Extended Vocal Techniques

Extended Vocal Techniques Background

The Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (EVTE), was founded in 1973 and in residence at the Univeristy of California, San Diego, Center for Music Experiment from 1973-1983

Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, c. 1979.
Left to right: Edwin Harkins, Deborah Kavasch, Linda Vickerman, and Philip Larson

Deborah Kavasch Doctoral Dissertation

My doctoral dissertation on extended vocal techniques was based on the five years of research and performance in which I was involved with the ensemble.  It consisted of two parts:

1) a 30-minute composition entitled Requiem for 12 voices.  The EVTE members Deborah Kavasch, Linda Vickerman, Edwin Harkins and Philip Larsen prerecorded 8 tracks with which we performed the remaining 4 parts live.

2) a paper entitled "Some Compositional Aspects and Performance Problems of Selected Extended Vocal Techniques.

  • To read the paper, click here.
  • To hear the 39 musical examples that accompany the paper, click here.
  • To read a condensed version that was published by the UC San Diego Center for Music Experiment in Reports from the Center, November 1980, Vol. 1, No. 2, click here.

Deborah Kavasch:

I was a research assistant (as a doctoral student) at the Center for Music Experiment at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla from 1973-78, then an Associate Fellow 78-79.  In addition to being assigned the job of archivist I was encouraged to participate in research going on at the Center.  I became a founding member in 1973 of a group that was designated "the Extended Vocal Techniques Group", then a year later called the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble.  This group was an "organized research unit" within the Center.  We had no director per se as a group but were responsible to the director of the Center for our hours.


The group met three days a week for 1-1/2 hours per session, and recorded all sessions. The original members from 1973 included Fellows at the Center (Ed Harkins, Phil Larson, Linda Vickerman) and several graduate students (Warren Burt, Ann Chase, Martin Grusin and myself) .  The Fellows were hired by the Center to do/be involved in research projects. The ensemble's sessions involved exploring a variety of vocal sounds, sharing sounds we had heard on recordings of ethnic music or sounds that we had come up with on our own, perhaps from childhood or later or just improvised on the spot.  The Center director, Roger Reynolds, suggested that we take on a project of recording a lexicon of these sounds.  Such a document would make the sounds more readily available to others interested in using them, singers or composers.  We recorded two versions of the lexicon (1974, 1975), the second of which was made available to the public.  We had the task of assigning names to the 74 examples and oragnized them into three catgories: monophonic, multiphonic, and miscellaneous.  The second lexicon seemed to have a better structure in this regard, perhaps also a few more sounds.

The ensemble began as a group of seven people who met regularly the first year.  In our weekly sessions we not only explored how to produce the sounds, but also began to use them in improvisational contexts.  These were often structured improvisations which would involve using a limited number of sounds in a specified musical structure agreed upon before the improv began.  Often they were 2-3 minutes long.  We occasionally performed on Center "concerts", doing these sorts of improvisations.  I remember doing a "reading" of The Walrus and the Carpenter with eacy of us doingone of the voices (narrator, Walrus, Carpenter, the oysters, etc).  I wrote the first notated work for the group, The Owl and the Pussycat, in 1974.   Roger Reynolds and other composers, mostly faculty or students at UCSD, wrote pieces for us after that, many of which we took on tour.

EVTE Projects

I remember the ensemble participating in various projects, such as a Voices and Visuals conference at the Center which brought in a variety of guest artists including Mel Blanc, with whom we worked in one session.  We worked with voice faculty, John Large, and a collaborate of his at the VA Hospital on a series of research projects.  We were the subjects of a brain wave "experiment" at a Biomedical Conference in San Diego to measure alpha output during a live improvisation.  We went with John Large to perform at several conferences, one in San Francisco on voice research (odology) and a NATS conference in San Diego.

We worked one semester as consultants for a class in contemporary vocal music taught by Roger Reynolds (one of our sessions each week was open to his class).

From the June 1979 New West magazine article by Alan Rich. L-R Philip Larson, Edwin Harkins, Linda Vickerman, Deborah Kavasch.

