In Bob Davis' new work VOCALIZATION, which was premiered by Maureen Elliott, Oct. 22 in S. F., the multilayered realities of the singer and the composer merged into a thick, but flaky pastry of memory. The tape of the singer doing her favorite tunes was far in the background to her conversations concerning vocal exercises, which mirrored her life as a conservatory-trained vocalist.
Bob said, "Maureen asked me to write a piece for her recital, but I had no idea of her background or tastes. I asked her to go home and write me a letter of her thoughts on exercises. I went home and wrote her a letter of my thoughts on voice. The vocal part which Maureen sang live was the text of her letter to me set to exercises. I did omit sections of the letter, but changed nothing else.
The random throwing of coins decided in which order the exercises would appear and on what note they would begin. The piece began by going through a harmonic progression on G Major. It continued through harmonic progressions of gradually decreasing length until each exercise is considered its own key. The text from my letter was recorded by Maureen on a monotone of G which acted as a drone and gave her the relative pitch for the live performance. There were two other tapes. One was Maureen's favorite or at least fondly remembered songs and tunes. The other was a series of songs which I was assured are in most vocal students' repertoires."
The tape recorded text included such information as: "Sir Peter Pears says that Adam was a tenor. But then, Sir Peter is a tenor." -- "There is an old wives' tale that if one does not speak for seven years anything said after that would come true. What would one be inclined to say after such a training period." --"One's own voice never sounds the same when recorded and played back to him. Every other sound on the recording may be exactly as he remembers it, but somehow the voice is magically altered by the recording process. Perhaps the family dog will recognize his master's voice, but the master is unconvinced."
In other words the music was outrageous and beautiful. The singer's openness to Bob's sensitive bel canto usage of simultaneity celebrating her life as art, was the wonder to be heard. --Beth Anderson