Search this site The ears have it First she was spotted by Paul Weller while busking. Pook learned this painfully when her album Deluge, released in , was disqualified not only from the classical chart, but also from the newly introduced "crossover" chart too. She has no idea how the advisory panel came to its decision. In whichever corner of the record store you manage to find Untold Things, its music has enough layers to keep you constantly alert for the unexpected. Pook is about to give live audiences the chance to judge for themselves by taking the new material out on her first UK tour, under the auspices of the Contemporary Music Network.
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Some of the voices she was chosen for their inherent musicality — voices on answerphones rise upwards as questions are asked and intervals are sounded for multi-syllabic words. Pook, an award-winning musician who often uses voices and vocal rhythms — real, sampled and digitally pitchshifted — in her compositions, is fascinated by the creative possibilities that the human voice affords. But what happens when the voices prove untrustworthy? The hugely responsive music supports the stories themselves — not necessarily sweetly What makes Hearing Voices so personal to the composer is that, out of the five real-life women in the song cycle speaking of their experiences of madness, four are known to Pook and two — her great-aunt Phyllis Williams and her mother, Mary Cecil Pook, who died last year — are close relatives.
Mary, along with artists Bobby Baker whom Pook has worked with several times in the past and Julie McNamara are present in the forms of recorded interviews that Pook conducted with them. There is only one historical character — Agnes Richter, a German seamstress, who was in a state asylum for many years in the early 20th century. It shows a young woman surrounded by a family of boys and men. She went to finishing school in Switzerland, moved to Italy between the wars and in the Thirties moved to London.
It was there, in a small flat in Notting Hill Gate, that her breakdown began. Phyllis heard voices: at first they were benign. Within days, the tenor of the voices has changed and the writings are becoming agitated. The voices are so loud and incessant she has trouble recording them. One theme that runs though it is shame: the families of both Phyllis and Mary were horrified by the breakdowns.
When Mary under the pseudonym of Mary Cecil published, in the late Fifties, In Two Minds, a thinly disguised memoir of her own nervous breakdown and coma-inducing deep insulin treatment, her relatives were appalled by the exposure. You silly girl! The people in Hearing Voices do have their own musical motifs, but these are not hammered home. Dominated by a bedrock of stringed instruments which provide a foundation for the rest of the score, it often feels that the hugely responsive music supports the stories themselves — not necessarily sweetly, but it underlines time and again the experiences being shared with us.
It also introduced me to Persian singing voices, which I have used a lot.
Tag: Jocelyn Pook
Hearing Voices: Jocelyn Pook