Whispers and Cries for choir, percussion quartet, and keyboards

1. Song for Voice
2. Song for Crotales
3. Song for Piano
4. Pandemonium

Whispers and Cries was first performed by Astra Choir, conducted by John McCaughey with Speak Percussion, on September 28, 2008, at Gasworks Theatre, Melbourne              

Excerpts from the Astra Program Note:

New ways of writing for percussion and for voices have provided vital   building blocks of the last century of music. Percussion had a special role in exploring the novel domains of sound-colour and rhythm unleashed from traditional tonal patterns. It also opened the doors of western classical music to other traditions and cultures, and still remains (along with electro-acoustic music) the most dynamic department of music, where instruments are invented, and new sound manipulations result. Through the medium of the voice, new expressions and images of human behaviour have also emerged. At some special moments vocal and percussive music fused – into a narrative of colours and rhythms far removed from the traditional phrasing of a text. Stravinsky’s wholly original The Wedding (1919-23) created a ritualized fabric of percussion and keyboards, solo and choral singing – the part-ancestor of the new work composed for this concert by Andrew Byrne. In Whispers and Cries the valued cooperation between the Astra Choir and the excellent Melbourne-based ensemble Speak Percussion is given a special expression, through a series of a series of independent but ‘cooperative’ pieces that form musical landscapes of interlinked and overlaid materials.

Australian composer Andrew Byrne lives in New York, where his recent work has extended his characteristic polyrhythmic techniques into open modular structures for variable performers. The textless Whispers and Cries is designed as a kind of mobile: players and singers creating changing expressive and spatial configurations across five movements. A shadowy opening environment introduces three scenic ‘songs’ for voice, crotales, and piano, leading to a final pandemonium around nine solo singers.

--John McCaughey