Juliet Fraser – Morton Feldman’s ‘Three Voices’

Juliet Fraser releases recording of Morton Feldman's 'Three Voices'

Juliet Fraser’s interpretation of Three Voices, a trio for the one voice written in 1982 for Joan La Barbara, was recently released on Hat Hut Records to critical acclaim.

In Three Voices everything focuses on the singer, and the music Feldman gives her to sing is as unremittingly demanding as anything in his instrumental writing. As the voice twists and turns, rises and falls, folding in on itself in complicated repetitions and variations, we are conscious both of the intricacy of the pattern-making and the physical demands it is making.‘ — Christopher Fox.

‘The challenge of recording this piece is to avoid rendering the delicate tapestry either too cold, too clinical, or too gorgeous; to rest in the ambiguous space between beauty and evil, between the living and the dead. On every level, from the text of O’Hara’s poem to the demands of Feldman’s music, this is a work that is about the very human effort of wondering, reaching, grasping.’ — Juliet Fraser.

Juliet Fraser talks about her interpretation of the work in her liner notes:

Conceived as a trio for the one voice, with two pre-recorded parts and one to be performed live, the score is conventionally notated (all parts are written out with precise rhythms and pitches, though often in differing metres) but is beguilingly short on some details. There is, for example, no tempo indication, no vowel specified for the many lengthy passages without text, no dynamics bar an initial ppp, and no guidance as to which voice should be the ‘live’ one. Instead, performance history has resulted in the printed edition including an introduction written by Joan La Barbara (in 2007) in which she relays her remembering of conversations about the piece with Feldman and shares her own performance practice.

Respectful of this performance history and aware, of course, of the work’s evolution in the hands (and voices) of other interpreters, I struck out on my own to create a version that exposes the intimacy and physicality I feel to be inherent in the music. In two specific areas have I deviated from precedent: I decided not to worry about singing with ‘almost no vibrato’ since my natural vibrato is hardly unwieldy and it seemed altogether wise to avoid the psychological knotting-up of performing such a demanding work with a clamp on; I have also taken a subtly liberal approach to the vowel, moving between ‘ah’, ‘aw’ and ‘oo’, partly as a nod to the natural vowel modification that takes place in different registers, but more because it felt justifiably Feldman-esque to exploit different timbral shadings, smudging somehow the otherwise sharp division between material sung to text and material sung to a vowel.

Click here to read the full version of the liner notes.

Get your copy now directly from Juliet Fraser’s website or from Hat Hut Records.

It takes some guts (and some lung capacity) to approach a work that is so strongly associated with another performer, but soprano Juliet Fraser has both and her interpretation of Three Voices is truly a statuesque rendering of space and beauty.’ – The Wire, May 2017
‘… mesmerising performance, wonderfully controlled and paced … Like so many of Feldman’s scores, Three Voices has a unique, lingering beauty.’ – The Guardian, April 2017
More from Hat Hut Records

Juliet Fraser – Morton Feldman’s ‘Three Voices’

Juliet Fraser releases recording of Morton Feldman's 'Three Voices'
Read More