Performance for live voice and speakers (1-4 channels), or 5-channel sound installation. Duration and size variable.

Scale is an extensive project that explores how we negotiate the voice, and the self, in social space. In particular, the project reflects on the cultural diversity and coexistence within the Aotearoa New Zealand through various musical traditions.

Scale began as a study of the diverse congregation at Auckland’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. In this busy central city church people from different cultural groups negotiate their culture, musical traditions and histories through a (Catholic) Western music framework on a weekly basis. I studied examples of musical scales from four (of many) different music traditions present in the congregation: the Indian Bhairavi Rāga; the Indonesian Pelog Gamelan scale; the Chinese Qing Shang hexatonic scale; and the Korean p’yŏngjo pentatonic scale.

The first iteration of this study is a solo sung performance with 4-speakers. Each speaker plays a recording of me firstly humming the notes of each different scale. As the live (Pākehā) performer I hummed the notes of a C-Major scale in time with the recordings of other scales. Sung simultaneously, the relationship between each note of each creates moments of beautiful, strange or unfamiliar harmony and discord.

The scales then change into the Catholic Gregorian chant sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit). The chant, traditionally set in the medieval hypolydian mode (similar to C-Major), is transposed into the four non-Western musical scale systems represented in each speaker (Indian Rāga, Indonesian Pelog, Chinese Qing Shang, and Korean p’yŏngjo). Each voice sings its own transposition of the chant, together with my live voice singing the original version. Sung at the Catholic feast of Pentecost, Veni Sancte Spiritus refers to the occasion of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the twelve apostles, which gifts them with the ability to speak all languages. The miracle might be understood in two ways: either the apostles are able to speak the individual language of everyone present, or they speak one language that is understood by everyone present. The sung voices (recorded and live) exclaim and express the meaning of this miracle through their multiple, consonant and dissonant intertwining. The result is a homophonic rendition of a traditionally monophonic chant; a chance based composition that includes many tight tone clusters and non-traditional harmonics.

This project is evolving through ongoing community workshops, new compositions and performances, and a major new artwork scheduled for exhibition in December 2019.

My thanks to the community at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland for their guidance with this project.

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