Saturday, 20 February 2010

Simple Person

I've just been listening to your piece, I am really a very simple person, and I have to say that it moved me a lot, particularly in the choral version. I don't know whether you see it as having any connection with the exile project but it seemed to me to resonate with a number of the ideas - and, I think, the moods - that we've touched upon before.

I love the elliptical relationship between the title and the piece itself. I also love the way that the syllables 'spoken' by the voice are entirely conventional - not, on the face of it, 'meaningful' at all. And yet, despite this, the voice uses those conventional syllables to reveal something of itself. While we've been working on this project, I've written quite often about transcription as a way of archiving the voice. What startled me about this piece is the fact that you've made transcription - the use of sol-fa syllables and, indeed, shape notes - almost the subject of the work. The voice simply sings the syllables that are used to transcribe pitch to paper. And, as I listened, I kept thinking in terms of a kind of relay between voice and document, document and voice. (I guess you associate shape notes with religious traditions in the South? Actually, I have no idea if there are shape note choirs in Britain, but sol-fa has certainly been used by the choirs that have been such a significant part of the cultural history of working-class communities, not least in the area of South Wales that my parents come from. In that way, by singing the syllables, the voice seems to speak about its tradition and the way in which this mode of capturing the voice makes the tradition possible.)

I hope you don't mind my writing this way about a piece that you are still working on - I was just so taken with the fact that transcription was such a feature of the work!