Speaking in Tongues features several ground-breaking pieces at the intersection of music and language.
We Speak Etruscan by Lee Hyla
The Etruscans, creators of extraordinary artwork, spoke a language that is now lost (only the alphabet is decipherable). Hyla’s piece imagines what this language might perhaps have sound like through jazz-like riffs contrasting with moments of lyrical stillness in a stunning tour de force for clarinet and bari sax.
Willingly by Alex Temple
Recorded voices of the friends, colleagues, former students and family members of the composer talk about unanticipated changes in their lives — some of them trivial and some of them very significant. These voices form the musical basis for the flute and piano parts.
Ishi’s Song by Martin Bresnick
Ishi was among the last of the Yahi Indians. Living in northern California, these Native Americans were part of a larger group known as the Yana. They were ruthlessly suppressed and finally decimated at the end of the 19th century. The few remaining Yahi people hid in the mountains until they all died, leaving only Ishi.
He was found and brought to the University of California at Berkeley by sympathetic Anthropology professors Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman. Ishi lived for several years at the University’s museum, then in San Francisco, teaching the professors and other researchers the ways of his people and helping to create a dictionary of his language.
He was the last native speaker of the Yahi-Yana language. The opening melody of Ishi’s Song was taken from a transcription of a recording made by Ishi himself singing what he called “The Maidu Doctor’s Song”. There is no known translation of the text.
Etude for 11 Faces by Florent Ghys
Étude for 11 Faces uses a synchronized video with some of my friends’ faces doing noises, singing notes and telling a story with real-time accompaniment by violin, cello and piano.
Different Trains by Steve Reich
During World War II, Reich made train journeys between New York and Los Angeles to visit his parents, who had separated. Years later, he pondered the fact that, as a Jew, had he been in Europe instead of the United States at that time, he might have been traveling in Holocaust trains.
Different Trains was a novel experiment, using recorded speech as a source for melodies. Commissioned and first performed by the Kronos Quartet, it has become a modern-day classic and one of Reich’s most popular and moving pieces.
Alyson Berger – cello
Thomas Snydacker – baritone saxophone
Cory Tiffin – clarinet
Arianne Urban – violin
Amy Wurtz – piano
Jeff Yang – violin