Interim Evaluation – Helena Sorokina (auf deutsch)

VOICE.ONLY: Intuitive Notation der zeitgenössischen Vokalmusik anhand von Werken für eine unbegleitete Solo-Altstimme

(VOICE.ONLY: Intuitive Notation of Contemporary Vocal Music Based on Works for an Unaccompanied Solo Contralto Voice)

Through my close collaboration with contemporary composers in the context of my work as an alto in the internationally renowned vocal ensemble Cantando Admont as well as my solo work in the eponymous project VOICE.ONLY, I have been able to gain a lot of experience and have come across two highly relevant research questions for which I will seek solutions in the context of my artistic research at the Doctoral School for Artistic Research of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz.

Can an intuitively understandable form of notation be developed for rich sounds and effects used in contemporary vocal music or in vocal techniques such as extended vocal techniques?
Due to a confusion of notation types on the part of composers (sounding or performing), there is currently either an overabundance of symbols for the same/similar sound effects, or the same symbols are used for different sounds and techniques. Here, an intuitively understandable notation would contribute to the clarification of composers' sound ideas and more compositionally faithful interpretations, to more efficient rehearsal through easier readability for performers, and to the longevity of works through more frequent performances and more accurate mapping of extended vocal techniques. Therefore, the approach to the first research question forces the scientific development and artistic establishment of an intuitively understandable, unified form of notation for complex sound colours and effects or extended vocal techniques in contemporary vocal music by creating a notation database with sound and symbol examples as well as recommendations for a unified intuitively readable notation. Methodically, the research is based on literature research, work analysis, documentation of internal and external interpretation variants through sound recordings and expert surveys (questionnaires, interviews).

Is it possible to establish unaccompanied contemporary solo singing as an independent, self-contained concert form?
To remedy the lack of unaccompanied solo works for a low female voice (alto voice) and to explore the second research question, the barely existing repertoire for an unaccompanied solo alto voice will be expanded with new commissioned works and performed in specially organized concerts. In order to finance the composition commissions and to test the potential for success of this methodology, an association had already been founded in advance, staffed with competent organs, and experience gained in the context of successful funding solicitations for contemporary concerts with newly composed works from public and private agencies. These activities thus made possible for the first time the publication of a long-living score with the new notation method for a contemporary concert program for an unaccompanied solo alto voice, tested by several sound recordings and live performances, and thus have the potential to further develop contemporary vocal music sustainably.

Internal Supervisors and External Advisors: Antonius Sol (KUG), Christian Utz (KUG), Angelika Luz (HMDK Stuttgart), Rainer Nonnenmann (HfMT Köln)

Helena Sorokina


Latvian contralto/mezzo-soprano Helēna Sorokina begun her musical education with the violin and piano already at the age of 5. She later went on to study choral conducting in her hometown Riga. Helena was studying classical vocal performance and vocal pedagogy and since 2021 continues with the Artistic Research at the Doctoral School for Artistic Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria.

Notable highlights include solo appearances in some of the biggest concert halls of Germany, Austria, Italy and Latvia (e.g., “Die Glocke” Bremen, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Muffathalle Munich, Stefaniensaal Graz) performing works like Messiah by Handel, Christmas oratorio by J.S. Bach, Petite Messe Solenelle by Rossini and Stabat Mater by Haydn. As a soloist, Helena has worked e.g., with Hamburger Symphoniker, Thüringen Philharmonie, Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester, Mainzer Staatsorchester, Georgisches Kammerorchester Ingolstadt and sung under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington, Joshua Rifkin, Beat Furrer, Paolo Paroni, Joshard Daus, Erwin Ortner, Sylvain Camberling etc.

Her gift of perfect pitch exposes her to contemporary music performance, which has become one of her biggest passions. Notable highlights include solo performances at the Steirischer Herbst Festival in Graz, Austria: Asteroid 62, opera by Dmitri Kourliandski (2013) and Paradise by Laure M. Hiendl (2016). Since August 2017, Helena is a resident member of the vocal ensemble Cantando Admont and has performed in different festivals and venues namely, Klangspuren Schwaz 2017 (composer in residence – Sofia Gubaidulina), Salzburger Festspiele 2018 and 2020, Imago Ljubljana 2018, Azorean Festival of Music 2019, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2019 and in countries such as Argentina, Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Since 2018 Helena has been holding masterclasses and lectures in different topics of the New Vocal Music (New Vocal Music in Austria, Extended Vocal Techniques, Singers Challenges, Art of Collaboration etc.) at the NUS Yale College (Singapore), University of California Berkeley, University of California Davis, New York University (USA) and Conservatory of Terceira (Azores, Portugal).

2020 she started a new project for an unaccompanied solo voice called VOICE.ONLY, which she premiered at CNMAT in Berkeley, California, and further developed into a new concert series in Styria, Austria. One of the parts called Shades of Solitude has been dedicated to the exploration of different possibilities of a solo alto voice a cappella.

2022 you can hear Helena at Salzburg Festival, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Munich Biennale, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Onassis Center Athens, Wien Modern, Musikverein in Vienna, musikprotokoll, Festival Arena in Riga among other venues and festivals.