Sylvie Desouches

Sylvie Desouches
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David Hykes Overtone Singing

Here is a link to Rainbow Voice, the piece I played about 3-4 minutes of in class to demonstrate overtone singing. Although he creates many pieces with his Harmonic Choir, in this piece you hear David Hykes singing, and creating all the overtones, on his own. It's 7 minutes long and magnificent. Listen with headphones or high end speakers.

MusicHist - Listening Assign #1: Reich, Different Trains

Listening Assignment #1
Different Trains: I. America - Before the War, Steve Reich, 1988

In class we listened to movement I of Steve Reich's Different Trains. Listen again to the entire movement using the link below. Add to your initial notes and flesh out a written, personal response.

Consider Copeland’s three ways of listening:

  1. Sensuous plane – Listening for the sheer pleasure of the sound; listening without thinking; background music
  2. Expressive plane – Listening for any expressive meaning or feeling in the music
  3. Sheerly musical plane – Listening for the notes themselves, the specific harmonies, the structure and form of a piece, manipulation of sounds and tone color

Some specific prompts to consider, select three:

  1. What expressive meaning, feeling or challenge is the composer trying to convey? How do you think the composer achieves that?
  2. What questions, thoughts or feelings does the piece evoke in you?
  3. How does the composer keep your interest?
  4. What did you hear differently in your second listening?
  5. Briefly describe what you hear: elements, types of sounds, instruments (please no play-by-play; keep it general)
  6. What elements stand out to your ear?
  7. What textures and timbres does the composer use? How does he/she achieve those?


  • One page (2-3 paragraphs) neatly handwritten and double spaced.
  • Your title: Listening Assignment #: title of piece, composer, date composed
  • DUE Friday, January 5

NOTE: This is a YouTube link. Try to ignore the YouTube distractions; and turn off automatic loading of next item!

MusicHist - Listening Assign #2: Crumb, Black Angels

Listening Assignment #2
Black Angels, George Crumb, 1970

In class we listened to the first movement ("I. Departure") of George Crumb's Black Angels, which he composed in 1970. Listen again to the entire first movement, followed by movements II. Absence and III. Return, using the link below. Add to your initial notes and flesh out a written, personal response.


  1. Read everything contained in the handout I gave you during class. It is important to understand what Crumb is aiming to express, his purpose behind the piece. He is not simply trying to depict the Vietnam War. It is important that you understand this. There is much more going on in this piece.
  2. Of course, you may also simply listen in your own way, with your own personal reaction, but Crumb wrote this with something very specific in mind. It is not purely musical. 
  3. There are three small sections in the piece titled "Threnody." The first opens the piece (Threnody I: Night of the Electric Insects), the second occurs in the exact middle of the piece (Threnody: Black Angels) and the third is a reprise of the opening section but now at the very end (Threnody III: Night of the Electric Insects). Threnody means "lament" -- an important detail in understanding this piece.


  • Listen to ALL THREE MOVEMENTS for this homework.
  • 1-2 pages, neatly handwritten and nicely spaced (doesn't have to be exactly double).
  • Your title: Listening Assignment #: title of piece, composer, date composed
  • DUE Tuesday, January 9

NOTE: This is a YouTube link to the first movement (I. Departure). Movements II and III are up next on the YouTube line up. Please listen to ALL THREE movements.

MusicHist - Listening Assign #3: Shaw, Partita for 8 Voices

Listening Assignment #3
Partitia for 8 Voices, Caroline Shaw, 2012

In class we listened to parts of Caroline Shaw's Partita for 8 Voices, which she composed between 2009 and 2012. Please listen to all four movements (Allemand, Sarabande, Courante and Passacaglia) for your written response.

Caroline Shaw is a New York-based musician. She is a Grammy-winning singer in Roomful of Teeth and a violinist in American Contemporary Music Ensemble. In 2013, Shaw became the youngest ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, for her enigmatic composition Partita for 8 Voices. Recent and current projects include commissions for the Cincinnati Symphony, the Guggenheim Museum Works & Process Series, and the Folger Library, as well as collaborations with Kanye West.

