a vocal meditation


12th-14th July 2021,

Liverpool Hope University




Bataille, G. (1988).  Inner Experience, State Univ. of  New York Press

Belgrano, E. L. (2011). ‘“Lasciatemi morire” o far  “La Finta Pazza”: Embodying Vocal Nothingness on Stage in Italian and French 17th century Operatic Laments and Mad Scenes.‘, Doct. Diss. ArtMonitor, Univ. of Gothenburg


Belgrano, E. L.  (2016). ‘Vocalizing Nothingness: (Re) configuring vocality inside the spacetime of Ottavia’. Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies,Vol. 1 Number 2, pp. 183-195 .


Belgrano, E. L. (2014). ‘Embodying the Voices of A City and its Passions: A Poetic Abstract’, In: Dance as critical Heritage. Archives, Access, Action, Symposium Report I: Beginnings, Meskimmon, M. von Rosen, A. & Sand, M. (eds) Univ. of Gothenburg, 90-93.

Belgrano, E. & Ross, B. (2015-) Glories to Nothingness

Belgrano, E. L. & Price, M.D. (2020-) No self can tell... 


Berés, L. (2021). The night-symbol and nothingness as journey towards wholeness.  In: Thinking about Nothing,  12th-14th July 2021, Liverpool Hope University.

Betney, B. (2021). Ego Above Life (2021). In: Thinking about Nothing,  12th-14th July 2021, Liverpool Hope University.

Book of Revelation 1:12


Calcagno, M. (2003). ‘Signifying Nothing: On the Aesthetics of Pure Voice in Early Venetian Opera’, The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 20. No 4, pp. 461-497

Mazzio, C. ( 2003). Acting  with tact: Touch and Theatre in the Renaissance, in: Harvey E. D. (ed) Sensible Flesh: On Touch in Early Modern Culture, Univ. of Pennsylvania  Press, 


Pattison, G. (2021). I, I who am nothing'. Reflections on nothingness by Kierkegaard's female pseudonym. In: Thinking about Nothing,  12th-14th July 2021, Liverpool Hope University.


Raphael, M. (2021). Visualising No-thing: Jewish Feminist Art and the Counter-Idolatrous Disappearance of the Feminine. In: Thinking about Nothing,  12th-14th July 2021, Liverpool Hope University.


Ryan, B. (2021).Penetrating the ‘woid’ and ‘lovely nothing’ in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. In: Thinking about Nothing,  12th-14th July 2021, Liverpool Hope University.

Performed by:

Elisabeth Laasonen Belgrano & Mark D. Price


VOICE was considered a symbol of NOTHINGNESS for the ‘Academia degli Incogniti’ when they produced their first public opera performances in Venice around 1640 (Calcagno 2003, Belgrano 2011, 2016). This presentation – performed as a vocal narrative meditation – begins with a desire to understand the significance of a ‘pure voice’. What follows is a true story about a woman’s vocal awakening through the concept of NOTHINGNESS; about seventeenth century voices and musical manuscripts; about voicing experiences in Venice, Kyoto, & Jerusalem; about a collection of poems dedicated to one of the first opera singers – Anna Renz romana - who became NOTHINGNESS on stage; touching on Italian Nothingness and French Je-ne-sais-qua. What will become - as for the end of this story – is a continuum. The aim of this performance presentation is not to separate art, science & academic tradition, but rather to create an performance exposition that touches and performs all perspectives through a practice-led/diffractive/artistic research methodology.

”PERFORMING NOTHINGNESS: a vocal meditation”



”I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw…” (Book of revelation 1:12)


Words pouring out of my mind, heart and soul,

Transforming into sound

And I know nothing else…


“Music is gone and left is silence. Yet a vibrating motion is stronger than ever in the silent room. The harpsichord player hurries out with his face covered by his hands, my whole body and soul are one and I am alive, my voice is silent, but the movement in me is bursting with an overwhelming force. Silence, sound, quiet, movement – all is present in this room. I am the center of NOW. In the middle of BEING. It is a moment capturing the absolute conviction that everything has been expressed, Sound is now embodied in a most profound sensation of existence.”

(Belgrano 2011:31)


Since that day she knew

A voice called PURE.

Searching for its source

Became a need.

An obsession.

An addiction.


The source of Voice-as-Nothing

could not be separated from presence.

From her.

From whoever she had become.


Voice happens

on stage.

In life.

In prayer.


It makes me both worried and safe.

You ask from where.

From the sun I will tell.

From the monstrous spirits.

