Voice Metamorphosis: How does travelling between languages and practices transform artistic voice?

Wednesday 8 May 2019, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Speaker(s): Merit Stephanos (University of York)

“Home and language tend to be taken for granted; like Mother or Woman they are often naturalized and homogenized.” (Trinh T Minha, 2011).

As a singer and composer of German/Egyptian heritage, trained in classical western and Arab traditions, I use my voice to create pieces of art that explore different languages (musical and spoken) and practices. Inhabiting spaces between cultures, I use creative, collaborative processes to develop modes of expression where sensual experience merges with, or transcends, semantic representation.

When a sense of home is one of travelling, when one seems other in all cultures, is there a danger that an artist, transient, rootless, is doomed to misunderstanding or silence? Or, is this silence an opportunity to hear anew and use other senses to grapple with language? Can we find nuances of timbre, tuning, ornamentation deep in our bodies? I will look consider these questions by looking at collaborative performance projects, Bushra el Turk’s Woman at Point Zero, an opera for voice and multi-ethnic wind ensemble inspired by Egyptian feminist Nawal el Saadawi’s seminal novel, After Yeats, a performance research project conceived by Prof William Brooks inspired by Yeats musical declamations of his poetry and Thumbelina, a multilingual one-woman performance of H.C. Andersen’s fairytale. I will examine the creative processes involved in developing a language for each project and how these processes impact my singing and artistic voice. By collaborating with artists from different backgrounds and cultures, musicians, choreographers, visual or sound artists, can we connect our voices to find rawness of expression in the undefinable shades of dusk and dawn?

Merit Stephanos is a singer and composer of Egyptian/German heritage who focuses on developing new work often merging theatre, movement and music. Her work has been supported by organisations like Shubbak Festival and the Royal Opera House. Merit is a professor at the Royal College of Music and is completing a performance PhD at the University of York.

This talk is one half of a two-part seminar. Please see details here.

Location: D003, Sally Baldwin