Playlist: Powerful Voices
Photo: Vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, who perform with chamber group A Far Cry in Ann Arbor on April 12, 2017. Photo by Bonica Ayala.
My parents started me on piano and violin at a young age, so I’ve been exposed to classical music for almost all of my life. I grew up listening to Pavarotti and Andrea Bocell, and it wasn’t until later that I began exploring more modern Pop and Rock genres. Throughout the years, I’ve listened to most genres of music, including country, gospel, classic rock to name a few. But, funnily enough, I didn’t truly appreciate the human voice until I got strep in 10th grade and lost my voice for a week and a half. It was a classic case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. The week and half of not being able to communicate with others or sing along to my favorite songs made me realize just how important and powerful our voices are.
In the playlist below, I’m collecting some examples of how we convey emotions, ideas, and beliefs through voice, whether it’s through music, spoken word, or through countless other ways we use our voices.
Whitney Houston’s National Anthem
Our national anthem is one of my favorite tunes, not only because of its beautiful melody, but also because the words have the capacity to instill a sense of pride in the foundations and values of this nation. I like this Whitney Houston rendition because of its simplicity, and yet, its power.
I have always loved spoken word, the way the combination of rhythm and language creates a special kind of emotion. Here is just one example, by College National Poetry Slam champion Neil Hillborn. Joey focuses on the disparity in access to mental illness treatment and on the role that privilege plays in our mental health system.
I didn’t appreciate opera very much growing up, mostly because it was usually in another language, and I had no sense of the stories within the pieces. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know most of the time. However, as an adult, I’ve come to be able to feel the pieces even when I don’t understand the words. So, here is Pavarotti’s performance of Nessun Dorma. For this one, sit back, close your eyes, and feel the strength of his voice.
Voices and Orchestral Works
I know no better way to demonstrate the power and range of our voices than with Carmina Burana. I’m sure you’ve heard parts of this work, which has made appearances in popular culture including but not limited to college football games and commercials.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech is iconic. The timbre of his voice, its pace, amplify its incredibly potent themes. On the other hand, Robin Williams’s Make Your Life Spectacular speech is softly spoken and wistful; it drifts over as his message sinks in. These two entirely different approaches give a sense of the capacity of the voice to inspire.
Popular song, and then, something in between
Kanye West’s Say You Will, featuring the vocalist and composer Caroline Shaw, explores the sounds that the voice is capable of making in combination with technology.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Kanye West, but you may not yet know of Caroline Shaw. Caroline Shaw, a Grammy-award-winning singer, violinist, and composer. From yodeling to throat singing, Caroline Shaw and Roomful of Teeth expand the capacity of the voice across genres and singing techniques.
This great diversity in sound is showcased in the group’s performance with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, shown below. Both the artist and the group are known for continuously exploring the boundaries of the human voice, encompassing both the breadth and depth of our voices. Their works embody the impact and the amazing variety of the human voice. Your chance to check them out in person is coming up. They perform with chamber group A Far Cry in Ann Arbor on April 12, 2017.
Jae Cosmos Lee, a violinist with A Far Cry, has also been kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about his work and inspirations:
A Far Cry with Roomful of Teeth will perform at Rackham Auditorium on April 12, 2017 at 7:30pm.
Nufonia Must Fall: A Guide to Graphic Novels
Nufonia Must Fall, on stage. Photo by Jorn Mulder.
On March 11-12, 2016, DJ Kid Koala’s graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall will come to life on stage at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. This live adaptation unfolds via real-time filming of more than a dozen miniature stages and a cast of puppets, while Kid Koala and the Cecilia Quartet provide original live scoring on piano, strings, and turntables.
I’m a newbie to the graphic novel genre, but I had heard about the active comic scene around town. So, I reached out to the experts, our local comic book stores, for recommendations of the best graphic novels or comics for beginners.
What you should read first, according to our local comic book experts:
This comic strip was created using Chogger.
Nufonia Must Fall is at Power Center March 11-12, 2016.
4 Youssou N’Dour songs you’re missing out on right now
Have you heard of Youssou N’Dour before? I certainly hadn’t before looking at the season calendar for UMS.
A few facts: Youssou N’Dour is a Senegalese musician who has collaborated with greats such as Sting, Tracy Chapman, and Bruce Springsteen. One of his most notable accomplishments was collaborating with Axelle Red on the official anthem for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. N’Dour formed his own ensemble, the Super Étoile de Dakar, in the 1980s. Playing the Latin-infused dance music that was popular throughout Africa at the time, the group brought their unique sound to Europe and North America on concert tours, and in 2005, he won his first American Grammy Award for best contemporary world music album.
If you’re someone who loves exploring different kinds of music or music that you’ve never heard before, then, like me, you’ll get hooked on this man’s music. Never mind the fact that a lot of his lyrics are in French and Wolof, a language of Senegal, the melodies and infectious beat will sneak their way into your head and stay there for days.
1. La Cours des Grands
This song is for the soccer fans and French lovers – “La Cours Des Grands” is the official anthem for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and was sung by Youssou N’Dour in collaboration with Axelle Red, a Belgian singer/songwriter. I enjoy this song because it has a very inclusive view and aims to target the worldwide audience of the World Cup. This generally cheerful song is a good mood-lifter, and I’ve added it to my morning playlist to get me ready for the day.
2. 7 seconds
Arguably his most well-known song, “7 seconds” reached No. 1 in France and stayed there for 16 consecutive weeks. It also reached the top spots in several other European countries. The song highlights the diversity of the world and the racism that many continue to face today. The title refers to the first 7 seconds of people’s lives, when they are not aware of differences in skin color, ethnicity, or race. The lyrics include these lines:
“and when a child is born
into this world
it has no concept
of the tone the skin it’s livin’ in”
I, as an Asian-American, don’t feel the impact of racism often, but I do experience it once in a while, and this song really speaks to those instances of my experience. Racism is something people learn in their lifetimes, not a natural trait, and “7 seconds” highlights this fact.
3. Immigres/Bitim Rew
On a less serious note, this song was released on one of Youssou N’Dour’s first albums, Immigres, which contained only 4 songs and helped to land him on the international map. I have to admit, the only word I understand in this song is “Senegal,” but I love the beat and listen to it when I cook because the beat is perfect for stirring, and also because the song manages to put a smile on my face without fail.
This song is by far my favorite. I heard the song at the right moment a few week ago. As I was at my desk, researching Youssou N’Dour’s music, I got sidetracked by thinking about my future. As a junior, and I’m sure other students can relate to this, I have moments of panic while thinking of my upcoming summer and what in the world I’m doing with my life. I had this plan of blowing recruiters away and acing all of my classes, but in reality, I’m sometimes struggling to meet these expectations. I’m struggling to decide what I want to do and how to do it. I’m struggling because I feel like I’m lost and everyone else seems to know exactly where they belong.
This song came on right in the middle of my mini freak out session. It was so different from the other upbeat Youssou N’Dour songs that it caught my attention, and after listening to the calming tune, enjoying its jazzy feel and, of course, seeing the title “Undecided,” I was hooked. I can’t say that this song gave me an epiphany about my life but it did calm me down during my panic, and now when I listen to it, I feel the sense of calmness washing over me. I close my eyes, sit back, and simply enjoy.
Youssou N’Dour and Super Étoile de Dakar perform at Hill Auditorium on November 14, 2015.