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Composed: 2021

Orchestration: flute, voice, clarinet, bassoon, percussion, violin, viola, cello, contrabass, and tape (featuring the sampled speaking voice of Nathalie Joachim)

About this Piece

Silent H explores the abundant, nuanced sentiments that can be evoked by speech sounds. Even when they are distilled down to a stream of decontextualized, disassociated fragments, they seem to somehow build up a mysterious but captivating narrative.

This is the latest in a series of works in which I make a kind of sonic portraiture by sculpting speech fragments into musical structures. The speech samples in this work were taken from a recorded interview I did with Nathalie Joachim, while she was a member of the chamber ensemble, Eighth Blackbird. I mined that interview material for phrases, words, syllables, and phonemes that I found musical, and wove them together to create the piece’s melodic and rhythmic motifs. Nearly every note played by the ensemble was found in my recording of Nathalie’s mellifluous speaking voice. I take a kind of mischievous pleasure in putting some of those words back into her mouth. —Pamela Z