February 22, 2017

Alternative Voices: Essays on Contemporary Vocal and Choral by Istvan Anhalt

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10 The protagonist is truly a child of our time and society (with its strong interest in the workings of the mind and related behaviour), called into being by Berio's insight, intuition, and mastery of portrayal through sound. She is also out-of-time, since what she struggles with is not limited to any one era. She conceals little, and stands, figuratively speaking, naked before us, in this quasi-clinical, albeit abstracted reconstruction. Berio did not create a new verismo with this piece. His heroine's utterances differ just as much from reality as gidayu declamation differs from normally emotive Japanese prosody.

We shall observe the persistence, or ephemerality, of these components. The third entry, that of the soprano, follows in measure 4 with an even shorter delay: about two and a half seconds. This double utterance has the novel feature of repetition of components of two earlier utterances. It indicates a careful attention paid to the two preceding signals and suggests caution (note the dynamics), empathy, introjection, learning, and/or agreement. The soprano begins signalling with pitch-vowel couples initiated by (belonging to or characteristic of) the two other singers.

Of the fricatives /s/ is sharper than ///. The speech sounds that are considered to be sharp have only one common attribute: they are - in contrast to the soft ones - characterized by higher partial tones. Their dominant partíais 44 Alternative voices are, therefore, closer to the threshold of pain (the register where the sounds evoke unpleasant sensations), and are, thereby, perceived as sharp objects that are penetrating the organ of hearing' (51). '[As in the language of many human groupings] even in the 'speech' of the chimpanzees the bilabial nasal plosive appears in various combinations of sound sequences, or in isolation often in connection with feeding, the mother's breast, and longing' (71).

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