“The first machine is not a stick, a sharp stone, or a wheel; the first machine is the human voice.” This is the first sentence of Agustin Genoud's workshop created for Unseen and titled Trans-Synthetic Vocalities. What this sentence reveals is that Agustin Genoud views the human voice as a tool through which we've been able to achieve our humanity. Historically, the vocals and techniques associated with them have been of fundamental importance in essentially all spheres of our individual and collective existence and, by extension, in the construction of our own self-image: through music across millennia, through prayer, as well as a medium for communicating our ideas clearly.
What Trans-Synthetic Vocalities attempts - through a circa 45-minute-long workshop created specifically for Unseen - is to flip that on its head and to create new, non/post-human voices through the process of decentralizing the vocal sound construction of human subjectivity. Through a series of first bodily and then vocal exercises and stretches, we're encouraged to forget about false dichotomies like “inside/outside” or “electronic/organic” and to let go of any expectations we have of our own voice. The vocal tract itself is a complex synthesis apparatus that can be used for complex modular sound design.
At the same time, huge care is given to the care and cultivation of the voice and body, and to gaining a better understanding of the voice apparatus, its health and proper maintenance. Explorations of the sounds of vowels and consonants are used to explore the limits of our particular vocal tract, and we're asked to stop and re-examine all moments of discomfort or pain. Over time, our attention is drawn to the different sound possibilities inherent within the various parts of our vocal tract. We are guided to reflect on the effect that the shape of our mouth, the position of our tongue, or the movement of our body has on the sound. Any new additions, be they your hands, a microphone or any “external” technologies are viewed as extensions of this complex sonic apparatus that is the voice; there is no “inside” or “outside.” We are guided to create “noises not assigned to humanoid vocal capacity” and develop a hybrid workflow with technology.
The video itself here is viewed as an introduction and a companion for further research and experimentation. If you sing never or rarely, this is a great place to start to get to know your own voice in a more conscious and healthy, yet exploratory, way. If you're a singer with more experience, this workshop will help you to re-practice and rethink the relationship between your voice, your body and technology in a very unique way.
Adam Badí Donoval
Voices are a techno-social somatic configuration. The image of the human is indivisible from the techno-symbolic and oral construction of the voice as a means of articulating the subject. The territory of the human, and its exile, nests in the vocal capacities. The ways in which we cultivate and construct our vocal perspectives are also the ways in which we establish individuality, the relationship with technique and animality, the relationship with normative corporeality and its social projection.
Vocal techniques in music and speech have historically been a fundamental vector in the construction of the subject / human image, from Bel canto to rock/pop, from praying to speech as a medium for transmitting a clear message. Our goal is to decentralize the vocal sound construction of human subjectivity. For this we use a conceptual pair that completes, by subtraction (by excommunication from the human kingdom), the image of the subject: the robot and the animal. That conceptual pair will be a territory to develop strategies for becoming new voices. Developing symbolic and bodily experiments that bend the socio-technical tissues where the image of the (normative) human weaves itself.
Since 2010 I have been working and developing contemporary and experimental vocal techniques. In 2018 I created a specific training approach called Trans-Synthetic Vocalities based on a new materialist and post-human view of the vocal tract as a synthesis apparatus.
The workshop seeks to develop a factory of dissenting voices. Experiment and song working to deconstruct stratified hegemonic constructions within the subjective, bodily and social platform. We will explore how to treat the voice apparatus as a producer of modular sound designs in real time. Focusing on technical aspects of voice and sound we will experience how to produce noises not assigned to humanoid vocal capacity and develop a hybrid work with technology. The objective is to advance the exploration of vocal abilities from the parametric and synthetic point of view of sound production throughout the body. A post-human and animalistic approach is used to understand the transitions between electronic and organic bodies; focusing on the intensity of production based on a spectral and materialistic performance practice. We see techniques of care and cultivation of the voice and body for beginners as well as advanced techniques of singing and expanded voice. The techniques and exercises explored are also useful for gaining a better understanding of the voice apparatus, its health and good maintenance in any type of singing or voice projection and performing technique.
This video piece based on the works and exercises of the workshop was produced specifically for the Unseen project to contribute as a companion for research and experimentation; as an opportunity to re-practice and re-think the relationship between bodies, technology and voices as a performative social production medium.
Agustin Genoud works as a performer, musician and scholar in the fields of contemporary voice, post-humanism & new materialisms. He teaches and conducts research at the National University of Arts (New Media Department) in Buenos Aires. As a part of his practice he builds algorithms and vocal techniques that expand and transform vocal sound production and gives workshops for singers and vocal performers around the world. He's part of the Trrueno collective and a member of several ensembles and groups like Calato (jazz-noise-improv), the electronic percussion trio la_muerte (with Volll & Astrosuka) & the post-human ensemble LOS ODIOS. Currently, he's also working on radio theatre and an opera for post-human voices.
Edgerton, M.E., 2015. The 21st-century voice: contemporary and traditional extra-normal voice. Scarecrow Press.
Unseen is an online platform and web archive that presents different approaches to listening and cultivating the relationship between our bodies, space and sound. Through a series of exercises, methods and video guides, we are invited to focus on sound as a tool for relieving feelings of separation and isolation, as a tool for imagining better futures.