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IS Focus Guest: Charissa Noble

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 4:00 pm

Conrad Prebys Music Center 231

Free. No RSVP required. This talk will not be livestreamed.
All guests must adhere to University Return to Learn guidelines.

The final IS Focus of the academic year

Tuesday, 24 May, 4- 5:50, Conrad Prebys Music Center, Room 231


"Extended from What: A Critical Survey of Extended Vocal Techniques in Theory,Culture, and Practice"

Charissa Noble, University of San Diego


In the decades following World War II, exponential development in sound technology and significant growth in ethnomusicology as an academic discipline captivated the aesthetic imagination of many musicians; such breathless innovations and expanded cultural vistas intrigued artists already interested in musical experimentation as a mode of critical discourse that simultaneously critiques the musical and social status quo. One manifestations of this cultural zeitgeist included a heightened interest in so-called extended vocal techniques in the mid to late twentieth century.

Much of the pedagogical discourse defines extended vocal techniques [hereafter EVT] by way of a comprehensive list of examples, compiling indices of vocal practices and artists. By contrast, much of recent musicological literature avoids using the term altogether (perhaps due to its perceived ethnocentric connotations), and academic writing on experimental voice has trended toward artist biographies, interview anthologies, or critical readings of their works; yet the frequent discursive grouping together of these artists functionally reinforces (rather than challenges) the fraught implications of EVT. Few have clearly defined EVT in a way that addresses the varied historical and contextual understandings of the term and its attendant socio-cultural undertones, which has allowed it to remain murky, problematic, and tacitly shaped by cultural assumptions.


In this research, I suggest that recasting EVT as a situated framework of listening based on contextually-conditioned expectation clarifies the term and facilitates a more robust critical conversation about voice and vocal aesthetics as a site of dense meanings. By locating the appearances of the term EVT in musical discourse from earliest to latest, this research places EVT discourse and practice within concrete historical moments, attending to the time period, social context, institutional affiliations, and musical tradition of both the artists most frequently cross-referenced in EVT discourse (from Cathy Berberian to Pamela Z) as well as the authors who write about them. Through an investigation of EVT’s meaning(s), I formulate a rhizomatic account of the development of EVT as a concept across various Euro-American classical and post-classical traditions, and examine how its differences and similarities over the years has reflected and radically reimagined our broader perspectives on voices, bodies, music, and identity.


Charissa Noble is an experimental vocalist and musicologist, and currently teaches as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of San Diego. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz (2019), and previously earned an M.A. in music history at San Diego State University with a secondary emphasis in 20th Century American Art (2013). Her research interests include avant-garde music scenes in early 20th century California coastal communities, as well as late 20th century experimental vocal techniques and their overlap with developments in electronic sound. Charissa has presented her research at the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, the International Society for Minimalist Music, Music and the Moving Image at New York University, and Cornell University’s After Experimental Music conference (2018). Her recent publications include an article on Johanna Beyer’s unfinished opera, Music of the Spheres in the journal Sound American. Charissa is also deeply committed to the advancement of the local arts scene in San Diego, collaborating on educational outreach programs with numerous local organizations including San Diego New Music, the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, San Diego Art Institute, and Art of Élan.

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