Like a circuit.
We know that women historically have been feared for being seductive, hellish, deadly: witness Aphrodite, The Furies, Sirens.
The Greek myth of Echo is heard as a lack of voice or agency. Adèle Olivia Gladwell banishes the assumptions of this exiled voice to that of empowered expression. The author suggests that Echo’s ear is more like a transmitter, open to listening and receiving. This loop makes for a circuit with all its cacophonous feedback.
Kathy Kennedy’s work moves voices through transmission via radio broadcast at its foundation. Though transmission can be more theatrical and performative as it is in La Marée des Jours.
Marèe_Des_Jours video by Shannon Harris
In 2016, for Kennedy’s collective composition celebrating the 25th anniversary of the all-women choir, Choeur Maha, the concert defies synchronous voicing. In the live performance of the choir member’s daily TO DO lists, the melodic songs invite delightful chaos. Singing throughout the concert hall and in the foyer, audience members are invited to meander through the performance space. The dissonance beckons as Kennedy conducts this singing throng.
Whispers and laughter echo in the din of the daily lists women create to organize their lives. Lists of the mundane are sung with enthusiasm and discordant energies. There’s cohesion in a non-verbal ‘ah’ voiced by the entire choir. The circuitry morphs, then everyone leaves the ‘performance’ space to, seemingly, melt into the background.
Far from disappearing like Echo, each list-singer has relevance individually and as a whole group of women in a coordinated wave of voices, on-site during the concert, and at the video’s launch including choir members who sent in videos of their song.
Many of my public performances have been with predominantly female performers, and they have been about asserting or declaring one’s presence through the voice. One of the earliest inceptions was during International Women’s Day in 1993 in Montreal. My women’s choir, Choeur Maha, identified sites of patriarchy around the city, and visited them with my low-watt radio transmitter and a boombox for each singer. A smooth and relaxing accompaniment of strings and flutes was broadcast while the singers uttered soothing, non-verbal melodies over it. The group entered a variety of public buildings this way including a cathedral, city hall, and the local electric company. Our aim was to infuse these rigid spaces with an organic, female sonic presence, and yet we managed to enrage officials at each site.
Some two decades later, the women of Choeur Maha and I have created yet another radio-based installation/performance throughout the concert hall and foyer, uniting former members around the globe through video.
My work as a sound artist frequently makes use of the voice as a tool for “echolocation.” I think we inherently use it to better understand the acoustic properties of our environment by making vocal sound. My ongoing project HMMM is about navigating public space as a group and inhabiting it vocally.
Kathy Kennedy is a Montreal sound artist working with various technologies and the voice, working in the digital domain and in community art with feminist practice. Kennedy founded the choral group for women, Choeur Maha, in 1991.