Model HW assignment. Choose trio partners.

HW: Create a trio improvisation based on cut(s) of your choice from the CD, where one singer plays Bessie and echoes her pretty literally, and the other two imitate the band and make a convincing context---do not echo the instruments literally---use your imagination---and stretch ours. As you prepare this, comment on and assist each others’ interpretations of both Bessie and band---you can trade roles if you like. Perform for the trio for the class.
Listen to Ella/ Betty Carter


Week 5–3/26/2

Perform Bessie Smith trio improv’s. Discuss. Possible preparation for performance at Musical Gathering the following week.

HW: Learn about Joan LaBarbara and her role in the shaping voice in the 20th century avant-garde. Listen to (all in BCML):


Week 6–4/2/2

Discuss Joan LaBarbara. Discuss & experiment w/ homogeneous vs. heterogeneous vocal blends/textures. John Cage and the musical revolutions of the 60s in New York.

HW: Prepare a "score" using graphic notation and verbal directions for vocal quartet or quintet, selecting voices from the class. Use limited or no text. Include extended techniques which can be explained simply and quickly to others.
Read


Week 7–4/9/2

Sight-sing "scores". Discuss and make any necessary adaptations. Prepare for performance at next Musical Gathering.

HW: Rehearse "scores" without me.


Week 8-10

No class meetings. Individual meetings with me to plan large semi-improvisational group work.

Research group vocal improvisations/non-traditional compositions/innovations in several genres:

  • Lambert, Hendricks & Ross–BCML LP J381 + LP J382
  • Swingle Singers — Berio’s Sinfonia, BCML LP 1330
  • Primeaux, Mike & Attson–get music from me
  • George Crumb (scores)–Madrigals Books I-IV– BCML 784.1–Vocal + Instruments–listen to it on LP4049–also Dawn Upshaw "White Moon: Songs to Morpheus" CD336 Selection #8-11
  • Krzysztof Penderecki, "The Passion according to St. Luke"– BCML LP 1091–and vocal score oversize P
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Stimmung"–BCML CD 258
  • Organum & Early European vocal music
  • Meredith Monk’s "Atlas: an opera in three parts"– BCML CD 474 {CD 1 (CD 2 optional)}
  • "The Music of Islam"– Celestial Harmonies LC 7869 ISBN: 0-1371-13159-2–BCML CD 860
  • Weeks 11-14

    Rehearsal, construction, testing of sketches and ideas towards large semi-improvisational group works culminating in FINAL PERFORMANCE







    If you feel you need to solidify your basic musicianship, please use:

    Elementary training for musicians by Paul Hindemith, B. Schott’s Söhne, Mainz, 1946, 2nd edition revised 1949, 1974.
    BCML: MT 35 .H6 1974

    If you feel you need to solidify your basic understanding of Western harmony, please use:

    Basics of Music: Opus 1 by Michael Zinn and Robert Hogenson, Schirmer Books, 1987, 2nd edition 1994.
    BCML: MT 7 .Z75 1994