1. LA SAGESSE (WOMEN, I'M CALLING YOU) 4.27
2. SPEAKING IN TONGUES III 2.14
3. WAITING 6.01
4. SHEHNAI SONG 2.03
5.   LOVE IT IS A KILLING THING 4.48
6.   SPEAKING IN TOUGUES IV 4.57
7.   WOMEN AND CHILD 3.37
8.   EN MIREAL DEL PENAL 3.36
9.   A SAILOR'S LIFE 4.20
10.   ABBESS HILDEGARD 3.26
11.   KAFI NOIR 6.45

 

 
 


With the Speaking In Tongues pieces I have pushed the boundaries even further. The idea stems from an Indian technique of calculation for drummers. The sounds that drummers make on the two, main classical drums (tabla in the North and mrdingam in the South) are repeated as onomatopoeic syllables. You learn the syllables first, before you pick up the drum. In South India it has become a vocal art form called konnakol. I have discarded the calculation and the rigid time cycles and use the technique to achieve a purely emotive collage of sound. I’m breaking up patterns and throwing the listener off the beat, being as mad and chaotic as possible, yet I’m also keeping you hooked using the psychology of the rhythm. I have started to build in other percussive elements like elocution exercises and silly tongue twisters, snippets from advertising jingles, or an ancient Celtic imitation of bird song — anything that will get you to question the nature of these percussive syllables rather than accepting them because you think they’re traditional.

Speaking In Tongues, IV, which moves through vocal percussion to percussive singing and then into singing, maps out the different points of reference between pure vocal percussion and song. It’s a very playful process to chop up rhythms and stick them back together. It’s almost like giving a voice to the chatter that goes on in your mind. A reviewer in Australia said it was like a lovers’ quarrel; it’s true, there are a lot of changes in tone that imply two voices. When I perform the Speaking In Tongues pieces some people think that they are improvised. In fact, it took me eight months to write the two pieces on this album! Every single syllable is set and never changes in performance, and if there weren’t, with so many clips and changes, I would probably fall into a rhythm which would spoil the chaotic effect.

I would class these as post-sampling compositions! I don’t think I would have written them without having heard samplers and what they’re capable of. My point is that the human sampler is ultimately the best. I often get a sense that when an audience sees me completely alone on stage beginning a Speaking In Tongues piece they are not sure whether I can actually deliver. When I do, they take away with them a tremendous sense of abundance and empowerment, knowing that even though technology is all around us, it is still human skill and inspiration that are the most important things.

Sheila Chandra 1994