Since 2020 you have been a PhD student at the Malmö Academy of Music with a PhD research project entitled “A Voice Beyond the Edge”. In your project, you are exploring new areas of extended vocal techniques. Could you briefly outline where you are in your research process right now?
Even if after my recent 50% PhD seminar I find myself exactly halfway through my doctoral studies, only now do I feel like I’ve realized the framework of my entire project.
The overarching idea of working on extended vocal techniques is something far from new in the world of performers (the name “extended vocal techniques” has been in use since the 70s) or of written scores (Stockhausen composed Stimmung, a piece built exclusively on overtone singing, way back in 1968) and neither it is new in my everyday vocal practice (I’ve been dealing with non-standard vocal behaviors for 10 years now).
What gave me the starting point for a deeper inquiry was realizing that little re-search has been done about identifying methods to deal with extended techniques that could be helpful for both singers and composers. Furthermore, I foresee new possible scenarios in which extended techniques can express themselves at their best. In the more recent past, and thanks to the power the internet affords in sharing in-formation, I started noticing that for every new technique I can master, there is at least one musical culture in the world that built their form of vocal music on that specific technique. Some recent research about the use and development of the concept of “extended vocal techniques” highlighted that this term, originally taken from the instruments’ context, generally refers to all the vocal practices that over-come the expected way of singing in a given background. Since we are mostly focused on the European musical experience, traditionally bel canto singing has be-come our expected mode of singing, and everything that is not expected to be un-der this set is considered “extended”. Relatively speaking, every technique that we consider “extended” within the context of our musical culture, is a standard technique in other cultures. Practically speaking, I am, in a way, collecting vocal techniques from all around the world to enrich my contemporary music performing background.
In recent decades we have had the possibility to deepen the scientific study of some vocal behaviors, thanks to the development of medical equipment. I think that this is very important in the case of non-standard vocal practices, that lay mostly in the domain of non-linear dynamics.
My project “A Voice Beyond the Edge”, which is based on the commitment to al-ways try to cross boundaries in experimental ways, aims to propose a multimodal research model on extended vocal techniques. It is based on a set of case studies that exemplify different (and new) inquiry methodologies on voice as an artistic practice.
Starting with a more scientific framework, I’ve been considering some vocal techniques from the point of view of their physical qualities: with the collaboration of Michael Edgerton, I’ve been studying a new kind of phonation, never reported in humans, that produces very high frequencies (from 9 to 20 kHz); moreover, I am conducting a study that compares the throat singing used by different cultures (Tu-va, Sardinia and South Africa) with another similar phonation that combines the vocal fry to the standard vocal phonation. The idea is to collaborate with phoniatricians and vocal scientists for the quantitative research part, and then use the data collected as a tool to develop new forms of art – for example, scores specifically written for my voice or electronic music tools.
An output that can be framed in the more general group of performance studies will be dedicated to my perspective as a singer on one of the most demanding pieces for solo voice that I know: “Anaphora” by Michael Edgerton. A paper about this will be written.
Another part of my project, which will take place in the upcoming months, will be dedicated to developing a vocal coaching method for some techniques, in the background of the oral tradition. This inquiry will be conducted with the collaboration of the students at MHM, through workshops that will be organized on the basis of the cooperative inquiry theory.
The next project to come will be the creation of a webpage collecting all the mate-rial I have regarding the multiphonics for voice. It will be a multimedia archive organized from a performer’s perspective on the issue.
Some research project strands I’m dealing with now regard “extended” practices for singers today: I will address the research on the ideas of fruitful collaborations, and possibilities of co-creation as precious resources to define a contemporary mu-sic singer’s identity in the 21st Century.
What are your expectations and wishes for the IAC as a research infrastructure to successfully complete your dissertation?
The most ideal situation that I envision is the possibility of using the IAC website to host my Archive of Extended Vocal Techniques, but I know it’s not simple: the data to store will be very heavy and there will be problems with authorship for most of the scores and videos. However, I strongly see the potential of IAC as an infrastructure designed to link different disciplines and find connections and solutions to artistic issues.
Felicita Brusoni: soprano – vocal performer
PhD research project: “A Voice Beyond the Edge”
PhD supervisor: Kent Olofsson (main), Karin Johansson (second)
Institution: Malmö Academy of Music
Period: September 2020 – August 2026
Favorite composer(s): (the order is alphabetic) Johan Sebastian Bach, Luciano Berio, Hildegard von Bingen, Björk, Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Gustav Mahler, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
An Index of Metals (Fausto Romitelli)
Concert for Piano and Orchestra in G major (Ravel)
Gran Torso (Lachenmann)
Il Lamento della Ninfa (Monteverdi)
Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Salut für Caudwell (Lachenmann)
Symphony n.2 (Mahler)
Surf’s Up (Beach Boys)
Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)
Photo credits: Andrea Mazzoni