They Wash Their Ambassadors in Citrus and Fennel. “Cultures électroniques no. 9,” LDC 278060/61

I have to confess that I don’t usually like tape and voice pieces. But when the voice is Joan LaBarbara’s, that does help. And when the text is a poem, a real poem. And when the voice is often altered beyond recognition. And when the tape noises are so consistently interesting, and so subtly and intelligently woven with LaBarbara’s stunning voice. Well…

The voice goes from almost unrecognizable, at the beginning, to some singing, to broken up bits, not even syllables, just sounds (like in Cage’s Mureau)—broken by LaBarbara in real-time, too, not by the machinery—to reading long bits of the poem more or less straight. (Straight meaning quite theatrically done, with carefully articulated vocables and whispering and moving in and out of a kind of half-singing.)

Aside from the dramatic opening (one of the more ear-catching openings out there), the tape sounds never intrude on the voice, so I’m always surprised I like this as much as I do.

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