Breath Re-Sounded: Ingressive Phonations and Vocal Noise-Soundscapes

for voice solo

Voicescapes: Studies on the Extended Use of the Voice


Exploring the oral and vocal potential through a collection of works for voice solo

Den Mundwerkzeugklängen entgegen

[Towards Mouth Tool Sounds]

for voice solo

Tracing Subharmonics And Overtones, Sensing Body And Space:
Towards A Practice Of Multiphonic Singing

for subharmonic singing voice

Dirr, darr, durr

for speaking voice

Slapping in Tongues: On Vocal Folds And Lips

for voice solo


In order to indicate the sound variety mouth components, such as lips, tongue, palate and teeth, are able to produce I coined the term Mundwerkzeugklänge best translated into English as mouth tool sounds. Compositions applying only mouth tool sounds bypass the vocal chords a source for sound generation. However, the piece here uses both approaches.


The title is obviously alluding to speaking in tongues an expression from the bible that denotes a glossolalia or, also known as gibberish, a nonsensical speech. With regard to the expresssion of speaking in tongues, 'the Old Testament describes an ecstatic emotional state in which the adherents mind is absorbed into that of the deity, whom may be oblivious to the external world, while self-conscious and rationale thought may be impaired. (Edgerton, The 21st-Century Voice, p. 136)'. The subtitle, in contrary, has no double meaning, but points to those parts on which the slaps are executed. German composer Dieter Schnebel (1913-2018) from the Darmstadt generation and its protagonists, such as Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Mauricio Kagel, Karlheinz Stockhausen, etc., was very influential regarding new modalities and the directions he gave in composing for the voice. He created a number of vocal works, like Glossolalia or Maulwerke, all of which are questioning the voice in its common use as vehicle to communicate linguistic meaning. Instead Schnebel explores the sounding qualities of the voice by isolating specific muscle parts and let the performer focus on those, exclusively. The sounding results and the hereby transmitted range of human expressivity are astounding. For more insights on his work see Schnebel, 'Sprech- und Gesangsschule (Neue Vokalpraktiken)' [Speech and Singing School (New vocal practices)] my translation], in Mit Nachdruck: Texte der Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (2010), p.235- 249.


Performance Instruction:

Invent three nonsensical, but similiar sounding syllables as if you're taking samples from your cultural background. Make sure they don't make any sense in  regards to linguistic semantics, but still try to exhibit some meaning that, due to onomatopoeia, carries the power of expression in its purest sense!


Velimir Khlebnikov, in 1920, wrote that 'rows of mere syllables that the intellect can make no sense of [...] form a kind of beyonsense language. [...] an enormous power over mankind is attributed to these incomprehensible words and magic spells' (as quoted in LaBelle: Lexicon of the Mouth, p.63).


Quick insight into the materiality as applied:

Part 1 presents variations of click and plop sounds. It contains mouth flutter sounds as well as head movements. The ingressive sounds are produced by constricting the muscular apparatus. In part 2, in contrary, the performer is less active and focuses on dry and isolated glottal beats produced by both ingressive and egressive phonation. Part 3, again, features mouth flutter sounds and head motions. Single, but also cluster sounds are again produced by ingressive phonation constricting the vocal apparatus. Gradual timbre transitions are produced by smoothly changing single sound entities into multiphonics and into noise-soundscapes, as well as reversely. Furthermore, a variety of repetitive, percussive sounds, that are derived from plosive consonants as well as from tongue clicks and lip ploppings, are implemented. The work ends with breath-related, subharmonic sounds.