Octo: Sotto Voce – York Minster – 2009

Octo: Sotto Voce is an 8-channel audio montage of eight whispered voices. First performed in York Minster in October 2009 as part of the event ‘I Hear too -Live’.

Like the liturgy and the choral, the whisper is a category of voice associated with religious space.The whispered prayer, the respectful tone or the irreverent aside are characteristic of the hushed voice of private conversations, of speech not intended for public dissemination.

The 8-channels and their eight voices are suggested by the distinctive octagonal design of the Chapter House. The voices are recordings of improvisations on prepared texts based on writings relating to York Minister. This approach was inspired by grammelot, a mode of speech delivery and acting originally developed by Commedia dell’ Arte troupes in the 16th century and popularised in the 20th century by Italian playwright Dario Fo. Grammelot was designed to convey the impression of existing languages and voice patterns while in effect not using the actual words nor the grammar of any language. Here, ‘words’ loose semantic sense- they are, in practice, just sounds, although sounds that resonate with and suggest meanings through performance,context and tone.

Combined with the acoustics of the Chapter House, this vocal piece is intended to offer a sonic experience that encourages a search for meaning from material that is resistant to clear-cut interpretation.In this way, Octo: Sotto Voce also refers to religious writings of voices and forms of speech that defy or transcend literal meaning.

I would like to thank Geraldine Allen, Jose Antonio Garcia, Peter Keighron, Bill Lamdin, Judith Palmer, Caroline Trettine and Valentina Vitali for their vocal contribution to this piece.

For more Information about the work and the ‘I Hear Too – Live’ event please go to: I Hear Too