Joan La Barbara - Voice is the original Instrument LP 27297
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Joan La Barbara - Voice is the original Instrument LP 27297
Voice Is The Original Instrument was the first record released by Joan La Barbara in 1976. It has since become iconic as one of the initial examples of extended vocal techniques in experimental music. The human voice is the only instrument on the recordings, which were made live at the University Art Museum in Berkeley, CA.

The works on Voice is the Original Instrument were some of Joan’s earliest compositions, researching the possibilities of the voice, in two rigorous études, "Circular Song" and "Voice Piece: One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation", and the more free-form "Vocal Extensions", which uses live electronic processing. “My reason for producing the LP was to get my music out to the world beyond NYC and the major cities in which I was playing concerts,” she says. “At that time, Carla Bley and Michael Mantler had started JCOA/New Music Distribution Service which handled small independent labels, so there were quite a few artists in the NYC area who were producing their own albums and distributing them through that service.”

Just out of college and living in a Soho loft in New York, Joan began playing shows in New York with jazz and rock musicians, and with those in the new music scene. “I did commercials, which, strangely enough, led me to Steve Reich,” she says. “A composer I was working with, Michael Sahl (who was also Judy Collins music director and pianist) hired me to do some radio commercials and suggested me to Reich who was looking for singers who could imitate instruments, which was something I had been working on for some time and was part of my exploration of the voice. I worked with Reich on the development of "Drumming", imitating the marimba.

“At a concert I was doing at John Gibson Gallery in Soho with Reich, I introduced myself to Philip Glass and later joined his ensemble. It was the first time he had used voice in his ensemble, so I guess I started something! I used my own interest in vocal/instrumental timbres, blending with the saxophones, flutes and a Farfisa organ!”