Traveling with Electronics : Anatomy of a Workshop : Vox Humana

voice |voisnoun : a sound produced in the larynx 

and uttered through the mouth as speech or song



Last month my good friend John Flax brought me down to Santa Fe to run a four evening vocal Conduction workshop with eight actor / performers. John is the Artistic Director of Theater Grottesco and was a member of my New Mexico Conduction ensemble (Out of Context), for about ten years (Flax really created the blue-print for how an actor can flourish within a Conduction ensemble). This month I'm going to break down for you, some of the aspects of how I engage in the workshop process.

First, I'd like to give a shout out to Horace Young for hosting the workshop at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and to Jamie Blosser for providing my housing, at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Thank you for helping to facilitate the event.



I brought a small travel rig with me as I had four opportunities to play with some longtime musician friends, as well as with some new ones. It was collateral good fortune, to get to hang in this vibrant scene and visit with old friends once again.


I even got to attend a very out of body gong immersion event created by master percussionists Al Faaet (left) and Jeff Sussmann (right), to complete the week.


               VOX HUMANA WORKSHOP : Musical Conduction for Voices           


Left to Right : Tara Khozein, Christine McHugh, Dan Piburn, Carol Aubrey,                                        David Forlano, Maude Metcalf, Danielle Reddick, John Flax 

The eight participants in the workshop ensemble had all come to take a creative journey and their focus and enthusiasm made the experience absolutely joyous!


This was the first multi-day workshop I have done that didn't have a concert attached to the final day (something that Butch had always been working towards), and I was looking forward to it. I was interested in taking a creative journey with this group and having the experience of the process by itself, without a goal / product based ending. 

The first evening was open to the public as a lecture demonstration and I allowed invited guests to drop in on a few sessions, and Ross Hamlin (an instructor at the university & OOC alumni) brought a few of his students by as well. Guests were indeed welcome to observe but they were always seated behind the ensemble.

Over the course of the four evenings I took the ensemble through the Vocabulary of Conduction, teaching them as many directives as I could and we explored some of the boundless possibilities of the human voice through Sound, Song and Speech.

Flax and I decided to use text from Shakespeare and M. Sumner Carnahan  


One of the interesting differences between working with actors and musicians, and this is a rather broad generalization, is that actors are fearless and willing to expose themselves on a deeper level. Something that you can get to with musicians over time, but it's more immediate with actors in my experience and true in this group.

On the last two evenings I brought in a sampler and had them working with and against tempo based percussion tracks and I also did a little live-sampling of the ensemble to expand the vocabulary even further. It is amazing how easy it is to bypass hours of heady discussions on the subject of extended vocal technique:

by simply producing a sonic event and showing the ensemble the "repeat" sign! 


Everyone enjoyed our four evening journey into the creative and while there was plenty of laughter in the room I know that individual perceptions were challenged and new options embraced. At the end of the workshop there were inquiries regarding the recordings that I had been making, and this is where my creative process continues. 


I love to play music.....I love to conduct.....and I love to compose with sound 

As a sound artist I harvest sonic information, I record everything and then I edit those recordings to feed my stockpile of samples, which I draw from to compose the music I hear in my head. Sometimes pieces form a collection and are released and sometimes they are added to the body of work and I move on to the next one. 

Once information is recorded another sonic world is open to the composer

The screen shot above is the 14 minute composition I created from 27 audio files

* Each night we changed the seating so the panorama changes from recording to recording

* Each clip can have from 1 to 8 voices active (depending on the conduction directives used)

* 5 tracks with a density range of  from 2 to 4 clips being active at any point in the composition

* Over time - the 8 voice source ensemble can range from a solo voice up to a 32 voice choir

I'm going to leave you with VOX HUMANA (samples from the workshop ensemble)


until next month travels.....dino