For this response to the second podcast discussing choral practice, social justice, and incarceration, we wanted to explore what it can feel like, emotionally and physically, to be restrained—particularly, restricted in speech or sound. Emily Howe states in her interview that the kinds of restrictions that common choral practice place on singers could be considered in settings of incarceration yet another “discipline,” and shows how freeing up approaches to singing together could be liberating, healing, and collaboratively creative.
This piece explores the genuine discomfort of restricted speech, and asks the listener to live for a few moments within that discomfort. Singers were asked to meditate physically and vocally on how their body reacts when they are not able to speak their minds; and then to create a rhythmic loop based on that meditation. The third part of the piece combines a Conrad Kocher hymn tune (1838) with the last stanza of W.H. Auden’s poem, “In Memory of W.B. Yates,”
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise
This third act, containing this chorale, addresses the responsibilities inherent in having a voice that is comparatively unconstrained. It suggests that choral practice can emphasize our personal responsibility—outside settings of incarceration—to sing and speak out beyond our artistic performance and practice.
-Eugenia Siegel Conte—Alto, Voices 21C
PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology (University of California, Santa Barbara)