Erin Gee’s musical portrait of the body
A composition by Concordia associate professor Erin Gee will take centre stage at concerts in Vancouver, Calgary and Victoria starting on Saturday, November 19. Gee will also perform in Montreal on November 28.
Her new work, Echo Grey, will be performed by pioneering voice and technology artist Andrea Young and her group, EXO//ENDO. The piece, an extension of Gee’s earlier Voice of Echo, will employ five singers, an experimental turntablist and an extended bass player.
Her research is largely based on combining physiology with robotics and electronic devices in experimental ways to capture the sound of human emotion. In Echo Grey, Gee focuses on breathing and voice as a way of experimenting with a unique style of singing.
“Normally when someone sings, they are breathing out,” she explains. “In this piece I get people to sing by breathing in and then out in a circular method.”
As a result, the human body becomes the conductor. “When someone sings like this for long enough they run out of breath. Their bodies start to compensate, and this creates unexpected sounds — it’s those moments I am interested in, because they capture an intimate portrait of the body.”
Our technological bodies
Getting to the core of the relationship between the breath and the body was a way for Gee to re-examine the bare bones of communication.
“As humans we are continually being transformed through digital interfaces. Think Skype, or the other technologies that mediate our voices or likenesses. Rather than look outward at this mediation, this project is trying to underline the fundamentally technological aspects of our own bodies. Breath, vibration, and consciousness are processes that we build communication from. I wanted to privilege these basic interfaces of the body, and then layer them with sounds of feedback and digital noise.”
Having her work performed by Andrea Young is extra special for Gee, who has been a huge fan since seeing her for the first time in 2011.
“I was blown away when I first saw her. Her work in sound and music encapsulates everything I love about my own areas of scholarly research. To have her reach out and ask me to write a piece for her experimental choir is a dream come true.”
Gee will perform in Montreal (at La Sala Rossa, 4848 St. Laurent Blvd.) on November 28.
Learn more about Communication Studies at Concordia.