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Syllables to attitudes : for two female voices, large ensemble and conductor

by Kim Bowman (2012)

Syllables to attitudes


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Syllables to attitudes : for two female voices, large ensemble and conductor / Kim Bowman.

Library shelf no. Q 783.12654/BOW 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Syllables to Attitudes is the second in a series of three works based on the use of meaningless vocalisations. The first piece Extracts from Syllables to Attitudes is scored for small ensemble and the two voices are absent; Syllables to Attitudes is for large ensemble; and the third piece is scored for orchestra. They are not versions of the same piece, but have rather evolved from the same core. They interact with and influence each other in the writing process as well. I started out with writing Syllables to Attitudes then jumped to and finished Extracts from Syllables to Attitudes, before returning to finish Syllables to Attitudes. And in that process cultivated ideas for the third and last piece for orchestra.

The idea for Syllables to Attitudes started with an image of seeing somebody up-close, talking, without hearing a sound. The piece is constructed of fragments chained to a common spine. Like walking through a long corridor with many doors opening onto rooms. The score is set for 2 female voices and large ensemble. The use of broken down language evolved from an urge to use voices in a non-semantic and therefore non-narrative way. I started arranging pages of mere syllables, derived from random words. Significant in this context is the following:

- As speech begins to develop in a baby, various ways of expression start to emerge. Sound becomes meaning. Damaged versions of language can evolve, like stammering and compulsory use of language, which is part of the Tourette Syndrome. These are examples where language is, in a matter of speaking, 'enriched' by meaningless vocalisations.

- Language has a subconscious meaning-appearance in the yet non-existent form of a word that has not yet been found in your memory. It's a meaning without shape. Trying to find a word, knowing it's meaning, but not being able to find it's shape. This is a phenomenon that became very apparent when I changed from my mother tongue to English in 2005.

Any dramatic effect is merely an expression of vocalising. There is no acting in a dramatic sense, for the same reason as mentioned above: there is no semantic let alone a narrative. For that same reason the two voices are scored for and placed in the ensemble similar to any other instrument in the ensemble and need not be treated as soloists.

Work Details

Year: 2012

Instrumentation: 2 horns in F, bassoon/contra bassoon, percussion 1 [maracas, agogo bell, marimba, mouth siren, 5 temple blocks, small Chinese cymbal], percussion 2 [tam tam, agogo bell, log drum, snare drum, maracas, crotales, mouth siren, 2 timpani, 2 timbales], harp, piano, conductor (also clapping and Tibetan bells), 2 voices (amplified), 4 violins (amplified), 3 violas (amplified), 2 cellos (amplified), double bass (amplified).

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

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