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MUSIC: Joan La Barbara ‎- Tapesongs

Tapesongs is the second of two crucial Joan La Barbara reissues on Arc Light Editions, following Voice Is The Original Instrument (ALE005). The original artwork is an incredible shot: Joan buried to her neck in reel to reel tape. It includes two essential pieces: John Cage’s Solo For Voice 45, and a burning take-down of Cathy Berberian in “Cathing”.

Originally released in 1977, Tapesongs makes use of early electronics, and multi-tracked tape techniques to manipulate La Barbara’s signature extended vocal techniques. In 1977, La Barbara was living in NYC, playing concerts internationally and performing regularly with John Cage, who she described as a mentor. “I began working with John Cage in 1976 and we had done several performances of his "Solo for Voice 45" from Song Books in concert,” says Joan. “Cage determined the 13-minute version for this version, overlaying all 18-pages of the score so that one hears the entire work in layers. Hearing it again after all these years is wonderful and brings back many memories.”

“Cathing” uses a recording of a radio interview Cathy Berberian did during the intermission of one of La Barbara’s concerts at the Holland Festival: “She basically trashed those of us doing extended vocal techniques,” she says. “She used the interview for her own self-promotion rather than taking on the mantle of the ‘mother’ of vocal explorations. Rather tragic, I thought. So I created a work exploring extended vocal techniques and manipulating her spoken voice.”

“Thunder” is for six tympani and voice, using electronic devices (the same as used in “Vocal Extensions” from ALE005), and explores patterns through instruments and real-time composition with two jazz improvising musicians.

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