EVTE Performances

We became an ensemble of six the second year (1974-75) and four the third year (75-76) and stayed a quartet from then until 1983.  We went on our first performance tour in 1976, performing at festivals in Bourges and Cologne, then the next year at the Holland Festival and in parts of Sweden.  The trip to Sweden resulted in my piece, The Owl and the Pussycat, being published by Edition Reimers AB in Stockholm several years later.  We also performed in various concerts at UCSD as well as in new music festivals such as the Contemporary Music Festival '79 which was held in three locations: California Institute of the Arts from April 27-29, UC San Diego May 1-3 and University of Nevada, Las Vegas May 4-6. There were tours that followed in the Midwest, East Coast and Canada, with our "swansong" performance in 1983 at UCSD.

EVTE Repertoire

I believe one of the observations I made early on in comparing the EVTE to Joan La Barbara and to Diamanda Galas was that our group seemed to aim for a much more resonant and full sound quality than Joan's sounds, which struck me as very elegantly produced, rather quiet, and reminding me of non-text oriented sound fabrics (or maybe linguistic in a gibberish sense).  Diamanda's music (early, improvised) struck me as very emotion-based, driven, harshly on the edge, theatrical (sort of beyond operatic).

As the EVTE progressed to composed rather than improvised repertoire, it was mostly text-based and probably structured in a more conventional way in terms of composition--although often very "far out" in terms of sound.  I think we also had a gutsier approach to much of the music, say compared to the Electric Phoenix.  Their version of William Brooks "Madrigals" was quite elegant contrasted to our earthier version, which was particularly more suited to the "Bad Bottle Blues" and "Nellie Was a Lady" (wacky barbershop) movements.  They, however, had the definite edge on the "Silver Swan" movement.  The work was written for our group--the composer was a member for a year as a sub.


1. Reinforced harmonics

The tongue does most of the work and is held rather close to the roof of the mouth, slowly moving forward or backward and stopping to isolate each harmonic.  Only a few harmonics will typically sound rather strong, depending on the physical nature of your individual vocal tract, head, articulators, etc.  I noticed some time ago that the lips and tongue are actually in the same position as if you were whistling the actual pitches of the overtone series, although the glottis is closed and no whistle actually takes place.  The tongue is almost stuck to the roof of the mouth (think peanut butter!).

Try the pitch G below middle C as the fundamental.  If you go much lower, you won't be able to isolate the first few notes of the overtone series, which are actually formed more by opening the mouth from an almost closed position. (Conversely, the higher the fundamental, the fewer high overtones can be isolated.  This pitch worked best for men and women both).  When you get past the first three overtones (8ve, 5th, second 8ve) you have to think an "er" sound and hold your mouth in that position as the tongue moves forward to eventually a pure "ee".  Think the word "worry" slowly unfolding from the initial "oo" of the beginning of the word through "er" to "ee", then go in reverse.  You may find it easier to start with the high overtones at first.

If you nasalize the fundamental pitch you may hear the overtones more clearly.  And as silly as it sounds, if you do a lip-finger trill while trying all this, the overtones will really pop out.  Or initiate each overtone with an "ng" before each overtone "vowel".  It's really better not to think specific vowel changes or widen the mouth position at all.  A fairly tightly closed mouth position is most productive.

2. Multiphonics

Q (Linda Brown):  Can you please verify for me that none in the group does a multiphonic per Joan. That is, hits a mid-range note, drops to add the octave below, and sometimes hit a fifth below that. The multiphonics on the ETV Ensemble CD don't seem as clear as Joan's multiphonics.

A: The examples called "chant" under multiphonic were done by everyone in the group, normally singing a low-range note and getting the octave below.  Example B1 has a very short moment of the 5th below that.  I also have a tape somewhere of Warren Burt doing this technique and getting the 5th below and sometimes the second octave.  Phil Larson remained in the group and was very good at achieving the very resonant quality of the Tibetan monk sound of the octave below, with a strong overtone above (usually the 10th above).

Q (LB): Also, do you remember if the technique used for multiphonics was one of forcing a second tone or relaxing into it? The tones sound forced, but I would like verification, if possible.

