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Theda Weber-Lucks
Musicologist, music journalist, music educator

Cathy Berberian – a Pioneer in Vocal Performance Art

The Singer Cathy Berberian was not only a famous interpreter of such celebrated avant-garde composers as John Cage and her husband Luciano Berio. With her humoristic, slapstick or comic strip- inspired pieces, Stripsody and Morsica(th)y, she also became a key figure in vocal performance art. This relatively new vocal art tradition was mainly formed by female singer- composer- performers in the mid-sixties, early seventies of the 20th century, as for instance Meredith Monk, Diamanda Galás and Joan La Barbara.

In my lecture I would give a short introduction into the history of Vocal Performance Art, as exposed in my thesis KörperStimmen – Vokale Performancekunst als neue musikalische Gattung ('BodyVoices – Vocal Performance Art as new musical genre').

Based on my recently developed vocal database (as central part of the thesis), I would also summarize a detailed analysis of Berberian´s nonverbal vocal sound spectrum, its colours, textures and figures, and compare it with the sound spectrums of other related female and male singer-composer-performers in Vocal Performance Art.

What kind of non-verbal, vocal sound language did Berberian ‘sing’ or ‘speak’? How important and influential was Berberian’s impact in the beginning and the evolution of Vocal Performance Art?

Theda Weber-Lucks, born 1965 in Rendsburg, Germany, and studied musicology and literature in Munich. Since 1994 she has worked as a freelance musicologist, music journalist and music educator, based in Berlin and Quebec (Canada). From 1995 to 1999 she worked as a private assistant for the German composer Dieter Schnebel. Since 1994 she has worked as a music educator and project coordinator at the Leo Kestenberg music school Berlin. Since 1995 she has continuously written for the most important German new music magazines and broadcasting stations. In 2005 she completed her PHD KörperStimmen. Vokale Performancekunst als neue musikalische Gattung at the TU Berlin with Professor Helga de la Motte. She planned and coordinated several musical events including the music festivals “Gehörlose Musik” (Berlin 1999) and the “Leo Kestenberg Project” (Berlin 2005). She did her main research on new music theatre, sound poetry and Vocal Performance Art.

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