World renowned digital audio media composer Trevor Wishart performed at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on Saturday, in a concert titled “Encounters in the Republic of Heaven: All the Colours of Speech.”
Based in North England, Wishart has pioneered the electronic music stage for some time with his most well-known pieces commissioned by the likes of Paris Biennale, the Massachusetts Council for the Arts and Humanities, the French Ministry of Culture and BBC Proms, amongst others. Hosted by the UCSB music department, his performance was followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Corwin Chair of Composition Clarence Barlow, who planned the event, said he chose Wishart’s “Encounters” because of its unique quality and authentic sound.
“[Trevor Wishart] is one of the leading composers of our time and he is a great expert in the use of the voice and the manipulation of the voice for electronic purposes,” Barlow said. “He is a voice artist and a leading expert on the electronic voice manipulation.”
With voices rattling through the air and the fast repetition of syllables forming a sort of rhythmic beat, Wishart’s work — divided into four different acts — is rare and enthralling, according to Assistant Professor of Music Theory Benjamin Levy. He said Wishart combines recorded sounds, such as the human voice, and synthesizes them other sounds “in interesting ways” and “into amazing textures.”
“It’s music that I personally find fascinating, both from a technical perspective and also just a breadth of associative connections to everyday life, to different people, to different environments,” Levy said.
The process that goes into making Wishart’s music is straightforward but also extremely technical, Barlow said. While Wishart usually uses a studio to record his voice, in “Encounters” he uses recordings of other peoples’ voices, making contact with people in order to have a context in which to make recordings.
In order to find and record certain voices, Wishart went into specific communities seeking them out.
“You can’t just approach someone in the street and say, ‘Oh you’ve got an interesting voice so I’d like to record you.’” Wishart said. “For example, I made contact with old peoples’ groups, where people were reminiscing about the past and were quite happy to talk. I also went to schools where very young people are happy to talk.”
Wishart said he looks for very particular sounds when composing, saying he has an ear for different pitches, tones and rhythms that match a certain desired sound.
“I wanted natural speech,” Wishart said, “So you have to set up natural situations, which might be recording someone in a pub or recording people in conversation … It is very difficult to do. Then I had to decide what the hell I was going to do with all of it.”
According to Levy, who specializes in contemporary music, Wishart’s “Encounters” showcases the best of electronic voice manipulation and has proved to be a pioneering composer.
“I had heard a number of his shorter pieces before, but nothing this monumental,” Levy said.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of November 12th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.