Around the World with “Exotic Voices”
This blog post is Emily Schweich, a sophomore Broadcast Journalism major.
From France to India and Japan to Spain, the audience was musically transported around the globe in Exotic Voices, the latest installment of the “Music in Mind” series held in Gildenhorn Recital Hall on October 20. Featuring faculty artists and School of Music (SOM) alumni, the concert highlighted rare works for voice and chamber ensembles from around the world.
Influenced by the sounds of other lands and by their own musical nationalism, many of the prolific composers featured in the concert were able to create a unique taste of the exotic through their lesser-known chamber music.
The centerpiece of the performance was one of Francis Poulenc’s oldest remaining works, Rapsodie Negre. The five-movement suite served as Poulenc’s “audition” for the Conservatoire but was rejected by director Paul Vidal as “nothing but a load of BALLS.” Even the baritone set to perform “Honoloulou,” the vocal interlude in the third movement, dropped out at the premiere, believing the nonsense syllables in the vocal part were foolish. Poulenc himself had to step in and sing.
In an unusual interpretation, School of Music professor and mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler performed the interlude usually sung by a baritone. While the surrounding movements had Oriental-inspired pentatonic melodies, the deep, somber chant in the interlude sounded nothing like typical “island” music. Yet the simple descending melody of pure, nonsense syllables lingered in my head long after the concert.
One of the recital’s standout artists was SOM alumna Monica Soto-Gil, who proved to be a versatile and evocative performer with her interpretation of Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs.
Influenced by the folk music revival of the 1960s, Berio was determined to make classical music more accessible to the public. His song cycle features an eclectic mix of folk music from the United States, Armenia, France, Sicily, Italy, Sardinia and Azerbaijan. A variety of percussion instruments, including car spring coils, chimes, gongs and tambourines, created authentic musical textures for each region.
Soto-Gil had wonderful breath control while maintaining a spinning, sparkly tone. The final folk song in the set, “Qualaliyam”/”Azerbaijan Love Song,” a march-like tune that mixed exotic vocal trills with spoken segments, was especially lively and captivating.
Influenced by the sounds of other lands and by their own musical nationalism, many of the prolific composers featured in the concert were able to create a unique taste of the exotic through their lesser-known chamber music. With authentic instruments and honest interpretations, SOM faculty and alumni recreated the exotic cultures that so inspired these composers to branch out from western music.
The Music in Mind series celebrates the role of music in our culture and our lives, explores sources of inspiration and points of intersection in musical traditions, and presents music in a context that encourages reflection and discovery. Proceeds from Music in Mind concerts benefit the School of Music’s undergraduate scholarship fund.