Philippe Leroux is an important, contemporary French composer (even if you haven’t heard of him). His compositions waft through various forms, including orchestral, chamber, and electronic. The work I’d like to bring to your attention is VOI(REX), a composition for voice, six instruments, and electronics.
I swear that everything I listen to is NOT avant-garde or weird, but some of it definitely is. The experimental music that most catches my attention isn’t a particular genre, but rather a particular instrument: the voice. And that’s partially because vocal experimentation involves playing with letters and words, not just sounds. (There are other reasons, too.)
I won’t burden you with too many words from music critics and experts (who often seem to be speaking a language similar to Klingon), but sometimes those words are the best way to unravel a complicated piece:
Voice is here pure material – indeed, the piece never ceases to introduce new ways of singing – but never at the expense of the meaning of the poem. A rare achievement: creating space, setting up the stage, calling drama into existence by the sole use of tools which could have been considered neutral, Philippe Leroux gives life to compositional models, strategies and process.
As its title suggests, VOI(REX) inhabits a world in which meaning hangs on the balance of a single letter. Built on words by Lin Delpierre, its five movements (played without pause) offer a thorough-going sonic exploration of the act of writing and the written forms of letters. Leroux explains: â€œThe idea for this came to me when I was getting interested in the form of [sound] waves (sinusoidal, triangular, square. . .). Waves are, in a way, melodic archetypes. . . . Owing to the use of a poetic text in VOI(REX), I thought at great length about the question of writing, in particular learning how to write and the numerous hours that everyone spends learning how to form the letters. These are â€˜inscribedâ€™ in us, like elementary gestures. It was thus that I went naturally from the sound translation of wave forms to that of calligraphy.â€ Lerouxâ€™s intertwining of sound shapes and sight lines is both physical and literal. . . . In addition to executing a staggering range of vocal â€œcharactersâ€â€”running the gamut from speech to song, high to low, sense to nonsenseâ€”[the vocalist] must mime letters, words, and occasionally punctuation marks! As a result, listeners can catch aural glimpses of words in motion even without knowing all the means by which VOI(REX) casts its spell.
Without further ado, click here to listen and download (for free).