Encountered in every corner of life


”L’azzione con la quale si dà l’anima, lo spirit, e l’essere alle cose, deve esser governate dal movimento del corpo, dal gesto, dal volto, e dalla voce, hora innalzandola, hora abbassandola, sdegnandosi, & tornando subito a pacificarsi: una volta parlando in fretta, un’altra adagio, movendo il corpo hor a questa, hor a quella parte, raccogliendo le braccia, e distendendole, redendo, e pienagendo, hora con poca, hora con molta agitation di mani: la Nostra Signora Anna è dotata d’una espressione sì viva, che paiono le risposte, e I discorsi non appresi dalla memoria, ma nati all’hora. In somma ella si trasforma tutta nella persona che rappresenta, e sembra hora una Talia piena di comica allegrezza, hora una Melpomene ricca di Tragica Maestà. Io la chiamarei la quarta Gratia, s’ella non fusse valevole d’insegnar gratia alle stesse gratie e il brio, e la leggiadra alla medesima
Venere.” (Strozzi,G. Le Glorie della Signora Anna Renzi Romana, Surian, Venice, 1644:8-9. Translation to English by Belgrano and Rosand in: Belgrano 2011: 36)


(“The action that gives soul, spirit, and existence to things must be governed by the movements of the body, by gestures, by the face and by the voice, now raising it, now  lowering it, becoming enraged and immediately becoming calm again; at times speaking hurriedly, at others slowly, moving the body now in one, now in another direction, drawing in the arms, and extending them, laughing and crying, now with little, now with much agitation of the hands. Our signora Anna is endowed with such lifelike expression that her responses and speeches seem not memorized but born at the very moment. In sum, she transforms herself completely into the person she represents, and seems now a Thalia full of comic gaiety, now a Melpomene rich in tragic majesty. I call her the fourth Grace.”)


She became a symbol of Nothing.

I became a symbol of Nothing

I become a symbol of Nothing.

I am Nothing.

Double headed demons.

Opening their mouths

Wanting to eat every being

Passing through.


We were all touched by her presence. On stage. In life. As a being.

Infinity and clear cut presence performed in every beat.

And we kept listening.

We kept sensing. Seeing her as our selves.

Here. Here. Here.


If I try to fool you?

Why would I ever do such evil?

I am telling the truth.

And my voice

Is obviously the voice of a messenger.

Delivering fluidity.

Holy fluidity.

Living water.



Overspilling tears and laughter.


(Calcagno 2004)


IT doesn’t belong in one place.

Neither in one time.

Voice was always different

in every one’s ear, eyes, senses.

Always true.

As if made of microscopic elements.


It all comes through seeds.

Tiny seeds.

Slowly becoming fruits of imagined contemplations.

I would never know in advance.

They happen.

Connecting through the movements

of the stars in the sky.

All elements contribute to the sound of angels.


“yet IT is nothing, there is nothing in IT which can be felt, […]. In IT everything fades away, […] In IT, I communicate with the ‘unknown’ opposed to the ipse which I am; I become ipse, unknown to myself, two terms merge in a single wrenching, barely differing from a void – not able to be distinguished from it more than does the world of a thousand colors.”

(Bataille 1988:124-25)


In every place IT arrived IT spilled over into IT. steps, characters, sighs, beats, never-ending-questions-words-and-thoughts. Where it landed, IT grew into more-than-human-reasons. Reasoning became the only way to meaning. To truth. To Beauty. But reasoning as if un-reasoning. As if playing. As if working, as if resting, as if moving, and so on forever… cycles and further cycles, inwards and outwards and both.


They call me by many names.




The Fourth Grace.





A fool.

A monster.

A man.

A woman.

The monstrous Signora Anna Renzi romana.


“Could it be true that when the female singer came on stage in Venice in 1640 performing her mad scenes, the rhetorical patters were ignored and reason had been left behind? Creating a mad scene, by going beyond ‘the limits of what is bearable’


“In Venice the female voice on stage was honored and glorified. Like in Paris. But the Pope feared the female emotions and banned women from stages in Rome. What did he really fear in the female voice? The female bodily flow, the sinful, the emotive, the seductive, or what? Would the female voices turn the world upside down and disrupt the power of the church? Or would the tearful singing voices touch what shouldn’t be touched? A mysterious forbidden touch?

(Belgrano 2011:191-192)


“Of the five senses touch was the most ‘immediate’, at once resisting temporal stasis and having no spatial ‘medium’ between the body and the touchable world (be it in the form of objects, bodies, textures, or temperatures).

(Mazzio 2003:166)


A voice. A body. A human.

A God/ess carries many names.

Only fools try to make anything reasonable about me.

It can’t be done.

Because No Body knows what will come.

Not even myself.

Not until it happens.

Now. Now. Now


Again. Again. And again.


“She found the line intriguing.”

She took it on a journey.

Leaving Rome. Passing Paris. And most of Europe. To the US. To Japan. To the holy Mount Kōya. To Kyoto and the School of Nothingness. She saw calligraphies flying as unreasonable balloons. Talked about sounding silence. About acting-intuition and met the soul of Nishida, performing the question “what can we say about Nothing” delivered by Barad, Yes, what can we say about Nothing?

Nothing took her on a journey along the line.

Curving. Caring. Corrupting. Trusting. Challenging.

“She found the line intriguing.”


This is

A confession.

A meditation.

A contemplation.

An act of transformation.

An imagination.

A time-space-travelling.

A performance.

A magical spell.

A wonder.


We give and take the many names.


We need them.

But what about seeing?


Revealing the unknown

Through our senses?


