electric voice theatre @ Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2011

electric voice theatre meeting in 2010

electric voice theatre is an idea of mine which has grown and developed with an ensemble of singers, sound and stage and lighting  designers over a period of 30 years to reflect our strong passion for contemporary music and its performance in live situations. I have always believed that classically developed music needs to change its interface with the public in order to communicate directly to people who could, given half a chance, relate to it instantly and deeply.

With this in mind, everything we have ever performed has been from memory. Up to 12 singers have battled with impossible scores – some intentionally impossible like Gervasoni’s “Pas si” – to make the music part of their souls. The results have been inspiring. What composer wants their work just read, when they could have it expressed, interpreted, staged, communicated and brought to life. This is what we have attempted to do, despite the huge amounts of time and rehearsal needed to make this work, particularly where the music is not theatrical or dramatic in the normal sense.  This commitment from a team of highly skilled, versatile singers, prepared to experiment vocally, has brought collaborations with some of the great composers of our day – like Judith Weir, Mauricio Kagel and Berio (though that’s another story!).

This week we will give works by 2 composers with whom we have a long association, a London premiere. The Baghdad Monologue by Alejandro Viñao & Lonely Sits The City by Andrew Lovett  will be presented in a programme entitled The City Weeps at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival on Thursday 18th & Friday 19thAugust 2011, 7pm. You’ll find us at Riverside Studios Crisp Road Hammersmith W6 9RL. Tickets £6 £4 concessions Box Office 020 8237 1111.

The Baghdad Monolgue in rehearsal at St Barnabas Church, Dalston. 2011

We hope that the experience will reflect our vision of communication and that we will get some feedback from everyone about it how to develop these ideas in the future. We get in to the venue tomorrow morning – so we begin sorting out the technical work……..


8 thoughts on “electric voice theatre @ Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2011

  1. Do you find that when you work with the composers and give your input and feeback as he/she is writing the piece that it is easier to learn?

    and when learning the scores which total an hour long performance for example, how long would it take to prepare and learn the scores perfectly? Also have there ever been any composers that you have turned away as their score is simply too hard to learn?


    Paul Murray

    1. Thanks for such interesting questions. I do find things easier to learn if I am working the composer during the process – because I have longer to assimilate the material and often of course they want to use things that come easy to you!

      To prepare the programme that we are doing this week at the festival on riverside, well that’s a tricky one. I learnt Baghdad Monologue a few years ago and have performed it probably 20 times. However, I’ve not performed it during the last year. When I first worked on it it took 3 months to get to a useable stage and then about 10 performances to feel comfortable.
      With Andrew Lovetts “Lonely Sits the City” I worked on the recordings for the computer track for months , but only had about 4 or 5 weeks on the live material – so it was hard to perform the first time – and i’ve only sung it twice.
      To put them together I have only had 2 months – with other projects happening – so not ideal – i’d have liked another month – but it feels quite solid now. I

      I have never turned away a score because it was too difficult – in fact I get sent a lot of scores that other folk think are too difficult and just work away at them till they work (sometimes for years!)

  2. I completely agree with what you say about classical music needing to change it’s outlook to engage people! Especially with young people, it needs to lose it’s exclusivity. Good and interesting music can be appreciated by anyone if they are given the chance to explore it!

    It’s great that you and EVT show how classical music can make use of the endless possibilities that music techonology has provided for composing. What other plans have you got for future experimental/opera/contemporary/electronic performance??

    1. Thanks – we have loads of plans for the future – including Harmony Squared @ Colourscape Music Festival on September 24th on Clapham Common from 1pm – 5pm.
      This is a completely different way of experiencing music – have a look at Colourscape itslelf – http://www.eyemusic.org.uk/COLOURSCAPE/HOME.html – where you can see what an extraordinary space it is. NO sitting in neat rowa listen politely – but lots of running about and sensory experiences which enhance the music that is all around you. When we are there you will discover Green Music, Blue Music, Red Music and Yellow Music – with works by some amazing composers and interactive work from evt itself……and that’s just for starters.

  3. I had the pleasure of seeing ‘The Baghdad Monologue’ and ‘Lonely Sits the City’ last night and found both pieces extremely evocative!

    What fascinates me is not only that you are able to memorise such intricately difficult electro-acoustic works, but that you manage to time them with acute precision, so that the music seemingly passes between live performance and pre-recorded sound. I find it challenging to learn repertoire that has constantly changing simple and compound time-signatures. What’s your secret?

    Colourscape looks like great fun! Which composers will we hear and what will the interactive music entail?

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Amanda. There is no secret to learning complex music, it is just detailed planning, preparation and repetition. I am taking part in an extensive scientific study of musicians memorizing music and hope to gain some insights from this, which I can pass on. The precision of execution is helped along by a little electronic conductor in the case of the Vinao work. This shows me the first beats of the bar as a red light, and the other beats as green lights – and these little boxes are places all round the stage and auditorium so I can look around easily. Of course this means learning the bar structures and tempi also – but that’s just another layer. The Lovett is simply knowing the tape part so well you can sing along with it….the staging helps too in terms of remembering cues.
      NOw Colourscape on Claphame Common – September 24th 1pm – 5pm – is completely different. It involves 8 of the evt singers, and we will play music by ourselves, and composers like Judith Weir, Judith Bingham, Roger Marsh, Jim Cuomo, Andrew Lovett and many more – still looking for silly songs too about colour – so any suggestions welcome…….

  4. Hi Frances,
    I managed to see The City Weeps online in a few videos, and thought it was great; I was just wondering what projects you’ve been working on since your Tete a Tete performance, and what projects are coming up soon?

    1. Ali – glad you enjoyed the videos. IN fact I have just received copies of a CD featuring one of the pieces – The BAghdad Monologue -plus another work by Viñao – released by Art Zoyd (www.artzoyd.com) which is now available to buy. It will be up on the electric voice theatre website soon. We’ll be giving more concerts featuring Viñao ‘s Chicos del 21 in March – one at Bristol Univeristy and another for a festival in Grenoble. Hope you can come along!
      To answer your question about what has been happening since the summer – well we’ve been busy working on Harmony Squared – details on http://www.electricvoicetheatre.co.uk/index.html_006.html – including a commission for Colourscape music festival in September, and a mad version of The Baytree Opera Kit (http://www.electricvoicetheatre.co.uk/index.html_014.html) with young singers in Scotland from the Conservatoire there. At the moment we are engaged in recording the Colourscape Commission.
      My voice has been used on a film “Wreckers” which premiered at the BFI festival in October and is now showing in the west end http://www.curzoncinemas.com/search/default.aspx?searchterm=wreckers&mode=Cinema
      and at the moment I am touring with Big Mouth Piano Tales http://www.bigmouthpianotales.co.uk who have a brand new website aimed at the children who are attending our concerts in droves. Oh yes, and I have been working on a multimedia performance of Shakespear Sonnet settings for the composer Isabel Soveral in Portugal….
      I think that’s all i’ve managed since then…. do keep up.

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