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Joan La Barbara - Voice Is The Original Instrument

by Joan La Barbara

£17.00 / Sold Out

Voice Is The Original Instrument is the first of two crucial Joan La Barbara reissues incoming this spring on Arc Light Editions.

Listen to a track from the record here

Voice Is The Original Instrument was the first record released by Joan La Barbara in 1976. It has since become iconic as one of the initial examples of extended vocal techniques in experimental music. The human voice is the only instrument on the recordings, which were made live at the University Art Museum in Berkeley, CA.

The works on Voice is the Original Instrument were some of Joan’s earliest compositions, researching the possibilities of the voice, in two rigorous études, "Circular Song" and "Voice Piece: One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation", and the more free-form "Vocal Extensions", which uses live electronic processing. “My reason for producing the LP was to get my music out to the world beyond NYC and the major cities in which I was playing concerts,” she says. “At that time, Carla Bley and Michael Mantler had started JCOA/New Music Distribution Service which handled small independent labels, so there were quite a few artists in the NYC area who were producing their own albums and distributing them through that service.”

Just out of college and living in a Soho loft in New York, Joan began playing shows in New York with jazz and rock musicians, and with those in the new music scene. “I did commercials, which, strangely enough, led me to Steve Reich,” she says. “A composer I was working with, Michael Sahl (who was also Judy Collins music director and pianist) hired me to do some radio commercials and suggested me to Reich who was looking for singers who could imitate instruments, which was something I had been working on for some time and was part of my exploration of the voice. I worked with Reich on the development of "Drumming", imitating the marimba.

“At a concert I was doing at John Gibson Gallery in Soho with Reich, I introduced myself to Philip Glass and later joined his ensemble. It was the first time he had used voice in his ensemble, so I guess I started something! I used my own interest in vocal/instrumental timbres, blending with the saxophones, flutes and a Farfisa organ!”

Voice Is The Original Instrument was originally released in 1976 on Wizard Records. It was later issued by Lovely Music as an extended double CD edition. This is the first time the original LP, with artwork, has been made available again. It will be followed by a reissue of Tapesongs in late May.

Artist bio: Joan La Barbara

Joan La Barbara is a composer, performer, sound artist and actor, renowned for her unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques, which have influenced generations of composers and singers. She has released on labels including Lovely Music and New Albion (now New World Records), and undertaken numerous commissions for chamber ensembles, theater, orchestra, chorus, interactive technology, soundscores for dance, video and films, including composing and performing the electronic/vocal score for Sesame Street’s signing alphabet.

She was Artistic Director of the multi-year Carnegie Hall series “When Morty Met John” and is the co-founder of performing composers-collective Ne(x)tworks. “73 Poems”, her collaboration with text-artist Kenneth Goldsmith, was included in The American Century Part II: Soundworks at The Whitney Museum. She also acted in Matthew Barney’s film project “River of Fundament” and Aleksandar Kostic’s film “Parallel Dreams”. La Barbara is on the faculties of New York University and Mannes/The New School. Composer and publisher member of ASCAP, and member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA.

Awards and prizes include: John Cage Award (2016) from Foundation for Contemporary Arts; DAAD and Civitella Ranieri Artist-in-Residencies; Guggenheim Fellowship, 7 NEA (US National Endowment for the Arts) fellowships; numerous commissions and performances at Brisbane Biennial, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, MaerzMusik Berlin, and Lincoln Center among others. She is composing a new opera inspired by Virginia Woolf and Joseph Cornell, exploring the artistic process, interior dialogue, and sounds within the mind.

More information on Joan, including an extended bio and full CV can be found at www.joanlabarbara.com. We'd also like to say a massive thanks to Joan La Barbara for working with us directly on this release. For all your help and communication, thankyou!