This 53 minute work sets a series of varied texts for different combinations of voices. The words are drawn from far and wide, as diverse as the Michelin Guide to Corsica and Dante’s Inferno, all in different languages and given different compositional treatment.
The first of the twelve movements, Rationale , is a spoken monologue, performed here by the composer. The pitched material develops in the second movement, with soprano Julia Doyle singing slow-moving lines with a pure-toned voice. Movement three features director James Weeks, in a combination of speaking, shouting and what sounds like percussive foot-stamping. Already within these three short movements, Fox has demonstrated an interesting and imaginative approach to the setting of words, which creates gesture from language and shows the scope of vocal expression. The music seems simple, but is highly effective, with well considered rhythmic elements underpinning the musical line. The spoken voice is as musical in its overall concept as the pitched material, offering variety of timbre and expression.
The beautiful fourth movement, Hanging Line , is poetic in its use of silence and space around the vocal element, and the slow-moving flow of the line is both meditative and completely captivating. The dramatic change of mood provided by the fifth movement shows a more dramatic side of Fox’s writing, with excellent rhythmic drive and remarkable stereo separation in this recording. The two voices come across as aspects of the same instrument, and this is an extremely impressive performance, with a wonderful sense of interaction and energy. Movement six, Triptych features repeated melodic phrases which change and develop as the music proceeds. Aspects of Urtext reminded me of a slowed-down version of the vocalization of rhythm patterns by tabla players, and there is a rich palette of sounds within this rhythmic movement. Movement eight, Outsider uses four voices; each has its own melodic character. Particularly striking is the use of scotch snap and dotted rhythms, giving a sense of folk music. Babel is gentle and incomprehensible, but with interesting articulation and using a variety of word formations to alter the tone and resonance of the voice. The tenth movement is for soprano with megaphone, and creates some interesting timbral effects. Movement 11 once again features the composer, in an enchantingly expressive performance using a variety of languages. This is another captivating track which demonstrates the range of the spoken voice. The final movement, Index , makes use of the vocal ensemble, with each voice adding another layer to the sonic tapestry and incorporating phrases and sounds heard earlier in the work.
Overall, this is a highly engaging and fascinating work, which has enormous appeal. Fox’s well constructed melodic lines and timbral variation provide an excellent overview of different aspects of the human voice. The overall structure of the work leads the listener through a series of fascinating musical tableaux. The performance by Exaudi is exemplary and standards of production are equally high. Not to be missed.
Recording of the Month July 2011