Popular Music 


A composer influenced by Stockhausen, was his student Holger Czukay, who connected the singing of folk songs with the 20th century composed music, the electronic music and the popular culture/music. His work Ho-Mai-Nhi (Boat Woman Song) (1969), co-produced with Rolf Dammers who was also Stockhausen’ s student, pioneered both in sampling techniques and the interest in world music1 . The composer used thousands of tape recordings mixed with electronics and his bass playing. More specifically, he used an extract of a 13th-century piece by Adam de la Halle looping again and again, overlaid by  ethnographic recordings of two Vietnamese women singing, taken from a radio broadcast.


His vision and experiment with this work and the whole album “Canaxis 5” which included the piece was to see, as he said, if "European music could go together with the music of a completely different world. Because they are not compatible, the intervals and the scales and so on. That was something which was for me new.”2 


The ideas of Stockhausen and his students fed and inspired a whole generation of young artists in both "classical" and popular music, in a way that even the terms “high art” and “popular” moved creatively into a grey area. Mavens of electronic music, The Beatles, Kraftwerk, Björk and more mentioned Stockhausen as their hero3. Somehow "all [the good] music becomes classical in the end"4.






Another great paradigm were the two lovers, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, who  formed the avant-garde pop and dark wave band of “Dead Can Dance” in Melbourne, 1981. Both vocalists and composers, pioneers in the use of folk voices and elements in popular music. Incorporating lyrics and themes by a great variety of cultures, they used medieval and various traditional instruments in combination with electronics and synthesisers. 

"By creating music that suited a cathedral or a classical concert hall more than the backroom of a pub or a stadium, Dead Can Dance were too adventurous for the mainstream; too 'weird' for the world of classical; too mutable to reap the 'world music' market once it became a marketing strategy. We are talking, after all, of music that spanned neo-classical to choral to folk to baroque, and from liturgical to secular, all under a New World planetarium that truly spanned the globe - western and eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Mediterranean, Latin America, Africa and the Antipodes. Similarly, Perry and Gerrard overrode the guitar-bass-drums palate: synths and electronics weren't excluded, but the lead instrument could be the yangqin - or yang ch'in (Chinese hammered dulcimer) - the hurdy-gurdy or the ondes martenot. The beats could be timpani or Afro-Latin percussion."5 


Lisa Gerrard’s extraordinary contralto voice and glossolalia (invented language) managed to enchant audiences from all the musical genres. Her vocal abilities, nuances, flexibility in different styles and imitation of folk techniques along with her figure reminded an extraterrestrial being. An ethereal voice from a forgotten distant past.   





Early Music Revival  


The return to the roots is undeniably very connected with the rise of the Early Music Revival Movement, especially during the decades of 1970s and 1980s. The much discussed “multi-layered and highly elusive concept”6 of authenticity turned to traditional performance practices as the only oral source that survived through the generations. In this exploration, the voices of individual “revivalists” attempted to establish norms in vocal early music aesthetics. Simultaneously, they integrated and delivered their own interpretations and styles7


The figures of the countertenor Alfred Deller and the first sopranist Aris Christofellis initiated a hope for the revival of the Angelic voice of the past.


At this turning point, the celestial voice of the pioneer soprano Dame Emma Kirkby - who managed to be in lists along with Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland - brought discussions about the lack of naturalness in the operatic voices, about vibrato and the conclusions behind of what characterises an early music voice: 

“The really big voices can be used quite simply. But I think the ones that are a little bit smaller, if they want to get passed the competition, they have to find a way of amplifying and they add vibrato […] They use vibrato as an amplifying device and they use their whole bodies. They work harder than I usually do to make a sound.”

“I sort of wonder about the time of Verdi and Puccini  themselves, whether people need to be quite loud as they are now. If you look through Renaissance sources, there is a certain appreciation of what they call still voices, still sounds, and that meant gentle, that meant quieter.”8 


And as long as the research in the early music field grew and explored more and more the distant past, a Sibyl appeared. Montserrat Figueras in collaboration with her beloved husband Jordi Savall, sung as the Sibyl of the 20th century bringing messages about the Day of Judgement and Virgin Mary, messages from troubadours and Medieval Knights. With Jordi Savall, they researched music performance practices through an intercultural and inter religious dialogue, bringing - among others - Jewish, Christian, Muslim, European, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Armenian and Iraqi traditions together9.


Montserrat Figueras talked about the need to return and research the ancient music: “We follow one path, we head in the same direction, each of us seeks the same thing in their own way. It’s perfectly natural. It’s no obligation, no challenge. It’s the need for exploration, deeper analysis of music and cultures which are the reflection of historical civilisations. […] Everything is ingrained in us: all weaknesses, experiences, adventures, languages that people have got to know - the history of mankind. This music is like a mirror. It reflects and shows all that was in the past and what we are like now.”10


These pure voices would never be considered as classical. However, they were loved and managed to touch audiences and artists in many different ways. Composers started searching for them and an increasing amount of vocalists was influenced. Perhaps, the hope for heaven was not dead yet.

THEMATIC  I      B A C K   T O   T H E    R O O T S :  T h e    Folk    V o i c e

Fragments from Ho-Mai-Nhi by Holger Czukay.

Emma Kirkby in an interview with Matthew Tucker, at The South Bank Show.

London, 2007.

Interview with Montserrat Figueras

by Alia Vox, at Saint Catherine's Curch,

Kraków (31.03.2010)

7th Misteria Paschalia Festival.

fragment 1: Lisa Gerard as a priestess sings in her own language Sanvean (I am you shadow), creating an ambient soundscape influenced by Balkan Music.

Live performance at Paramount Theatre in Seattle, September 17th, 2005.

fragment 2/3: extracts from the concert and interview at Kippevel (VARA TV) in Utrecht, November 28th, 1988. t T

In the end of the video, Montserrat Figueras sings El Cant de la Sibil·la (Mallorca, 1400-1560), a liturgical drama regarding the Sibyl (ancient prophetess) who describes Apocalypse and Judgment Day.