Communicating Ideas Without a Word

The New York Times reviews a performance hosted by the Electronic Music Foundation.

Composers and poets, and of course, singers, have long rhapsodized about the purity and naturalness of the human voice, and about how instruments are really just mechanical imitations on which performers aspire to produce a lyrical line and a singing tone.

Strictly speaking, though, it has been a while since that was entirely true. Instrumentalists, when not chasing that vaunted lyricism, have long striven for a kind of virtuosity that singers cannot approximate. And these days, composers and new-music singers think nothing of abandoning that prized purity and naturalness in favor of electronic sound processing. Some singers, clearly, aspire to be electric guitars or synthesizers.

This is not lost on the Electronic Music Foundation, which is presenting “The Human Voice in a New World,” a series of three free concerts exploring new approaches to singing and vocal composition. The opening concert, on Monday evening at the Frederick Loewe Theater at New York University, was devoted to “Messa di Voce,” a multimedia collaboration between Joan La Barbara and Jaap Blonk, both composers and singers, and Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, video artists who work under the name Tmema.

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