3.2.2 Possibilities


The challenges of the voice instrument are, as earlier stated, closely connected to the possibilities of the voice instrument. The easy access to meaning even includes the possibility to use words and language with semantic meaning. Composers and artists have, over the years, explored the interesting range in vocal interpretation from intelligible meaning to sonic abstraction.

The voice as a real world experience

In her book entitled Playing with words: the spoken word in artistic practice (Lane, 2008), Cathy Lane has collected articles by several performers, composers and academics, who focus on use of  ‘spoken word’ as artistic material in different ways. Many of the contributors think of voice sound and the use of words as a link to the real world in contrast to abstract music.


“Another thing that interested me […] was the sound of informal, unrehearsed speech, conversational speech. This is in reaction to artificial sung speech, and also was an attempt to infuse sounds of ordinary, everyday life with the magic of music.”  [1] (Paul Lansky, 2008, 108)

“As a composer, working mainly with recorded sound, I was initially attracted to “playing with words” because they provided a link between the abstract languages of music and “real world” experience” [2]. (Cathy Lane 2008,8)


What constitutes real world, or the real world experience, in voice sound? For me, it would seem that the experience of meaning in voice sound has something to do with the experience of real world. Meaning can be experienced in several ways and as many nuances. It seems reasonable to think that the highest clarity of meaning comes with verbal/textual utterances, with intelligibly spoken words, presented in a clear, natural way, as with a good radio voice. Still, one could argue that non-verbal, but easy recognisable, sounds or expressions referring to concrete emotions (screaming) or phenomena (engines, dogs barking,) could provide the listener with equally meaningful information as words do. So clarity in meaning is not easy to define. This is also reflected in Bergsland’s writings on the premises of his maximum – minimum model (Bergsland 2010, 270). Bergsland points, among other things, to the importance of the context in this regard.

I will not elaborate further on definitions or discussion of these terms here, but I will share my own experiences of listening to and producing music. I tend to experience meaning and the real world as overlapping qualities within the same vocal expression. Further, when I talk about creating “distance” through the use of electronics, I think that these two terms are useful when describing what I experience a distance from.


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[1] Lansky, Paul: Interview by Cathy Lane, in Lane, Cathy, ed.: Playing with words – the spoken word in artistic practice, CRiSAP/RGAP, London/Manchester 2008.

[2] Lane, Cathy: Introduction: act of translations, in Lane, Cathy, ed.: Playing with words – the spoken word in artistic practice, CRiSAP/RGAP, London/Manchester 2008.

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