Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble: Hushers


Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble's second recording, Hushers, posits a new paradigm for a capella vocal music, in which text setting and linear structure exists side by side with works that use the voice as a multi-timbred instrument. In music by Kaija Saariaho, Kate Soper, Warren Enström, and Giacinto Scelsi, Quince delivers strong performances of music that fuse the ever present warmth of the human voice with compositional aesthetics more typically heard in instrumental works.


The opening bars of Warren Enström’s Hushers on Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble’s new release emphasize extended fricative sounds that could be mistaken for a percussion ensemble. When we finally hear sung notes emerge, they are first accompanied by hisses and shushes, and the pitches themselves push up against each other in dissonant intervals. With extended techniques woven into the fabric of a timbre and sound driven texture, Hushers squarely inhabits a 21st century vocal aesthetic. Kate Soper’s Songs for Nobody returns to traditional text setting, setting work by American poet, Thomas Merton. Written as the result of a commission from the Museum of Biblical Art in New York, Soper endeavored to capture Merton’s faith in the purity of the inner life. Saariaho’s From the Grammar of Dreams sets excerpts from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath for two singers, embodying the instability of the protoganist’s struggles with issues of life and death, madness and solace. In the second movement, each singer in the duo alternates between athletic singing and forceful, rhythmic recitation of the text, creating an unsettling texture where song and speech are unbroken even as each individual performer leaps back and forth between roles. This alternation culminates in the earthy fourth movement, as the two singers hocket between each other in spats of heavy breathing and swooping, plaintive figures. Giacinto Scelsi’s compositional process was unique — he considered himself a “receiver” of sounds, and recorded improvisations to hand off to a colleague to notate and orchestrate. On Sauh I-IV, Scelsi uses phenomes instead of language setting, lending the piece a ritualistic, chanting quality (fitting given Scelsi’s fascination with Hindu and Buddhist ritual). The relationship between Sauh I-II and Sauh III-IV is close — the first two duos provide the seed material for the fleshed out quartet versions. After a journey through the intensity of the Plath and Merton text settings, the disc closes in a world of abstract syllables and non-semantic meaning, as it began.

Producers: Brian Penkrot (track 1), Brian Penkrot, Carrie Henneman Shaw, Eric Fernandez (tracks 2-4), Amanda DeBoer Bartlett (tracks 5-9), Eric Fernandez, Brian Penkrot (tracks 10-13)
Recording Engineer: Dan Nichols Edited, Mixed and Mastered at Aphorism Studios
''Song'' By Thomas Merton, from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF THOMAS MERTON, copyright ©1949 by Our Lady of Gethsemani Monastery. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
''Love Winter When the Plant Says Nothing'' By Thomas Merton, from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF THOMAS MERTON, copyright ©1963 by The Abbey of Gethsemani. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
''Song for Nobody'' By Thomas Merton, original by Cesar Vallejo, from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF THOMAS MERTON, copyright
©1963 by The Abbey of Gesthemani, Inc. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble

With the precision and flexibility of modern chamber musicians, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble specializes in experimental repertoire that is changing the paradigm of contemporary vocal music. Described as "a new force of vocal excellence and innovation" by The Brooklyn Rail, Quince continually pushes the boundaries of traditional vocal ensemble literature. As dedicated advocates of new music, Quince regularly commissions new works, providing a wider exposure for the music of living composers. They recently received a Chamber Music America award to commission a new song cycle by composer LJ White, and will be releasing an album of contemporary vocal repertoire on New Focus Recordings early 2017. In 2016, Quince was featured on the KODY Festival Lublin, Poland in collaboration with David Lang and Beth Morrison Productions. They have also appeared on the Outpost Concert Series, the Philip Glass: Music with Friends concert at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, and the SONiC Festival in New York. During the 2016-17 season, they will collaborate with Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion on performances of Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich, and will be presented on the Ear Taxi and Frequency Festivals in Chicago. Comprised of vocalists Elizabeth Pearse (soprano), Kayleigh Butcher (mezzo soprano), Amanda DeBoer Bartlett (soprano), and Carrie Henneman Shaw (soprano), Quince thrives on unique musical challenges and genre-bending contemporary repertoire.

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