Rondo Vocale (2021)
for two singing percussionists
Commissioned by the Popocatepetl Percussion Duo
Premiere: Popocatepetl Percussion Duo (Gabriele Petracco & Marko Jugovic)
Teatro Miela Bonawentura, Trieste, Italy, October 14, 2022
Teatro del Suono Festival di musica e culture contemporanee
Rondo Vocale, for two percussionists is a work in which the performers extensively use their voices just as they use percussive instruments. It aims to explore percussive sounds that resemble the human voice, vocal sounds that emulate percussion instruments, but also new possibilities of expression that combine human and instrumental sounds. However, I do not research percussive sounds or vocal sounds alone nor do I research percussive and also vocal sounds. Rather, I am interested in their inner co-belonging and in that which springs from it.
How does the human voice relate to resonating bowed instruments, to skin instruments, to metal instruments, and to their combinations? Rondo Vocale has an extended rondo structure that addresses this very question in multiple ways. In fact, the constant return of A, in which metals, skins, and voices are seamlessly interwoven, marks, at the same time, the beginning of all other sections, each of which provides, in turn, a response anew to the question above. In other words, each new section does not simply add more sound materials to the overall structure; it also makes manifest a new relation between the instrumental and the vocal sounds.
There appears to be something more in the structural scaffolding of the work than the sum of the successive sections and materials. What is this “more”? It is a form; not just the sum of the parts, but a new mode of listening awareness that is generated when all parts are put together. The form of the whole un-conceals that which the instruments conceal: the materiality of the human voice and the embodiment of the percussive sounds. The embodied materials of the work reveal the human body as the underlying source of sound, as the condition for the possibility of sound.
Since the co-existence of percussion and voices raises the question of their relation, I cannot avoid asking the question, What does the “and” that links them mean? Rondo Vocale points out that in the expression “percussion and voices” “and” is not simply a conjunction but, above all, a copula, for percussion is already voices and the human voice is already percussion. The manifestation of the body as sound and sound as body reveals a new form of lived sound-space. The virtuosity of the work pertains not to playing the sounds but precisely to embodying and making the sounds so that this lived sound-space un-conceals itself. This is the ultimate goal of the work.
The ideas and sounds of the work have been developed through extensive workshops that took place in Trieste in summer 2021. The final work is a group composition, as a result of mutual contributions by Ioannis Angelakis, Gabriele Petracco, and Marko Jugovic.