A: The relaxed version was the most common, to everyone except Warren Burt, who imitated the recordings of the Tuvan singers, I think.  All the "glottal overpressure" examples were pretty much dropped from our performance repertoire later, as they tended to be very wearing on the voice.  The "forced blown" involved a lot of air that was quickly "forced" through the vocal folds, resulting in a short burst of sound.  The ones I did never hurt, but were very relaxed, like a breathy sigh.

3.  Inhaled sounds: (in response to Aleksander Habus).  The EVTE in the early days used inhaled speech when doing a reading of selections from Alice in Wonderland (The Walrus and the Carpenter).  Then the first piece I wrote for the group, The Owl and the Pussycat, used a narrator who spoke the poem on the inhalation while the other 6 performers did various spoken, sung or extended sounds that were notated proportionally along a time line (every 5 seconds marked).  Ed Harkins developed an incredible facility with inhaled speech, very "clean" sounding.  When I do inhaled speech it sounds a lot like E.T.'s (movie) voice!  The piece was published by Edition Reimers in 1980, and I got the EVTE together (4 of us) 2 years ago to record it for the second CD I mentioned in my last note, the one which is mastered by not yet pressed.

Anyway, the point of all this was that inhaled sound occurred for us more as vocal fry or multiphonics than as singing sounds as I look back at our free improvisations and a variety of the notated pieces.  I did use inhaled singing and inhaled multiphonics in my piece Miserere, for soprano and clarinet, also in my Soliloquy for solo voice, also a small bit in Metamorphosis for soprano, clarinet and piano (all on the first CD).

4. Other comments: I've always found it fascinating how composers can think up quite a variety of sounds that combine these various techniques.  Sometimes I'll substitute one sound for another for ease of execution, and of course I compose pieces for myself that contain things I hardly even think of as unusual any more!


1.  Kavasch Doctoral Dissertation

My doctoral dissertation was based on the five years of research and performance in which I was involved with the ensemble.  I wrote a Requiem mass (30 minutes, 90-page score) for the ensemble, multi-tracked (12-voice texture, 8 on tape and 4 live in performance).  I also wrote a paper, An Introduction to Extended Vocal Techniques: Some Compositional Aspects and Performance Problems, an abridged version of which was published by the Center as an Occasional Publication in its Reports from the Center, Vol. 1 No. 2, November 1980; the same paper was later republished in ex temporea Journal of Compositional and Theoretical Research in Music (1985).

  • A recording of the 39 examples that accompany the paper is available on SoundCloud here.

2.  “Extended Vocal Techniques: Then and Now”:  this is a short (8-page) paper written for the 1999 4th International Symposium and Festival Donne in Musica (women in music), Fiuggi Città, Italy.  It traces some of the background of extended vocal techniques and discusses in more detail the work of the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (based at UC San Diego from 1973-1983), including a description of the sounds in our vocabulary as they appeared in a recorded lexicon.  In the paper I also mention other artists with whom we came in contact regarding extended vocal technqiues (Joan La Barbara, Julius Eastman, Electric Phoenix, etc.).

3.  Recordings (Kavasch)

2002    Fables & Fantasies, chamber music for voices and instruments composed and performed by Deborah Kavasch.  Compositions on the disc include: The Owl and the Pussycat, Bee! I’m expecting you!, The Tortoise and the Hare, Celestial Dreamscape, The Ant and the Grasshopper, Kaleidoscope, The Ravens, the Sexton and the Earthworm, The Crow and the Pitcher, The Lion and the Mouse. TNC Classical CD-1506

1999    The Dark Side of the Muse: Music of Deborah Kavasch: chamber music for voices and instruments composed and performed by Deborah Kavasch.  Compositions on the disc include: Annabel Lee, Beauty and the Beast, Double,Double, The Crow and the Pitcher, Abelard, Miserere, Aviary Suite, Medea, Soliloquy, Metamorphosis. Troppe Note/ Cambria Recordings, CD-1429

4.  Recordings (EVTE)

1983    Voicespace, Roger Reynolds, performed by Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, Lovely Music, VR1801

1981    Psalm of These Days II, Edwin London, performed by Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, Composers Recordings, Inc., SD470

1975 Documentary recording of a Lexicon of Extended Vocal Techniques: The lexicon is a recording of examples of isolated sounds: Monophonic (A1-A31), Multiphonic  (B1-B30), and Miscellaneous (C1-C13), each announced by the person producing the sound (A1, A2, etc).  It totals about 21 minutes.  A two-page index to the  lexicon lists all of these sounds with initials identifying which member performed each. This lexicon will be made available soon on SoundCloud.

