Human Sounds, Digital Ears
Elisabeth Blair, Susanna Hood
Rodney Waschka II, Joseph Butch Rovan
In HEARING VOICES, his third album of electronic music with Ravello Records, Jeff Morris captivates the psyche with music that is equal parts space age and primeval. With Morris’s characteristic sensitivity, the collection harnesses the expressive power of digital glitches, sonic manipulation, and underneath it all, the human voice.
In the Middle of the Room opens the album with what sounds like an other-worldly chorus of singers. In reality, the vocalizations are those of a single person, Elisabeth Blair, whose voice refracts at different pitches; Blair’s song is electronically contorted by Morris in real time using a technique he calls “live sampling.” The improvised lyrics, on the verge of unintelligibility, seem vaguely reminiscent, as if they have drifted from a long forgotten songbook of old standards. Next, in Definition of A, singer Susanna Hood lends her voice to form a turbulent cloud of “proto-words,” which tantalize the brain, promising meaning without definition. Again, Morris wrestles with these vocal improvisations in real time, almost maniacally tugging and jerking at the electronic marionette strings.
Later, we hear Jabberwocky—A Timbre Poem, which sets Lewis Carroll’s famous stanzas of nonsense words. Eerie and entrancing, the piece denies sense in exchange for sensation; voices whisper and rumble their strange incantations as digitized rhythms pound behind them. The album closes with Reprise (Hearing Voices). Here, through the prism of a machine learning algorithm, Morris revisits themes from earlier in the album, punctuated by static and expansive silence.
In HEARING VOICES, Jeff Morris reminds us that often it is only by obscuring that which is familiar that we begin to recognize and understand it. There is little in life that is at once as pedestrian and, yet, as profoundly elemental, as the voice. Beyond the cacophony of digital synapses firing, beyond logic and language, Morris’s music strives to uncover our most fundamental humanity.
Release Date: May 8, 2020
Catalog #: RR8033
Format: Physical & Digital
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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.
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