Amazing Moments in Timbre #6

Trevor Wishart is a contemporary British composer closely associated with extended uses of the human voice. Whether in acousmatic pieces such as Encounters in the Republic of Heaven (2011) or in pieces for live performance such as Vox 4 (1987), his compositions masterfully exploit the subtlety and range of human vocal production: “all the colours of speech,” as Encounters is subtitled. Wishart’s music is also closely associated with the idea of transformation, in which one sound source appears to morph into another. This installment in our “Amazing Moments in Timbre” series, Wishart’s Red Bird: A Political Prisoner’s Dream (1973-77), begins with such a transformation: a rather alarming human scream appears to turn into a chirping bird. The piece weaves evocative—and in some cases disturbing—soundscapes through the many transformations that follow.

For more on Wishart’s ideas and compositions, here is a lecture he delivered at McGill University in 2018: