Kochi, March 27: Working with voices and bodies, both trained and otherwise, to build whole worlds out of sound, Finnish-English musician and artist Hanna Tuulikki shared the nuances of her vocal practice over an experimental workshop series held here over the weekend.
Over the two-day ‘Traditional Ballad and Experimental Vocal Ensemble Workshop’, Tuulikki – a participating artist at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 – also explored expressions and compositions in the Celtic, Gaelic and English vocal traditions.
The workshop, held at Passage Malabar in Fort Kochi from March 25-26, was organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation along with British Council and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. It saw participants learn ballads, collective singing and practice ensemble vocalisation exercises.
“I am interested in working with the voice as both a material and an instrument. Singing is a means to extend the voice or imagination from the body or mechanism. After sampling the Carnatic vocal tradition here and incorporating that into my performance and installation at the Biennale, I wanted to share some things from traditions back home as well as aspects from my practice as an artist and performer,” Tuulikki said.
For her artwork at the Biennale, Sourcemouth: Liquidbody, she learned the nadi varnana (‘river description’) from Koodiyattam practitioner Kapila Venu. The three-screen installation features a visual-score and an interlinked suite of films incorporating choreography, vocal composition, and costume that explores a kind of ‘water consciousnesses’.
“I was very fortunate to work last year under the guidance of Kapila Venu. I was similarly lucky to attend a deep listening workshop with the legendary avant garde sound artist and composer Pauline Oliveros. Her work and her idea of ‘deep listening’ as meditation have been influential to my practice. I am also interested in ‘thinking’, both as a form of meditation and as a means by which people can tune into and resonate with each another,” Tuulikki said.
While the ballad session introduced participants to songs from England, Ireland and Scotland – sung either by or about women – and spoke of the experience of being a woman and about women’s sexuality, the exploratory workshop delved into Tuulikki’s vocal practice: sharing her approach to wordless song, extended vocal expression and experimental improvisation.
“In the experimental workshop, I shared some exercises that think about how voice comes from the body and from the breath as the source, worked with simple group exercises to explore how people can sing collectively, and then worked with fragments from my earlier and recent works that allowed access to improvisation,” she said.
The workshop considered music as a literal form of meditation. Tuulikki had participants close their eyes, contemplate and reproduce the sounds they heard in the morning – whether music on the radio or from birdsong. To illustrate “singing in relation to one’s surroundings”, she sang a note that was comparable to a gamaka or ‘ornamentation’ in the Carnatic music tradition.
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