Vocal Extensions: Disembodied Voices in Contemporary Music Theatre and Performance

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This independently published text was published as a special, limited edition of Department of Public Sound #2 (booklet) and includes a vinyl record with recordings of ‘The Weekend of Adventure’ during the sixth edition of the Opera Days Rotterdam (27-29 May 2011). The text elaborates on my notion of 'radical vocality' on the stage through associated theories and concepts of extended voice. As this text was commissioned by the experimental art centre De Player in Rotterdam in the context of the Opera Days Rotterdam (Operadagen Rotterdam), I develop my ideas through concrete examples of vocal performance artists and operatic experiments from the 'Who’s Afraid of Modern Opera' late night event at De Player. After a brief clarification of the notion of radical vocality and its recent history, I focus on the theory of the disembodied voice and its related notions (virtual, disembodied and ventriloquist voice). I discuss these theories in relation to the philosophically much contested split in the voice between body and language (as suggested by Michelle Duncan). I then open these theories up to an understanding of auditory space and the territorial implications of 'autonomous' sound in the experience of the listener through a discussion of the work of vocal performance artists seen at the Opera Festival in Rotterdam: American artist Charlemagne Palestine, German composer-author Frieder Butzmann, German vocal performer/composer Alex Nowitz and American singer/performance artist Stephanie Pan.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalDepartment of Public Sound
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • performance studies
  • avant-garde
  • experimental music
  • sound studies
  • sound art
  • noise
  • mixed media
  • electronic music
  • vocality
  • cultural studies
  • technology
  • music studies
  • remix culture

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