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By Amanda DeBoer Bartlett

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By Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, Carrie Henneman Shaw, Kayleigh Butcher, Liz Pearse, and Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. By Giacinto Scelsi Kaija Saariaho, Kate Soper, and Warren Enstrom. Country of Origin: United States. Classical. Listening CD. Published by Naxos (NX.FCR177).

Item Number: NX.FCR177

The opening bars of Warren Enstrom's Hushers on Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble's new release emphasize extended fricative sounds that could be mistaken for a percussion ensemble playing maracas. When we finally hear sung notes emerge, they are first accompanied by hisses and shushes, and the pitches themselves push up against each other in dissonant intervals. Hushers is very much a work for the 21st century vocal ensemble, with extended techniques woven into the fabric of a timbre and sound driven texture. Kate So0per's Songs for Nobody returns to traditional text setting, with texts by American poet, Thomas Merton. Written as the result of a commission from the Museum of Biblical Art in New York, Soper endeavored to capture Merton's investment and faith in the purity of the inner life. Saariaho's From the Grammar of Dreams sets excerpts from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath for two singers, embodying the instability of the protagonist's struggles with issues of life and death, madness and solace. In the second movement, each singer in the duo alternates between athletic singing and forceful, rhythmic recitation of the text, creating an unsettling texture where song and speech are unbroken even as each individual performer leaps back and forth between roles. This alternation culminates in the earthy fourth movement, as the two singers hocket between each other in spats of heavy breathing and swooping, plaintive figures. Giacinto Scelsi's compositional process was unique - he did not consider himself a "composer", but instead a "receiver" of sounds, and he did not notate his music, but rather recorded improvisations and handed them off to a colleague to notate and orchestrate. On Sauh I-IV, Scelsi uses phenomes instead of language setting, lending the piece a ritualistic, chanting quality. The relationship between Sauh I-II and Sauh III-IV is close - the first two duos provide the seed material for the fleshed out quartet versions. After a journey through the intensity of the Plath and Merton text settings, the album closes in a world of abstract syllables and non-semantic meaning, as it began.

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Listening CDs are traditional music recordings. Listening CDs make a great educational supplement - hear exceptional professionals play the music you're learning! Or, just enjoy listening to the music you love.

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