A bit of EVTE trivia: There were actually two EVT lexicons recorded by the Ensemble, a year apart.  The second one is the "official" one, with sounds arranged in three major categories (monophonic, multiphonic, and miscellaneous) and labeled with subjective names as opposed to the rather cumbersome names we tried to coordinate with linguistic lingo on the first attempt (e.g. "digito-bilabial trill" became "lip-finger trill", "formant glides" became "reinforced harmonics", etc.)  In the second lexicon, “car crash” was much easier to write than trying to figure out the technical linguistic term. I have the description of the first lexicon but not the recording, and for the second lexicon I have the description and recording plus notes on the techniques and also comments on the individual members' particular ranges/abilities (ease of production) in the various categories.



The Owl and the Pussycat

Q (Ben Powell): I really like "The Owl and the Pussycat;" it is a fun piece that shows off both the EVTE and the expressive abilities of extended vocal techniques.  Did you view this piece more as an experimental piece, that is, a piece that would incorporate as many techniques the group had mastered in a clever way?  Is there a story behind the composition of this piece?

A:  That's really pretty close to the mark.  Our initial work involved weekly meetings/rehearsals to master the techniques, then to try to use them in structured improvisations based primarily on using one or a few techniques per improv.  For an early "performance" at the Center, we decided to do a reading of The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland, and each of us took on one of the various voices (narrator, Walrus, Carpenter, the oysters, etc).  It was such a success that I started looking for a poem that might work similarly but allow for a narrator with accompanying sounds.

This was not really intended as a compendium of all the techniques but rather just those that fit the text (I did not include the "Tibetan chant" i.e. octave multiphonic, or any inhaled multiphonics--I used all monophonic sounds that everyone could fairly easily perform). My Requiem uses many more of the sounds and could almost be considered a compendium, but it's much longer and did seem to call for all of them; I didn't try to artificially include them all for the sake of using them all.

Q:  In "The Owl and the Pussycat," what is your reason for having the narrator speak with a lisp on "They dined on mince?"

A:  Ed Harkins was the absolute master of the inhaled speaking voice, so he was a natural for the narrator.  The lisp at the end was actually done by Phil Larson and came almost as an afterthought into the piece in response to a comment that had been made regarding using effects in music for shock value.  It's probably not at all politically correct these days, but it was intended to suggest the lisping speech often associated with gay men (with the phrase containing the word "mince").  It also provided a nice segue to the whispers.

Q:  In general, were you more concerned with sound, text, or a combination of both?  It is interesting to me to see how you use EVTs to tell the story and word paint, while at other times you have sounds that seem like they are just for fun (the reinforced harmonics on "moon," the "his nose" section, the lip trills).

A:  The structure of the piece is absolutely text-driven with an intent to use as much text-painting as possible.  Also at the time I was taking a course with Ken Gaburo called "The Compositional Linguistics of Musical Theater" which involved among other things the study of IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and the isolation or various uses of phonemes in class exercises.  We also experimented with creating vocal clusters which was new to me and absolutely fascinating, hence the appearance of them in the "his nose" section.

Many of the sounds were used for fun, but pretty much directly related to my interpretation of the mood of the text.  The ululations were to sound like the hooting of an owl, and the nasal "The owl" text was to sound like a cat's "meow".  The plosive consonant sounds were to coordinate with the narrator's text and just be fun to exaggerate.  The sung ululations were more Owl sounds and occur in an extended section because of the repetition in the poem.  The various trills were exaggerated "purrs" of the Pussycat.   Then in the next section I had a vision of the "land where the bong tree grows" as a kind of rain forest, hence the instructions to imitate one.  Besides, we had all developed some great sounds that seemed appropriate!  "His nose" is another "chorus" of repetition, and the last statement "with a ring at the end of his nose" was to create a round shape (in contrary motion).  The final chorus on "spoon" and "moon" was a natural for a reinforced harmonics "improv" as we were all used to doing this as an exercise (on the unison pitch G).  I wanted to have it begin gently, then get busier as the whispered poem suggested more activity until the final cadence, so to speak.

