Songs & Voices
In the work for electric ensemble Five Songs (Kafka's sirens), written in 2017 for Ensemble C Barré, the title alludes to - but is not a literal reference to - Franz Kafka's story Le silence des sirènes. In fact, Kafka's story isn't so much about telling an alternative history (who would say that the sirens didn't sing) as it is about suggesting a paradox, insinuating a doubt of perspective.
It's rather to this - to a possible paradoxical perspective - that the title alludes. This is a form articulated in five instrumental "songs", in which the poetic question that emerged was: what remains of singing when the voice disappears?
What can be the essence of singing, and how can we perceive singing when no one sings? This presence of song in the absence of a singing voice was the driving force behind instrumental sound research, a kind of aporia that - like Kafka's paradox - aimed to push back the limits of the instrumental "visible".
This first question naturally calls for a question that is in some ways the opposite: what is voice without song? The voice for its pure presence, devoid of its orphic function? The voice as instrumental body, and as body tout court, the voice as carnal presence that precedes and surpasses speech. A kind of apotropaic object that we would know without understanding.
The exploration of this other half of the question led to the integration of the vocal ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten, with whom Ensemble C Barré has been musically involved for several years, in this musical journey that takes place between these two extremes. Extreme absence and extreme presence, singing in the voice and the voice without singing. Between these two focal points of paradox lies perhaps what attracts Ulysses so much to approach the sirens.
This journey is structured in several moments that explore different aspects of the voice as a body, the voice as an instrumental body, the voice as song, and the voice that, by embodying the word, transforms, cancels and surpasses it, to form a total work lasting around 1h15.
Francesca Verunelli Songs & Voices - Premiere 2023
Commissioned by the French State with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and Sacem
Ensemble C Barré
Sébastien Boin artistic and musical direction
Charles Bascou electronics
Jean Millot computer music design
Antonello Pocetti staging