“Live voices from an ancient city

Will teach me about

Watching, tasting,  smelling,

And moving…

Running in fear…



What I will learn I  will perform,

I will stage the lessons,

Make my  own metaphors of darkness,

Touching upon others,

As I have been touched by the score,

Embodying the fall of Jerusalem,

Or any City.

(Belgrano 2014:90-93)


He thought

Speechless Tears,

From a monstrous voice,

It never ended.

It never stopped.

It kept on spilling.

Into every corner of his head. His ears. His toes.

His hops and chin.

Animating in continuous.

Turning and returning.

Figuring. Refiguring.



Come alive.

It is the purpose

For trying to define









(Belgrano & Price 2021)

"When God began to create heaven and earth,  and the earth then was  welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath  hovering over the waters, God said "Let  there be light." 

(Genesis 1:1-3)

Robert Alter (2019), Hebrew Bible: The five books of Moses, p. 11:

2. welter and waste. The  hebrew tohu vabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to  this one. The second word of the pair looks  like a nounce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Tohu by itself means 'emptiness' or 'futility', and in some contexts is assoociated with the trackless  vacancy of the  desert. 

hovering. The verb attracted to Gods breath-wind-spirit (ruach) elsewhere describes an eagle fluttering over its young and so might have connotation of parturition or nurture as well as a rapid back-and-forth movement.

In / Before  the Beginning...


Barad, K.(2017)

Keller, C. (2003)

Belgrano, E.L. & Price, M.D. (ongoing)

(Belgrano & Price 2020-)


kept spilling out of the unknown,

out-pouring sound,

over-vocalizations... (Calcagno 2003)

In the beginning,

out of Nothing

came a wind creating 

something strange, something wonderous,

something different...


How far can  a person go? What is it to live as if being NOTHING?         

Pure love - enacted in actuality (?)

(Reflections through Pattison 2021)

... it kept spilling out into the ears, bodies and beings that happened to be where the air could arrive...

... nilo - nihil - niente ...

... fluid - flowing - filling...

Ruach... (Belgrano 2021)

"Si l'amour vous soumet a ses loix inhumaine" (Belgrano 2004)

"Each letter is a world, each word, a universe"

(Oaknin, 'The Burnt Book', 182. In: Barad 2017:84 (n120), In: Keller & Rubenstein 2017)

"Thinking involves not only the flow of thoughts, but there arrest, as well. Where thinking suddenly stops in a configuration pregnant with  tensions, it gives the  configuration a shock, by which it crystallizes into a monad". 

(Benjamin, 'Theses' In: Barad 2017:29, In: Keller & Rubenstein 2017)

(Raphael 2021)

(Belgrano & Price 2020)

(Belgrano 2011)

(Raphael 2021)

Tears ... (Belgrano 2021)

Imagine yourself...


... being in Paris around 1650. You are invited to the house of Pierre Chabanceau de La Barre, organist and spinettist at the court of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. You are attending a 'Concert Spirituel' in the company of composers, poets, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, archbishops, bishops, marquises, and other illustious people. Mlle de La Barre is performing. Jacques de Gouy describes her in the following way: " ... et sur tous Mademoiselle de La Barre, que Dieu semble d'avoir choisie pour inviter à son imitation toutes celle de son sexe, à chanter les grandeurs de leur Createur, au lieu des vanitez des Creatures." (... and above all Mlle de La Barre, whom God seems to have chosen to invite all those of her sex to follow her in singing the glories of their Creator, instead of the vanities of earthly Creatures.)

(Belgrano 2004)

(Raphael 2021)

Expermenting with a 17th  century vocal fragment / ornament:

"As soon as her throat started to vibrate by the flow of her breath, sound pusheditself out into the room. First regulated and controlled [...] She smiled to herself, it felt a little odd to consciously follow an ornament. It gave her a feeling of walking into herself. Into awinding maze [...] She  noteced that her sounding smile started to sound ironic. Irony filled her face and her throat, and her whole body crew into sarcasm. It  was ridiculous the whole thing.The laughter continued into an inhalation. [...] Morire. Yes, death was the wordshe spoke and it had no real meaning to her. [...] Lasciate mi - let me,  let me, LET ME... [...] She had left all far behind and waas inside her own sound. [...] her body knew the  beginning of laughter. Accelerating in tempo and pitch, the sound blew up into the ceiling, in order to drop fast into the lower register. Up and down. reason was all gone [...] " (Belgrano 2011:183-84)

Trillo ... (Belgrano 2011)

(Betney 2021)

(Belgrano & Ross 2015)

Come away... (Belgrano & Price 2020)

                       And she fell





     as if... 

"Around the concept of Nothing [...] the Incogniti  built a constellation of related meanings, which we called 'figures of Nothing.' These included Voice, Death, and Beauty, but  also Time, Dust, Darkness, Dreams, Silence, Sleep, etc. In literary  works, these figures formed a 'repertoire' upon which writers drew whenever the writers subject fell into the semantic area of Nothing."                                                        (Calcagno 2003:489)


(Berés 2021)

Aleph (Belgrano  & Price 2020)

Nothing Is Sacred (Price 2021)

Laissez durer la nuit... (Belgrano 2004)

(Raphael 2021)