Q:  I don't want to make light of your composition to say that things were just for fun, but it really sounds like the group is having fun playing with the expressive possibilities of the voice in this song.

A:  Not only did we have an absolute blast with this piece, we were constantly cracking up with laughter (well, we did that anyway in many of our sessions).  The hardest part about performing this piece was keeping a straight face in front of audiences.  I remember Bert Turetsky's (the faculty string bassist) comment after the premiere performance: "It's so nice to hear a piece of new music that isn't full of Weltschmerz!"

Composer Interview Questions

  1. When and how were you first exposed to extended vocal techniques? What was the first pieces/composers that attracted you and/or impacted your decision to work with EVTs?

As a student (undergrad or grad?) at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, I first learned about extended instrumental techniques from Professor Burton Beerman, composer/clarinetist (early 1970’s?), then somehow heard about Tibetan music and “Ohm” drones.  My master’s thesis at BGSU, a chamber opera called “Legends”, experimented with prerecorded voice in the Prologue, Sprechstimme in Act I Pandora, falsetto singing in Act II Narcissus, and vocal timbral coloration (nasal and other qualities) as well as traditional vocal production in Act III Orpheus.  When I applied for grad school at UC San Diego, the Project for Music Experiment was so new it wasn’t in the catalog, so I was delighted to learn when I arrived that there were people interested in exploring extended vocal techniques as a group that met for regular sessions 3 days a week, 1 and 1/2-hour sessions.

  1. Can you trace your influences back to those musical movements or composers Italian Futurism, Dadaism, surrealism, minimalism, etc.?

I hadn’t really heard of any of this but had had some experience in new music as a performer in the new music ensemble at BGSU, in modern music classes, and attending concerts at U of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where we heard the premiere of George Crumb’s Black Angels, which absolutely blew me away!

  1. What was your initial reaction to EVTs? 

I absolutely loved the idea of making as many different sounds as possible and seeing if I could imitate sounds others had heard; we experimented with doing them in different ranges than what we heard in recordings and at different volume levels (usually really loudly at first until we mastered the techniques better).

  1. At what point in your performing and/or composing career did you decide to make use of EVTs and why? How did it effect your use of traditional notation?

About 2 weeks after I started doctoral studies at UCSD, I was offered a research assistantship at the Center for Music Experiment.  It was a research arm of the Music Department, was funded by Rockefeller and Ford Foundation grants, and had quite a few resident research fellows (including singers Linda Vickerman, and Philip Larson, and trumpeter Ed Harkins, plus several dancers, other instrumentalists, electronic music and computer researchers) and two doctoral RA’s including myself and John Celona.  Since the Center had been in existence only one year starting in s1972 as a Project in Music Experiment, my duties as archivist in 1973 were supplemented by other activities, including joining in the newly formed Extended Vocal Techniques Group, later called the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, which was officially an ORU (Organized Research Unit) at CME (Center for Music Experiment).

We had no official director, although Linda Vickerman often acted as spokesperson when we eventually went on tour and gave masterclasses, but it was quite a democratic organization.  Our weekly rehearsals were all recorded, and we were encouraged by the CME director, Roger Reynolds, to organize the various sounds into categories and record them as a lexicon.  The first lexicon used terminology from speech/phonetics that ultimately seemed too cumbersome.  A second lexicon was recorded that used descriptive terminology and was organized in three categories, monophonic, multiphonic, and miscellaneous (“car crash” was much easier to write than trying to figure out the technical term).

EVTs were a natural extension of my master’s thesis ideas of including traditional and nontraditional vocal production, and I wrote THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT for the group in 1974 in my first year of doctoral composition studies.  My next important work for the EVTE was my doctoral dissertation, REQUIEM, a work for 12 voices completed in 1978.  We prerecorded 8 parts on tape and performed live with the tape, taking parts and then all of the piece on tour from 1977-1983.

