Program Notes

Erin Gee (American, b. 1974) 

Mouthpiece I (1999/2000) 


My paintings have neither objects nor space nor time nor anything—no forms. They are light, lightness, and merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. 

—Agnes Martin 


When we study the science of breath, the first thing / we notice is that breath is audible. 

—Hazrat Inayat Kahn 


In the Mouthpieces, the voice is used as an instrument of sound production rather than as a vehicle of identity. Linguistic meaning is not the voice’s goal. 

The construction of the vocal text is often based on linguistic structure—vowel-consonant formation and the principle of the allophone—and is relatively quiet, with a high percentage of breath. 

The Mouthpieces presuppose a state of listening. They engage physiology rather than psychology. 

The construction of the vocal text is relatively quiet, (thus needing amplification) with a high percentage of breath: „lightness, and merging, about formlessness.“ 


Program Notes for the Mouthpiece Series

Erin Gee (American, b. 1974) 


I notate the vocal sounds using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) in order to accurately transcribe both the type of sound and the place of articulation in the mouth. The sounds that I use are often remnants or artifacts of phonemes, however, when placed in a non-semantic context, they float in a liminal space with no overt connection to a language. 


In the works for voice and ensemble, the articulatory possibilities of the mouth are often mapped onto the instruments, mirroring and expanding the vocal sounds to form a kind of "super-mouth" that can move beyond the physical limitations of a single vocal tract. Merging the voice with both the instruments and with breath, and repeatedly returning to formlessness through “a more (or less) pronounced utterance of the mouth”. Degrees of pronounced utterance.  This has been the main idea behind the entire Mouthpiece series, which began in 1999 and consists of about 30 works for solo voice, voice and ensemble, choir, voice and orchestra, string quartet, opera and other combinations.  Not pre-meaning, simply never in the direction of meaning.