Borderland – seeking the extreme

Berit Norbakken Solset, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Faculty of Fine Arts

This project is an exploration of extended vocal technique and vocal aesthetics, with an explicit focus on vocal compositions by the Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist as a focal point.

Through my work as a singer, in several fields of music, I have been curious about the voice and it´s possibility of blending with instrumental sounds. This has been of current interest especially in the work of contemporary music. Through my work with Rehnqvist´s music, I have been triggered to find out how the composer treats the voice and also how the singer can understand her guidelines in the score.

My experience as a singer is that there are great demands of flexibility to be able to control, or practice, the great amount and variation of repertoire, as I work with a number of different ensembles and musical relations. To be able to experiment with my own artistic practice and approach, I seek a bigger flexibility, in making and also placing of the sound, and to be able to approach chamber musical relations more deliberate. Because of the strong position of the voice as intermediary, the power of a different use of the voice is very strong.

By challenging the extreme limits of what the voice can do, both in expressions and interplay, I hope to be able to chart the challenges, way of approaching the music, understandings of the notations and technical skills of the voice. The existing pieces will be studied as live-objects by performing them. The analysis will start with talks with the composer, the written music and my own artistic approach to the music.

This is an artistic project where selected compositions and the performance of such will be in the centre of practical examination, thorough search and try-out. The compositions will work as tools in my inquiry and work of developing the voice as an instrument, placed side by side with any other instrument in a chamber musical relation. By working closely together with the composer, Karin Rehnqvist, I seek to uncover her criteria for composing for voice. The critical reflections following the artistic research process will be documenting in video-blogs and a personal journal. The artistic results will be published in the form of concerts and CDs.

It is my wish to create new constellations, produce new repertoire and achieve a greater consciousness around the subject, and in this way develop the vocal field. International singer like Cathy Berberian, Jennifer Walshe and Maja Ratkje have been known for their experiementing way of using the voice, and also composing with use of a wide range of the voice´s tone colour. In Norway, singers like Siri Torjesen and Anne Lise Berntsen have been very important to the field of contemporary vocal music. Anneli Drecker, Tone Aase and Frank Havrøy are other singers who have been working with expressions and expanding of technical skills, aesthetics, and methods within this field.

My main focus on timbre, the aspect of the sound, the chamber musical performance and the approach toward an instrumental sound, makes this of current interest for the field of vocal art, both artistic and pedagogical. I hope to achieve a discussion and a more conscious approach to the extended vocal technique.