Notation varied from piece to piece.  The Owl and the Pussycat worked best using mostly graphic notation, using dotted lines to represent ululated vowels/syllables, with pitch direction shown by the up/down shape of the line.  I created other symbols for other sounds, but used traditional notation for sung fragments, and a wiggly line to show durations of repetitions of those fragments (a very common 70’s notation device for repeating fragments).  At the end, there is a drone on G below middle C, with various overtones to be reinforced; the overtones used diamond-head notes, similar to string harmonics notation.  Time was measured in blocks of seconds (marked at 5-second intervals, which I later thought would have been easier to think of in 4-second intervals, similar to common time).  Other sections simply showed an overhead bracket with the total time in seconds or minutes for each section.

Notation for Tintinnabulation (first movement of an otherwise unperformed piece called THE BELLS) was first attempted in a similar marking off of 4-second blocks with the various rhythmic entries or patterns scattered throughout the block.  I quickly discovered that there was vast uncertainty or discomfort from the performers, including myself, about where to place the sounds, so I simply went back to traditional 4/4 notation and, voila!, the piece came together instantaneously.  It was great lesson in using traditional notation when possible, and modifying it as necessary.  Ululations now used the triple hatch mark of string tremolo notation, and glissandi connected noteheads in rising ululations.  Harmonic oscillations were notated with the fundamental pitch plus a diamond notehead and a wiggly line stretched from it for the duration of the note value.

Notation for Requiem used a cutout score and a one-line staff for rhythm only, a 5-line staff for pitched material, exact pitches in standard notation with clefs, relative pitch indicated by notehead height.  Sometimes I would combine precisely notated rhythm in some voices with words written in the score space according to approximate duration, beginning and ending points clearly indicated.

Over the years I have developed a notation that attempts to take advantage of as much of the standard notation as possible, using a few symbols for specific sounds, but also including much verbal terminology in the score as reminders.  I use IPA notation only if normal text setting is unclear.

  1. When you begin the compositional process, how do you determine which EVTs you will use? Is improvisation a part of the musical equation for your compositions/performances

When writing vocal music, I look at the text to determine whether EVTs would be appropriate.  (I have not yet written vocal untexted music, although I’m thinking about combining soundscapes and text).  I have a tendency to combine traditional and extended techniques in the same piece, probably for a combination of reasons including timbre and overall effect, the needs and implications of the text, the impact of moving back and forth between traditional & EVT (after all, what are EVTs “extended” from?), overall musical structural decisions, and not least, awareness of health and ease of vocal production, i.e. what sounds can be done quickly or require more preparation, what needs to be followed by a more relaxed production, etc.

I believe I have only occasionally used improvisational components to my music.  In the early EVTE days, we did improvisations almost exclusively until we developed a repertoire of works written for us.  It was fun and challenging, some were highly structured so that they could be repeated in a fairly predictable way, and for some years we always included one totally “free” improvisation that eventually became very predictable with the same four people performing together.  I guess I personally don’t like to perform free improvisations because I tend to have more vocal tension when producing “unprepared” sounds in that type of context, i.e. unrehearsed sounds.  In the same way, when singing traditional music, although I’m a very good sightreader, I prefer to practice the music ahead of a performance, and usually perform best (vocally and musically) when it is memorized.  That being said, I really should memorize more of my own compositions!!

  1. Do you feel as though you are imitating those objects that some would say have no “musical voice?”

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by objects?  I think as a performer I tend to “translate” particular musical needs into sounds that I feel are appropriate to the context or meaning of the music as I understand it.  As a composer I make musical decisions based on text or mood implications (I am very much oriented in this direction rather than sound for sound’s sake only.  I have to feel a musical or emotional motivation).

  1. At what point in time do you believe traditional notation and vocal techniques ceased being sufficient enough to interpret the imagination of the composer? Why do you believe this occurred?

I think that EVTs provide a means of dramatic interpretation or playfulness that has expanded the expression of text.  The best example of my music that comes to mind is my composition on Emily Dickenson’s “Bee! I’m expecting you!”.  The words of the poem are actually a letter from a Fly to a Bee, so my idea was to present the text as though the Fly were buzzing as it “spoke”, using ululated vowels and consonants (like the “z” of “was”), using a sibilant sound for certain “s” sounds (such as extending the “x” of “expecting”).  I used reinforced harmonics on many of the “er” sounds and inhaled croaks on “work” in reference to the frogs.  For “birds mostly back” I quoted several measures on the word “birds” from one of the traditional cadenzas in Lucia di Lammermoor with a dental trill on the last r, intentional tone-painting with mostly traditional sounds here.  Somehow I just can’t imagine writing a setting of this poem using only traditional singing, when I believe that the overall effect of my setting is whimsical, gentle and humorous by virtue of using mostly EVTs.

  1. What do you feel can be (is) conveyed through EVTs that traditional vocal conventions and notational devices cannot not provide?

Extremes of emotion: from highly dramatic to whimsical and humorous, with a greater palette of timbral coloration.  But there’s still nothing quite like the dramatic impact of the well-produced traditional singing tone, with the excitement of the “full-out” tone or the beauty of the round, resonant, delicate pianissimo high note that seems to surround and caress.

  1. What is the perception of the average music consumer towards works utilizing EVTs?

They’re fascinated.  Invariably audience members try out the extended sounds during intermission or after the concert.  Humans are inveterate imitators!

  1. Are EVTs an “acquired taste?”

Very quickly (by audiences).  Most professional singers or advanced vocal performance students tend to avoid doing them for fear of hurting themselves or compromising their traditional vocal production.  Exceptions are singers I work with personally—and myself, of course!

  1. Describe the typical audience most interested in both your work, and that of others utilizing EVTs.

There always seem to be audience members interested in EVTs.  My local audiences for the most part have been university students and faculty mixed in with local community.  When I tour, the audiences are either in university settings, concert series (especially for new music concerts), or new music festivals, conferences, and women in music festivals.

  1. It has been stated that the most supportive audience for the musical avant-garde is that of the educational system. Examining your own unique experience, can you agree with this statement? If you disagree, why?

Actually, I do agree.  Students (college age and younger) are very open to new experiences and have always responded enthusiastically to my concerts that use EVTs.  Many of them have little musical background to predispose them to wanting to hear one type of music over another.  They seem to recognize well-constructed and well-performed music of any style.

  1. What about those critics/listeners who would say that this is not “real” music and certainly should not fall under the all-encompassing umbrella of “classical music?”

Most of the music I write or choose to perform a second time (I’ve done many premieres!) includes a certain degree of virtuosity, be it traditional or extended.  People seem to be especially fascinated or impressed by the ability to move quickly between various types of sounds and by the range of both pitch and volume. Dr. Cleve Scott, the head of music technology at Ball State, who recorded several concerts I performed at a new music festival there, mentioned that the most beautiful voices were the most difficult to records, and that mine was almost impossible to record—I believe he meant it as a compliment!!  That is an ongoing comment about the challenge of recording pieces with EVTs—the difference in volume between the softest, most delicate (usually amplified) sounds and the full-out unamplified bel canto tone is enormous.

  1. Are vocal students of American conservatories/universities being trained to effectively interpret and perform pieces involving EVTs?

Probably not.  I personally think that young singers should concentrate on learning to produce a reliable, well-balanced singing range.  If they want to learn EVTs, they need to be careful to not strain themselves, usually with loud volume in attempting to produce some of the sounds, and not to do certain sounds too much or for too long, especially the ones that require straight tone pitch production, such as reinforced harmonics drones, or the octave multiphonic associated with Tibetan chanting.  Also, ululations that are loud and cross register breaks have to be done selectively to not undo the training of merging the registers for a smooth vocal production.  I had the experience of having created my own vocal problems of tension and covered tone production as a high school student trying to not sing more loudly than others around me and also wanting to imitate the contralto on our recording of Handel’s Messiah.  It took 10 years of voice lessons with six teachers before I finally learned to release the many tensions in throat and tongue that plagued me.  Oddly enough, I think doing the EVTs helped me to be willing to try anything my latest voice teacher, Frank Kelly of La Jolla (now deceased), asked me to do.  His training had been in Italy, and he unlocked another octave at the top of my range—I was a soprano all the time I’d been trained as a mezzo.  I began studies with him in 1977, four years after starting to work with EVTs.  The curious thing was that I never got hoarse in EVTE rehearsals that were an hour and a half long, but for a long time prior to studies with Frank, I had experienced hoarseness in singing after only 15 minutes of solo practice or singing in choral groups (lots of tension!).

