Because I knew Evan [Parker] was coming to town, which means triple exclamation point” – Galás gives a throaty laugh – “that I decided to study with Frank Kelly, a teacher who was kinda infamous as a bel canto teacher. He said to me, ‘OK, you are doing avant garde singing. I don’t know what the hell that means. But I want to ask you something: sing this.’ And he said, ‘Let me tell you something, if you can’t get through a phrase of Mozart, I can guarantee that you are not going to be able to do what you think you’re doing or that you want to do.’ And at that point I started studying with him. And this guy would yell, very loudly, if he didn’t like what you were doing. He was a brilliant teacher, absolutely wonderful teacher. He and I would have these lessons, five lessons a week, sometimes ten, and he would yell, ‘What is it with you sopranos? You’re always trying to get to the top of the scale! You have to have your feet, the claws of your feet, in the ground before you can expect to be able to sustain let alone produce a high note of quality.’

Un jour comme un autre, musique et scénario de Vinko Globokar : photographies / Fernand Michaud

“We worked that year with so many composers from the 19th century,” she continues. “It was really hard and Kelly had no sympathy at all. I was also training to be ready for the Vinko Globokar performance, Un Jour Comme Un Autre, at the Festival d’Avignon in 1979. This is a work that was based on the true story of the torture and ‘suicide’ of a Turkish woman accused of treason. It’s an exceedingly difficult piece of work that had ruined vocalists before me with its precise notation of multiphonics. So extended vocal techniques for me meant everything including bel canto sound, but also unvibrated sound, what are called multiphonics – as well as diplophonics, triplophonics, many sounds within resonances at the same time. It can also mean different forms of staccato, types of ingressive singing, although that’s a bit limited because singers don’t have circular breathing like horn players. We just do a different type of vocal formation. There’s also the way that Middle Eastern and Greek music is sung. There are many different factors that have played into my [singing] vocabulary. But I have always said that there are 400 ways to scream, not just four or six. I remember giving a demo to a group of heavy metal guys. I told them that you cannot just go” – and she roars briefly down the phone – “because that only tells me one thing. I want to know the world from your eyes.”

Via The Wire

Michael Riessler (Kontrabassklarinette) in: Un jour comme un autre, Avignon 1978


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