Album Notes


Sound Paintings

Urban Tropics (1988)

Commissioned by the New Music America–Miami Festival 1988 and premiered as part of the Festival radio series on December 7, 1988, Urban Tropics (1988) was designed as a sound portrait of Miami, blending the Latin flavor of the culture with tropical birds and beasts in the area. I used my voice as percussion and as melodic punctuation, adding Latin percussion (cowbell, maracas and guiro) alternating with sounds taped the Parrot Jungle, the Monkey Jungle and on the waterfront in Miami.

All voices – Joan La Barbara
Cowbell – Frank Ondrusek
Guiro, maracas – Joan La Barbara
EMAX II sampler – Jim Wood
Recording engineer – Joan La Barbara
Remix engineers – Joan La Barbara and Sydney Davis

ShadowSong (1979)

ShadowSong is a psychological study, a threshold experience where concentration is interrupted by shadows at the outer edges of vision and memories on the periphery of thought. These take the form of indistinguishable words floating by and ominous melodies. These shadow-memories compound with resolute persistence until one confronts the decision to go into the shadows or resist them. ShadowSong was composed in Ampleforth, England, recorded in Berlin, premiered in Paris and remixed in New York.

Original production Radio RIAS Berlin, September 19, 1979.

Time(d) Trials and Unscheduled Events (1984)

Commissioned by the Independent Composers Association and premiered as one of six works composed for the radio series “Sound in Motion” broadcast during the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles, Time(d) Trials and Unscheduled Events was conceived as a sonic animation based on filmed motion studies of Olympic athletes in action: long distance runners, the pacer overtaken by a sprinter, fancy divers, swimmers, shot-putters, weight-lifters and so on. I created the kind of sounds made by these athletes in action and blended these with sonic gestures inspired by these moving images. The entire work consists of eight layers of my voice on tape, with no processing used to change the sounds of the voice. the “extended” techniques used here include “multiphonics” (the simultaneous singing of several distinct pitches), resonance and overtone focusing and circular singing.

Engineer: Joan La Barbara
Recorded and mixed in Santa Monica, CA, March, 1984.

Erin (1980)

Erin was commissioned by VPRO Radio and recorded in Hilversum, Holland in May 1980. Inspired by a photograph of a father carrying the coffin of his son, a member of the IRA who died during the hunger strike, Erin creates an imaginary vision of Ireland, a fantasy blending playful and sombre reveries, Joycean characters, conversations and folklore with the discovery of language, all ending in a rich, multiphonics choir, a dirge for the fallen.

Klee Alee (1979)

Klee Alee was inspired by a Paul Klee painting which is layered both two- and three-dimensionally; one can look at blocks of color from a distance and at delicately scratched detail on closer inspection. My work is a textured sound painting ranslating some of these visual elements into musical gestrues: thick, blocklike solid colors become repeating melodic units, greens and blues, with delicately curving figures becoming melodic designs carved into the thick fabric of sound.

Production Radio RIAS Berlin, recorded September 18 and 20, 1979.

Berliner Träume/Berlin Dreaming (1983)

I visited Berlin for the first time in 1972, returning again and again and eventually living there as a Composer-in-Residence for the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Künstler-programm. My relationship to the city became a profound one for me and is reflected in this work. The 16 tracks of vocal sound include circular singing (singing on the inhale as well as the exhale) and rhythmic breathing inspired by the Inuit Throat Singers, multiphonics, words and phrases in German and modular ascending linear phrases. In addition, three specific synthesized sounds (the only ones on this CD) were used: the low, sub-bass rumble/chug of a locomotive approaching and departing from West to East and from East to West (my first apartment in Berlin was near the main train depot, the Zoo station), the strident hi-lo police siren (somehow disconcerting to American ears), and a sonic boom (the Russian or East German planes reminding Berliners of their fragile and tenuous existence in the walled island), all sounds to which one adjusts and which remain as part of my memory of my years there, even though, happily, the circumstances and tensions have changed radically since the tearing down of The Wall. If this work is at once somber, carefree, joyous, melancholy and thoughtful, it effectively reflects my personal remembrance of Berlin.

Composed and recorded July 1983 in New York, commissioned for the Airworks Radio series and co-produced with Brian Flahive, Ray Gallon and Julia Prospero.

All of the vocal sounds on this CD were recorded in real time with no electronic manipulation and consist of both traditional and “extended” vocal techniques I have developed over the past twenty years. While the sounds are layered to create various textures, they remain natural.

Partial funding for this recording has been provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.

The recording/remixing of Time(d) Trials and Unscheduled Events and Berliner Träume was funded in part by a grant from the Nation Endowment for the Arts Music Recording Program (1988-89).

All compositions © Joan La Barbara
Produced for Lovely Music by Joan La Barbara.
Digital editing and mastering by Allan Tucker, Foothill Productions, NYC.

Photo by Alexandra King.
Art Direction and Design: By Design

© 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1988 by Joan La Barbara (ASCAP)
p 1990 Lovely Music Ltd.

LCD 3001