In the choral music, many voices speak the phrase “I Am,” or its equivalent in Biblical Hebrew, “Anokhi (אנוכי).”
My first thought was to ask many people to call my voicemail and to speak the phrases there. As I thought about it, though, more specific ideas came into focus. I wrote them up as the following score, and asked the Cornelius Cardew Choir in Berkeley, California, to record it.
Here’s the score:
Speak or sing the phrase "I am" or the word "anokhi" ("I am" in Hebrew, with the vowels pronounced as in Japanese and the consonants as in... hmm... Klingon?) repeatedly. You may extend any or all of the phonemes or repeat any contiguous set of phonemes but must include the entire phrase or word within a single breath. Keep the sounding relatively quiet and spare. Several takes may be overdubbed for the final mix.
I added this instruction in an email before the session: “One tweak I’d like to make: since a conventionally-pitched melody will be playing against this, I’d like to stay away from sustained single pitches in the vocal performance. Sustained sounds should either be unpitched or glissandi.”
The Choir recorded the piece on 10 August, 2010. I attended via Skype and made suggestions as the session went on, I discovered that I preferred less sustained sounds, so we focused on those.
We did one particularly eerie take by working out the phrases phonemically backward, recording the take that way, then reversing it so that backward voices said the phrases forward. (The actor who used the technique on Twin Peaks explains it in this video.)
We also did another take consisting only of the choir doing the fricative “kh.” (They were relieved to only have to record one minute of that.)
For this session, the choir consisted of Brad Fischer, Katherine Setar, Jaime Robles, Cathryn Hrudicka, Tom Duff, Sarah Stiles, Nancy Beckman, Viv Corringham, Ann O’Rourke, and the choir’s leader, Tom Bickley.