Vocal Instant Composition

What is The Genetic Choir?

vocal instant composition

The ambition of the Genetic Choir is to instantly compose, as a group, the music that any given moment asks for. Rather than being conducted, we want to be a choir that organises itself by the musical intelligence and intuition of all the members.
Although I am leading most of the sessions in terms of structuring the work, when we are improvising or performing, I am just part of the choir as one of the singers and do not fulfil a special role.

We are looking at the whole range of the human voice, what generally is called ‘extended voice techniques. But we also enjoy ´straight singing’, and whatever sounds we are making, we are always seeking to make the voice ‘real’/meaningful (which is quite easy, but sometimes feels like the hardest part).

Next to this, developing a musical understanding of how to work inside a big group of singers is an imporant part of the training, as are instant composition techniques and principals, working with rythm, melody, textural sounds, singing solo, etc.

Please read further below for some more figurative, detailed (and maybe more conclusive) descriptions.

If you are interested to join us, check the date of the next open workshop: Click here.

Or contact me: johannsen {DOT} t {AT} gmail {DOT} com

Genetics (from the Greek genno γεννώ= give birth) is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms.

Evolution is composition. The genetic reproductive cycle with its simple rules has produced an ecosystem with a huge number of rather well-composed organisms. Given the slow pulse of the reproduction cycle this has taken a couple of millions of years, but a process like that can be easily sped up if not genes are the transmitters of information, but our volatile and flexible voices.

Based on the principle of copying (passing on information) the idea is to become, as singers, not so much ‘improvisers’ but rather transmitters of sound information that you receive through your ears and which converges through the processes of mutation and natural selection towards a sound eco-system, i.e. composition.

The sessions are open for everyone and explicitly inviting both professional singers and beginners alike. The concept we are working from is that the quality of the music will not depend on your virtuoso qualities (though they are very much welcome), but on the ability to listen and give yourself over to the existing sound and support it. All patterns and colours of music can arise from this, there are no boundaries in music style, amount of solo vs. group or length of the compositions. Everything from opera aria’s to rap riffs can come out of this, though it might take us some time to get that confident. 😉

The work is to a high degree exploratory and lets yourself find your own way in using your voice in a musical way. At the same time, we are working from a clear vision on improvisation that believes in constantly finding the right balance in listening (patience/being), acting consciously (compositional mind) and surrendering to ‘what is’ (abandon). In other words, letting yourself being taken by the moment while at the same time making and sustaining contact (with yourself, with your fellow singers, with the audience).

Note that ‘singing’, for me includes all conceivable sounds made by the human voice. Beauty arises from the quality of your attention and any great performance depends on the shared attention of everybody present: The amount to which an audience dares to give itself fully in the listening and the amount to which the performers dare to listen and lead the way.

Here some people and ‘bodies of knowlegde’ that have inspired / keep inspiring me in shaping the work with the Genetic Choir:
Jonathan Hart Makwaia, Nick Hobbs, Phil Minton, Izidor Leitinger, Haim Isaacs, Enrique Pardo, Linda Wise, The Roy Hart Voice Work, The Lichtenberg Method, Aikido

Examples of what we are going to do:

Exploration of the different phenotypes that will be part of the soundgene-pool:

open sounds (singing with and without the notion of scale / changing register&timbre)
labial sounds & co (lips, tongue, mouth cavity and saliva producing sounds)
breathing sounds + broken sounds (false vocal chords)
human language sounds
pulse and rhythm

Exploring different modes of producing, copying and mutating:

mirroring (exact copy)
1-2-1-2 and/or simultaneous copying
shedding information
concepts of supporting
pacing the reproductive cycle
absorb, let yourself be affected and produce
find the space = find your voice

We will work in couples and small groups to train the basic building blocks and from there move on to the big choir work and composition.

It is a technique that is freeing to the improviser’s mind. No need to be brilliant, clever or original. Relax! By abiding to the simple rules, you become part of an ecosystem that is amazingly inventive and self-organising.

No specific singing education is required.

The sessions are taking place approximately once a month, somewhere in Amsterdam.

Thomas Johannsen
johannsen {DOT} t {AT} gmail {DOT} com

One response

  1. Hei, das klingt klasse! schade, dass ich so weit weg bin. Viel vergnügen Euch und gut Erfahrungen in dem gemeinsamen KlingenHerzlichAnka Draugelates, Regensburg

    June 19, 2008 at 13:03