"Partita is a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another. It was written with and for my dear friends in Roomful of Teeth."
-- Caroline Shaw

The four pieces of Partita were written for the innovative vocal octet Roomful of Teeth and premiered individually from 2009-2011, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA. The four pieces were recorded by Roomful of Teeth and released in October 2012 (New Amsterdam Records). The piece was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

"She has ­discovered a lode of the rarest commodity in contemporary music: joy." 
-- New York Magazine (Justin Davidson)

"She changes gears so quickly and so easily, and every turn is so unexpected and so full of joy. And it’s in such a convincing and cohesive manner that you could never doubt the sense of architecture and the sense of premeditation."
-- Jeremy Geffen (Carnegie Hall)

"It’s hard to track a style that seems to have emerged all of a sudden, fully formed."
-- Dan Trueman (Princeton University) — New York Times, 17 April 2013

Link to the music:


  • Listen to ALL FOUR MOVEMENTS for this homework.
  • 1-2 pages, neatly handwritten IN INK and nicely spaced (doesn't have to be exactly double).
  • Your title: Listening Assignment #: title of piece, composer, date composed
  • DUE Thursday, January 11

MusicHist - Listening Assign #4: Ives, The Unanswered Question

Listening Assignment #4
The Unanswered Question, Charles Ives, 1907/1908

In class we listened to the first half of The Unanswered Question, which Charles Ives completed in 1907/08. Listen to the entire piece, at least twice. Read below for some background and what he had to say about the piece.

* * * * * * 
"The Unanswered Question" is a musical work by American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954). As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later in his life, and was not performed until 1946.

Ives began two new works in 1906, both called "Contemplation." In later years, he had forgotten whether he intended them as a single two-movement piece or not. The full titles reveal both similarities of intention and profound differences in character: "A Contemplation of Nothing Serious;" or, "Central Park in the Dark in the Good Old Summer Time and A Contemplation of a Serious Matter;" or, "The Unanswered Perennial Question."

Apparently, all of his weekend meditations on the meaning of existence had not given him any satisfactory answers. He decided to express the question in what he called a “cosmic landscape.”

He had the piece printed in 1941, but it is not clear if it was performed at that time. The definitive edition, with the familiar shorter title The Unanswered Question, appeared in 1953.

Ives explained the piece in his foreword to that edition:

"The strings play ppp throughout with no change in tempo. They are to represent “The Silence of the Druids–Who Know, See, and Hear Nothing.” The trumpet intones “The Perennial  Question of Existence,” and states it in the same tone of voice each time. But the hunt for “The  Invisible Answer” undertaken by the flutes and other human beings, becomes gradually more active, faster and lower through an animando to a con fuoco. This part need not be played in the exact time position indicated. It is played in s somewhat of an impromptu way; if there be no conductor, one of the flute players may direct their playing. “The Fighting Answerers,” as the time goes on, and after a “secret conference,” seem to realize a futility, and begin to mock “The Question”–the strife is over for the moment. After they disappear, “The Question” is asked for the last time, and “The Silences are heard beyond in “Undisturbed Solitude.”

Strings – The Silence of the Druids, Who Know, See, and Hear Nothing

Trumpet – The Perennial  Question of Existence

Flutes & woodwinds – The Fighting Answerers



1. How does he succeed (or not) in conveying his stated intention?

2. What is the significance of the title and how is that expressed in this piece?

3. What are you hearing on the musical plane? Expressive plane?


Please do not simply repeat what he writes. I want to hear from YOU!

Link to the music:


  • Listen to the entire piece, perhaps twice.
  • 1-2 pages, neatly handwritten and nicely spaced (close to double).
  • Your title: Listening Assignment #: title of piece, composer, date composed
  • DUE Wednesday, January 17