a roomful of teeth

"Their singing is fiercely beautiful and bravely, utterly exposed. There's no electronic wash to hide imperfections, no other instruments add layers of sound. It's just these eight voices gleefully filling up a huge amount of space, and drawing upon a whole world's worth of non-traditional techniques." npr

“On- A Roomful of Teeth- Their singing is fiercely beautiful and bravely, utterly exposed. There’s no electronic wash to hide imperfections, no other instruments add layers of sound. It’s just these eight voices gleefully filling up a huge amount of space, and drawing upon a whole world’s worth of non-traditional techniques.”
npr

i went to experience the voices of “roomful of teeth” tonight at DU theater and was mesmerized. i am still a bit stirred by coming face to face with a world envisioned by someone who sees and hears the world with a completely different perspective. my awareness seemed alien and the sounds were foreign and quite similar at the same time.

there were times in my history when hallucinations were woven into my days. part of the trip taken involved was always a self-penned melody involving pushing sound and breath through my body. it had always seemed comforting and like god-talk to me although i am pretty sure it frightened anyone around me. roomful of teeth offered a two-sided sensation that teetered between transcendant and dysphonia.

i enjoyed them a lot.

A Virtuosic Mix

The ensemble gathers annually at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), where they’ve studied Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing and Sardinian cantu a tenore styles with some of the world’s top performers and teachers of the styles. Commissioned composers include Rinde Eckert, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Missy Mazzoli.

The project’s debut album,Roomful of Teeth,  was released in 2012. The New York Times called it “sensually stunning.” Included on many Best of 2012 lists, topping the classical charts on iTunes  andAmazon,  even breaking into the top 10 on the Billboard charts, the album was deemed “fiercely beautiful and bravely, utterly exposed” (NPR); Pitchfork predicted “it will send an unnameable thrill down your spine”; and Textura declared, “The group re-writes the vocal rulebook.”

photo: david andrako

photo: david andrako

The album was nominated in three categories for the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Best Engineer for Classical Album, Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices. The album subsequently received a GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

In April 2013, ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita,  the four movements of which appear on the debut album. An iTunes exclusive EP of Partita  was subsequently released and ranked no. 1 on iTunes Classical charts.

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