Date of Submission

Spring 2022

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Matthew Sargent

Project Advisor 2

Sarah Hennies

Abstract/Artist's Statement

At the core of my project is the assertion that the human voice functions as an instrument. During my time at Bard, my musical practice revolved around an exploration and desire to use singing as texture, as a solo instrument, and as storytelling. I wanted to challenge what it means to be a singer in a band setting, a setting that often illuminates gender in startling ways that limit the creativity and confidence of non-male players. Through this concert series, I wanted to show the singer as a player, an artist, and as integral to the work.

I composed 14 original songs, each with different channels for incorporating the voice. For example, “Like a Dream” was written after an intensive study of hard bebop jazz. I aimed to create nimble and complex melodies that rang like horn lines, rhythms that took advantage of the song’s inherent spaciousness and ran over the bar line, and instrumentation whose main job was to support that vocal. “Another Day” does not follow a classic chord progression. Instead, the chords follow the vocal line, augmenting the harmony without necessarily adhering to a key signature. “Badlands” integrates my education in drums and electronic production with a vocal melody based on accents that elicit a popping and percussive effect. Behind each song is the hope to communicate something new with the voice, through range, dynamics, placement, and breath.

Running in confluence with my fundamental beliefs around the voice as an instrument is expression through lyrics. In my concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies, I have studied how performing with words sets vocalists (who are often non-men) apart in their musical practice. The themes running throughout my two concerts play with the idea that the lyric can say as much as the music, that the choice of sounds, use of vowels as belts, and consonants as percussion all enhance musical meaning. Fascination with the tiny decisions around the performance of the words, from where I choose to reverberate them in my placement, to their consonance or dissonance with the rest of the band, encapsulates a large piece of my project.

These are some of the foundational ideas and methods I employed to craft this concert series. However, beyond the intellectual and academic concepts, my music is hugely driven by feeling and a need to communicate and process through sound. Each concert presented a kaleidoscopic array of experiences stitched together by my guiding principles surrounding the female voice. Give to You traced cycles of growth, stagnation, self-reflection, and non-linear evolution of my confidence within interpersonal relationships. It dealt with questions of female resiliency in “Where Do I Put My Love?” which is a song about my capacity to share energy and the worry I have about putting it into the wrong place. The song’s elongated solo structure and rising dynamics depict the gradual and probing nature of those themes.

“Connective Tissue” was inspired by a positive change in my perspective in regards to my sensuality and body. It describes ease felt with my physicality, that I had for the first time felt recognized by someone else. Its repetitive introduction led by all-female singers felt apt, as I hoped other women might relate to my experience. “Time Capsule '' made use of scattered lyrics to fall through memory. It relied nearly exclusively on the voice to transport the listener through time and feeling, which I attempted to augment by the use of four octaves of range and inconsistent rhythms. “Mad”, “Secret” and finally “Like a Dream” detail first love, in its loving with abandon, giving all I have, seeing the world in color, heightened awakeness. In its hope.

My second concert, Fill My Cup, treads with more caution and angst through a similar field of experience and experimentation. The songs are perhaps more self-assured in subject matter, dealing less with confusion and more with power. The themes underpinning this concert are in some ways, the aftermath of completing three years of work and self-reflection in Give to You. The thought in my mind was that I would rather be full than empty. Fill My Cup ponders how one might choose to do that. My creative direction this semester was colored by the urge to fill different empty spaces. A concert of more extremes, it is broken into two parts.

The first half grapples with the erratic and tenuous experimentation I have sought out to fill loneliness or control change. Whether it is by “saying yes to things I don’t believe in” punctuated by united vocal harmonies in “Come Over Anyway” or by “looking for a place that speaks shelter” crooned on the full chords of “No Shame.” The second half seeks a more balanced future for myself, one where I can live presently and celebrate the filling of my days and heart with small things that add up to big feelings. Songs like “Think of You” and “Morning” engage with consistency and reciprocity. The metaphorical filling occurring is of coffee cups between lovers or with the intoxication of meeting someone new. The preciousness and fleetingness of these moments is something I have always wanted to capture musically. This concert series has led me to engage with these ideas of fullness and try to form a more comfortable relationship with emptiness. Harnessing these experiences and repurposing them in song and through the voice helps feels like a gift, feels like a dream.

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