Canons for a Solo Voice is an ongoing project by Jonathan Nussman which utilizes a computer program by John Burnett. These structured improvisations are built around a simple concept: the singer performs a single melodic line, which the computer records and plays back at delayed intervals chosen by the performer in real time.

 

Canon IV is based on a centuries-old folk song, “The House Carpenter”, also sometime called “The Daemon Lover”. Originating in Scotland and brought by settlers to the Southeastern United States, many versions and variations of the song exist. The melody used here is one transcribed by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, as sung by Virginia Bennett of Burnsville, North Carolina, circa 1916.

 

Nathaniel Haering’s Medical Text p. 57 is an aggressive, virtuosic, and remarkably vulnerable piece crafted around selections of text found in the educational tome Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine Vol. 1 published in 1845. The chapter that this piece addresses is on the topic of age and its effects on the body through multiple stages of life, beginning with nascent burgeoning growth and advancing to the eventual unerring onset of decay. This piece manipulates the coherence of text and plays off of humanity’s want to comprehend speech in voices, often crafting phonemes and consonants that are similar to speech but contorting them beyond understanding. When juxtaposed with recognizable text and married with a plethora of timbre-driven gestures and extended vocal techniques, smooth transitions between nonsense and meaningful text help to drive the piece through continuums of obfuscation and clarity.