  1. How can the body of literature embracing EVTs become more prevalent in the ears of the global community? What are you personally doing to further EVTs as a composer and performer?

I think audiences are more ready for EVTs than trained singers are to produce them.  My sense is that performers who use only EVTs and no traditional singing don’t have the same musical impact, breadth of expression, or validity to the traditional music community as do performers who combine the two.  I think I’ve been very fortunate to have a performing career that uses both, and I am just as happy to sing traditional works as I am to perform and premiere new music.  I believe a well-grounded singing technique has provided me with the ability to pick and choose music that is exciting and satisfying to perform and has allowed me to program a huge variety of repertoire for various types of performance venues.  I’ve also discovered that I enjoy composing and performing music that ranges from virtuosity to simplicity, passion to humor, with a wide range of expression and musical demands.

I have recorded two commercial CDs with much of my EVT music so that there is a record of this as well as a chance for a larger audience to hear these pieces than the live audiences at concerts.  I have also recorded works of several other composers, both as a member of the EVTE and as a solo singer, and hope that there is a reasonable dissemination of these recordings.  Certainly the internet is the logical place for greatest dissemination.  I have wanted to get a website set up for the last several years and realize I’ll probably have to hire someone to do it for me, as I am not technically savvy and don’t seem to have the time to learn what’s necessary!  I do have numerous performance recordings that should probably be edited and made available.


Oct 1980    "controlled and balanced, gently amplified, serious in content and altogether tasteful in presentation--the sounds were positively magical."  James Wierzbicki, St. Louis Globe-Democrat

Oct 1980    "VARIED VOCALS TOUR DE FORCE. . . There were whispers, grunts, groans, long vocalizations, sliding microtonal cries, and a hundred other varieties of sound.  The miracle was that they were produced by human beings live, on stage.  By any standard this was a tour de force of vocal technique." John Huxhold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Oct 1980    "ADVENTUROUS SOUNDS. . . just about the widest range of vocal sounds ever sung by mere mortals.  They are helping push music to 'the furthest reaches of the fertile country.'"  John Schuster-Craig, Louisville Times

Nov 1979  "BRAVE NEW VOICES. . . In a performance remarkable for its purity of pitch and precision of ensemble, they created a unique sonic world of mesmerizing intensity and expressiveness."  Wilma Salisbury, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Jan 1978    "STARTLING DISCOVERIES OF A NEW SONIC LEXICON. . . By pushing out the sonic walls, the EVTE has handed contemporary composers a new vocal language."  Susan Mertens, The Vancouver Sun

Jan 1978    "Innovative, creative and intellectually demanding, EVTE gives a highly professionally produced and staged series of works that make one think.  That, after all, is what new music is supposed to do, but yet so seldom does."  Ray Chatelin, The Vancouver Province

Dec 1977   "ENSEMBLE CONQUERS VOCAL FRONTIER. . . Here is as convincing a demonstration as anyone needs that the human throat is the last frontier of the musical avant-garde, truly a frontier of fascinations.  Thy projected an image of braininess, dedication, and a wonderfully fearless pizazz.  They are devilishly clever actors as well as damn good musicians.  (They) manage to send shivers up one's spine...a grandly entertaining mystique.  John Von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Dec 1977   "FEARLESS FOUR EXTEND VOICES. . . Uninhibited by traditional ideas of vocal production, they use their voices as sound generators and showed them to be versatile beyond history's reckoning."  William Littler, Toronto Star

Jun 1977    "VIRTUOSO VOCAL SHOW STAGGERING. . . The participants have given virtuoso training to their voices and have keenly developed their musicianship to an enormous versatility."  Rutger Schoute, Amsterdam Het Parool