Power of the Voice

The human voice is the most immediate instrument of all. It is primal, personal and direct with no intermediary between the singer and the listener. Composing for voice and orchestra offers a rich set of opportunities and challenges, as selected works by Canadians Linda Bouchard, Bruce Mather, R. Murray Schafer, Harry Somers, and Claude Vivier demonstrate.

Power of the Voice explores how orchestral composers work with the human voice, the various ways they make use of text and narrative, and the impact the choice of vocal range and colour makes. The compositions studied in Power of the Voice employ a number of composing strategies such as signature motives, use of primary source documents for text, and sampling, to name a few. Students consider how a composer chooses text and what the role of text is in composing for voice and orchestra.

Power of the Voice begins with a series of listening exercises, each of which focuses on a strategy used by an orchestral composer in writing for the voice. Make a Composing Strategies for the Voice chart of these techniques and others, as you explore this theme.

Power of the Voice is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • Learn about the strategies composers use when writing for the human voice.
  • Explore the role of text in orchestral music.
  • Hear the difference between voice types.
  • Create a composition for voice that reflects an understanding of the strategies and techniques used by one or more of the composers featured in the collection.
Virtual Museum of Canada

To access the Virtual Museum of Canada's complete digital learning resources and lesson plans, visit the VMC Teachers' Centre.