Unsettled Choruses: A Terrain of Humming and Phonetics 1930-1974

NW 80827CD NW 80827CD

"Unsettled in more senses than one, these fourteen choral works, reaching across the central third of the 20th century, represent some special moments in the story of music for voices, and within the creative musings of their composers. Generations later, they remain as outliers, but also as bearers of central truths about musical materials of their times, evading common categorizations -- radical or moderate, experimental or formalist, Stravinsky or Schoenberg. The eight composers are eminent figures -- each represented in other productions of New World Records. Their pieces here, however, have found no settled place in the choral culture, let alone in recordings -- excepting Pauline Oliveros's Tuning Meditation and Ernst Toch's Geographical Fugue. Yet there could be something special about these choral cases. In their individuality and diversity -- a small cauldron of mid-20th-century energies -- they might raise questions still not settled in our 21st century. At the least, they seem to offer fresh experiences among the more conventional tonalities of recent choral creation, and the more uniform notions of what constitutes good choral sound. Since the earliest chant, choral singing has been poised between two poles of expression, both of great interest to modern composers: a meditative state of pure sonority -- humming, melismas on vowels, drones -- and a discursive state of phonetic movement -- words projected through collective utterance. Through our fourteen choruses, emanations from the poles of humming and phonetics lead to a sense of musical 'language' itself in a state of re-thinking, not by notions of post-tonal styles replacing 19th-century harmonic grammar, but more by combinations of different sonic materials available on the terrain -- chromatic, 12-tone, modal, neo-classic, noise, drone, sound poetry. This is choral music 'unsettled' by its own times and embracing the situation with creative enthusiasm." --John McCaughey (from liner notes)