In Sequenza III for Voice composer Luciano Berio asks the singer to mutter, gasp, laugh, whine and go through a range of emotions from tense to dreamy to bewildered. Lockdown has also been a rollercoaster of emotion for many people. In this activity you will compose your own 'Lockdown Sequenza' for voice.
The human voice is a remarkable musical instrument. Not only can sing it in any number of styles and languages - from to beat boxing to opera, from throat singing to Gregorian chant, from Indonesian Kecak to contemporary classical music - it can also make an incredible range of sounds. Listen below and on the next page.
One of the hardest pieces of music ever composed for voice is Sequenza III for Voice by Luciano Berio, which he composed for his wife, the singer Cathy Berberian. Here is the singer Laura Catrani performing it:
As you watched the video you will have noticed words and musical symbols appearing. These are taken from the score of the music. The score is created by the composer and, the singer, or other musician, reads it to know what to play or sing. Here's a video where you can see the score at the same time as the music:
What words did you see? There is a lot of emotional and descriptive words: dreamy, tense, relieved, bewildered, tender, wistful, noble witty, joyful, frantic... Berio also asks the singer to mutter, whine, click, hum, sing, laugh, whimper and gasp.
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Even if you don't have a musical instrument, you do have a voice! And, as we have seen and heard, composing for voice doesn't only mean singing. We are going to start by exploring the voice and creating a sound poem.
Write all the different sounds your voice can make on a piece of paper and then create a journey through them with a line. Move your finger along the line and make the sounds as you go. This activity is based on an idea by composer R. Murray Schafer.
Berio composed 14 sequenzas for different instruments. Sequenza simply means to put in an order which is what we are doing when we compose - putting sounds into an order.
You are invited to create your own 'lockdown sequenza' for voice to describe your feelings of being in lockdown. As you heard in the videos, the voice can express an enormous array of emotions. For many people, being in lockdown has brought on a lot of different emotions. Most of us will have experienced ups and downs. A little bit like Berio's Sequenza for Voice which goes from tense to frantic to joyful to tense to dreamy to urgent to whining all in a very short space of time.
Maybe you have felt angry, frustrated, sad, bored or tired during lockdown. At the same time you might have had lots of fun and laughter in the sunshine and chattered excitedly to friends and relatives on Zoom or Skype.
Make a list of all the emotions you have felt during your time in lockdown. Maybe there are a few lines of poetry that describe how you have felt or a particular word(s). Write these down too. Now think of a vocal sound to go with each emotion or a distinct way of speaking for any word(s). It would be helpful to create a symbol to go with each one so that you can make a score of your music. Here we have angry, meh, scared, sad, wow and bored:
Now think about how you might organise or sequence your ideas. You could:
Remember you can use sounds more than once and, you can also use ideas from your sound poem. Make a score of your music using your symbols then perform/record your piece.
Please send any music you create to email@example.com
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