Thursday, 29 September 2005

Material Mouth by Carolyn Connors, Sept 29, 2005

 Material Mouth by Carolyn Connors
 La Mama, Carlton,  Sept 29 to October 9, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Carolyn Connors, directed by Margaret Cameron, performs a contemporary voice piece that is not strictly a musical performance.

Yes, it includes two songs, both sung with ukulele, but the emphasis is on the acrobatics of the voice, its range and flexibility as an instrument apart from its strict application to song.

Connors uses various humming, chanting, howling, screeching, speaking and singing vocal qualities at various points in the work

She opens with silence and stillness, standing by the staircase taking in her audience. Throughout the entire program she exudes warmth and placid stillness. Every action si deliberate and each vocal vignette another eccentric take on sound.

After donning a bizarre cloth hat that covers her eyes, she intones burbling sounds, using her finger on her lips to mutate the high and low pitches.

In an extraordinary piece, she sits in front of several wine glasses topped with pieces of tin foil and ululates towards them, making them resonate and vibrate to her voice. The shimmering sound of foil accompanies her soprano pitch.

Anything is fair game if it makes an interesting sound. Connors runs her finger around the rim of the wine glasses to make another ethereal sound to counterpoint her voice.

With only her voice, she recreates the tonal quality of a pipe organ. Ten, while three tiny music boxes play Fur Elise, she dresses in a fluffy white gown, then plays Fur Elise on her ukulele followed by a simple jazz-influenced song - yes with lyrics.

She lies upside down shining a strobe torch into her mouth and uttering random sentences about communication in a guttural grotesque voice.

Her song about swimming, during which she is dressed in a fascinating old one piece bathing suit, is accompanied by ukulele and the gentle live splashing of water in the foot bath in which she stands.

Her final song, with ukulele, is a cheerful pining to go to Ireland. Connors leaves us with a smile on our faces as her voice fades on the way up the La Mama staircase.

Material Mouth is enjoyable in all sorts of unusual ways. If you are interested in the powers and virtuosity of the human voice, it is worth a look.

By Kate Herbert:

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