Monday, February 21, 2011

Drawing Music :: Ecstatic Music Festival : Roomful of Teeth

 Choir Roomful of Teeth

Last night, my artist friend Audrey and I were in for a real treat at the Lincoln Center's Merkin Hall at Kaufman Center. The curator of an on-going Ecstatic Music Festival, composer Judd Greenstein, invited us to draw during the concert of "Roomful of Teeth". Great name for an impressive choir of 8 young masterful singers and their artistic director Brad Wells.

 Brad Wells, The Artistic Director and Conductor for Roomful of Teeth

The four women and four men comprising "Roomful of Teeth" are classically-trained vocalists who mesh both academia and folklore in their repertoire and techniques. The choir performed numerous pieces by young composer/performers Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle & Caleb Burhans, who were also present.

   Conductor's Hands

For the second part of the concert, "Roomful of Teeth" collaborated with Merrill Garbus, a very interesting musician.

Merrill Garbus / Color of Rain

Merrill, among other things, studies vocal techniques from around the world. She's like the voice and song anthropologist, focusing particularity on Central African style. Last night she said she'd like to dedicate the performance to the women of Central Africa. Merrill had a red drum by her side. She'd record a quick loop at the beginning of each new piece that would become the rhythmic backdrop. As for the vocalizations that were produced - well, they were incredible. From yodeling to throat singing, interlaced with opera-like solos and harmonies to make one all goose-bumped, the vocal tapestries lingered in my head long after the show was over.

Merrill Garbus with a drum and ukulele, weaving a vocal tapestry

 Merrill Garbus with four women from Roomful of Teeth

What is it about the human voice that gets you from the inside like no other instrument? It must be the one sound we relate to alike, regardless of culture and upbringing. It's recognizable from the moment we are born. No, even before that, from the womb. The power of human voice rises above all other sounds. It's raw emotion.

 Blossoming voices

As I listened, I kept thinking of how to illustrate this vocal performance. It's not the actual singers, but their singing that I was drawing. A voice rather than the person. I couldn't help but draw leaves and flowers. It felt right. The voices blossomed and swooned into imaginary bouquets and floral arrangements, or grew like wild green masses.

 Caleb Burhans on electric violin

Big thanks to Judd, and also Joan from the Kaufman Center, for this opportunity. It was an unforgettable evening! I wish I could attend it all over again. And have a recording to listen to.



  1. aw Thanks Donna!
    Thanks, Audrey-glad you came!

  2. Julia- thank you so much for being there with us and creating these wonderful works of art around us!! These are absolutely beautiful, and so inspiring to think that there was yet another element of artistic creation happening while we were doing our thing onstage! Let's be in touch- perhaps we can find a way for these beautiful images to become part of the group's visual identity!
    Best wishes, Eric Dudley, Roomful of Teeth member

  3. Hello Eric! Thank you for a beautiful performance! And i really appreciate your comment. How nice of you! Yes, let's keep in touch, please. Would be great to collaborate, absolutely!
    you can email

    Thanks again! Till soon, Julia