PhD thesis (2023)


You can’t do that!


A journey into vocal composition through an exploration of musical genres and the subversion of norms




The composition of vocal parts and their relation to instrumentation poses several challenges to the composer. Linked to the issue is the question of how to deal with language. In this submission, I explore diverse vocal techniques ranging from traditional singing in manifold tonal or atonal contexts to the use of the human voice in modes such as speaking, screaming, shouting, whispering or whistling. This research develops ways to extend these techniques and to find an individual approach to singing in stage works.


I tread this path in a portfolio of ten works exploring the use of the voice in various instrumentations. Eight of these compositions are structured around an assortment of historically popular line-ups such as Kunstlied, Orchesterlied, Ensemblelied, a capella choir work or chamber opera. Later, I expanded the compilation and incorporated works with a less traditional setup such as a piano concerto, amalgamating genres by including singers in the ensemble, and a piece for solo voice and electronics. The influence of the orchestration on the use of the voice is also considered within the new works.


In each of the ten pieces, I approach the voice from a different angle and focus on a specific compositional parameter. This parametric approach allows me to change perspective and to adapt the applied vocal techniques according to the instrumentation and the characteristics of the underlying text. I aim to combine semantic immediacy and comprehensibility with the drawing of clear characters and atmospheres.