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Compositions using Vocal sounds only


Here is a compilation of everyone’s suggestions on choral music that uses
vocal sounds, not necessarily words. The original request was for pieces
that were contemporary, tonal, non-tonal, non-pitched, indeterminate,
"machine-like", using extended techniques, etc, but that are reasonable for
a choir to perform. Here is what I have found:

1. Swedish composer Lars Edlund wrote a number of choral "etudes" using
graphical notation which might fit in this category. I believe the Swedish
title is "Ko:rstudier." [that's o-umlaut] It's published by Warner-Chappell

2. William Copper’s "Prelude XXII/The Two April Mornings" uses inarticulate
word-ish sounds to frame a poem by Wordworth. The music is a transposition
and arrangment of a Bach prelude (Bb minor, from Well Tempered Clavier Book
I). If you'd like to know more, see, and select the "Prelude XXII".

3. The sound of overtones and drones- Sally Hopkins- "Past Life Melodies"

4. R. Murray Schafer's "Gamelan." SATB a cappella

5. Chen Yi's Spring has Chinese syllables in multi -meters AND
multi-tempi with a little section for bird whistlers and then there is
singing at the end (in Chinese).

6. R. Murray Schafer - he has written aleatoric music for all levels.

7. Aglepta "To leave an enemy without an answer" by Arne Mellnas.

8. Kyrie - SATB a cappella - Greg A. Lapp bp920101 - This setting breaks up
the text into it’s component sounds and manipulates those sounds into a
lyric yet cacophanous expression of Lord have mercy .

9. Gloria - 2 part w/ body percussion - Greg A. Lapp bp920102 - This
highly rhythmic setting of the traditional Latin text employs claps,
stomps, and finger snaps from the singers. Although listed as 2 part, it was
conceived as an ST-AB piece. A visceral and dynamic statement of Glory to

10. Sanctus-Benedictus - SATB a cappella - Greg A. Lapp bp920104 - This
passionate setting of the traditional text utilizes a number of avant-garde
techniques in a very accessible manner. Whispering, shouting, speaking,
melodic singing, multiple meters, and aleatoric singing all give this piece
a dynamic and expressive quality.

11. Agnus Dei - SATB a cappella - Greg A. Lapp bp920105 - Above the
pulsating rhythm of the inner voices, the soprano and bass present a lovely
melody which builds into a wailing climax at miserere . The use of
dissonance and the constant pulse creates an intense expression of this
classic text.

12. Three American Haiku - SATB a cappella - Greg A. Lapp - text by Klaton
Smith bp950301 - These three short movements capture the absurdity and
serenity of this contemporary poet. A number of avant-garde vocal
techniques work together to create a wondrous emotional and aural effect.
Although the score is graphic in nature, it is very accessible to the

13. Everyone Sang - SSAATTBB a cappella - Greg A. Lapp - text by Siegfried
Sassoon bp960108 - After an intonation, each singer "bursts out singing" and
through this cacophony, a haunting melody emerges and builds to a glorious
climax then fades away leaving everyone singing.

14. Joseph Gentry Stephens’ "Ineffable", "In the Sun In the Sand By the
Sea", and "Recordare". Can be found at

15. Meredith Monk's work. She has some pieces recently published by Boosey
and Hawkes.

16. R. Murray Schafer’s "Miniwanka",imitates water sounds - published by
Arcana Editions (in Canada).

17. "Solfeggio" by Arvo Part

18. Anders Hillborg "Myoaououm" (Edition svecia) (BIS recording 789)

19. Jan Sandström "The singing apes" (STIM)

20. Thomas Jennefelt "Villarosa sarialdi" (Warner Chappell)

21. Lars Edlund "Scherzo" (Warner Chappell)

22. Urmas Sisask "Oremus" (Fazer)

23. "Nokwic" by Carlos Chavez. It is published by Tetra Music(Alexander
Broude) #AB 780

24. The Lament of Job by Dale Jergenson

25. "Jing-ga-lye-ya" by Bruce Sled

26. "Adiemus" by Jenkins

27. "Kasar" - an Earthsongs publication by Grau

28. A CD by Toby Twining called SHAMAN

29. "Sound Patterns" by Pauline Oliveros (pub. EAMC/WB)

30. Messiaen's "Cinq Rechants" (Salabert/G. Schirmer)

31. 'Funeral March on the Deaths of Heroes' and 'Here Comes the Avant-Garde'
by Brock McElheran

32. Geographical Fugue, by Ernst Toch

33. "Lament for a Lost Child" – by ???

34. Ivan Hrusovsky wrote three choral etudes, one is called Rytmus

Thanks to everyone who responded! If cutting and pasting did not work
right, email me with questions.

Blake Leister
University of Massachusetts - Amherst

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on June 30, 2005 10:00pm
A wonderful piece is 10 proverbs by Arne Mellnas - espically the 'North Wind' piece where the performers, thru a process of 4 differing platael clicks create the sound of the rain after an opening section of the sound of the wind- very effective
on July 5, 2005 10:00pm
A few more for the list.
Mare, mare minne Arne Mellnas
Rondes Folke Rabe
Joe's Harp Folke Rabe
Compositions by Jennifer Walshe
on July 18, 2005 10:00pm
Chindia -- Pescanu
Dravidian Dithryamb -- Paranjoti (from Earthsongs Publishing)
on February 23, 2006 10:00pm
In the 1960's I directed an satb choir arrangement on the "Rhapsody In Blue" by Gershwin that utilized the chorus singing "AH'S" ACCOMPANIED BY THE regular piano solo. The arrangement may have been a Finlayson Pub group. I remember the front page was BLUE in color.
on June 24, 2007 10:00pm
"Hist Whist" by Hutcheson (Walton Music Corp.)