Randi Pontoppidan – Rooms

randipontoppidanRandi Pontoppidan is fucking cool.

Think about the human voice and how it works. The lungs push air through a pipe we creatively called the windpipe (Get it? Cause fucking wind goes through it?) In the middle of this pipe is a pair of rubber bands called the vocal folds. We can push these fuckers in and out of the windpipe cause we’re awesome. If we couldn’t do this every time we took a breath, we’d make some sort of sound. The world would be full of people making “ughh” sounds. And they wouldn’t be happening at the same time, mind you. The “ughh’s” would be everywhere. The earth would consist of close to 8 billion popping “ughh’s” like we were bullfrogs in heat. I’d nuclear bomb every single motherfucker. No offence. And, essentially, that’s it. Our vibrating skull and mouth help amplify and individualize our rubber band throat noises, but that’s it. From that, we’ve created music, language, and communication. The human voice is badass.

Randi does vocal jazz. But not the “shoe-bop shoe-bop” kind (though I’m sure she could if she wanted to). Randi is a singer that continually pushes the boundaries on what the human voice can do. She has vocal and singing techniques I’ve never heard before. This album is made entirely of her voice being filtered through a fuck ton of electronics. She’s worked with jazzers like Greg Cohen, Sissel Vera Pettersen, and Jamaaladeen. She also works in the contemporary classical game and has performed the works of Stockhausen, Cage, Lang, and Reich. In other words, Randi is truly fucking out there.

I understand how strange this album will sound to many of you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you decided to never listen to it. But you’d be making a mistake. Think about back in the day when some DJ’s power suddenly went out on his CompuRhythm CR-7030 beatbox. The entire block party looked up to this one motherfucker like he just shit the bed. Then one courageous MC picked up the mic, put his mouth to it, and beat boxed for the first fucking time. We’re still young as a species. We’re still figuring out what the fuck we are and how these meats sacks, we call bodies, work. Sure, the human voice may seem simple, but look at the shit we’ve made with it. Randi is at the head of this game. And she’s fucking good at it.

As a composer, Randi is extremely talented. If you step back from the fact that this album is made entirely of Randi’s voice, her use of layering and arrangement is sophisticated as fuck. If you find yourself wanting to suddenly laugh while listening to this, that’s because this was her intent. So, go ahead. Enjoy the moment. But be aware that there will be other moments on this album. There are beautiful and strange moments where at the midst of an organic orchestra you’ll feel connected, vulnerable, contemplative, introspective, and cerebral. You’ll feel the things that make humans so fucking badass. Not bad for a pipe and a pair of rubber bands.


 

 

 

5 thoughts

  1. Speaking as a young’n who’s sung in large groups for years, but never had any vocal lessons/training/practice until just recently, it’s so surreal to me discovering the sounds my throat flaps can make. Especially having an already pretty strong voice, but no idea of what that entailed.

    I’ll give you an update on my progress with classical sometime soon, but in the meantime, do you happen to have any recommendations for vocal classical music (particularly with a main singer, rather than choral like Beethoven 9, or group like Bach’s Cantatas)? I’m not quite ready to dive into full-on opera, and I tried Elina Garanca’s ‘Meditation], but too much vibrato for me – it honestly sounds lazy, despite being an obviously impressive talent. For the record, I love the purity of Jeff Buckley’s take on ‘Corpus Christi Carol’, which is undoubtedly something a kid who knows nothing about ‘real classical’ would say, but hey, I’m a kid who knows nothing about ‘real classical’! Thanks as always.

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    1. Sorry for the delay, been up in arms and fixing shit. Vocal suggestions are tough motherfuckers to give out without a bit more detail: Mezzo? Contralto? Bass? Tenor? Buckley was a natural tenor with crazy range. Badass sang out those high G’s in “Grace”. His “Corpus Christi Carol” is sung in all falsetto. That’s not his “natural” range (if that means anything). But if you’re singing that shit congradu-fucking-lations, you might be a countertenor, you bastard. If that’s the case then the entire world is now open to you and your illustrious singing career will be amazing, you dick. But I’m also sad to say (if this is the case, that once you work through Handel and the Baroque period in general, your options are hella limited. Unless you start singing everything an octave higher than intended. I hope this helps?

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      1. For sure, it’s listening recs as much as singing recs – I can hit the notes as long as I remember not to push, but tone is variable in those upper reaches, that’s what comes of singing for years with zero training. I’m interested to know if you yourself have dabbled in music; after all you seem to know a bit about high G’s and natural ranges, so I assume you know some stuff. Then again, I know there exists that rare thing, a hardcore motherfucking audiophiliac who makes the effort to learn some theory, but has no performance or composition aspirations.

        I’ll check out some Handel stuff, and I’ve also got downloaded Mara Callas’s ‘Pure’ compilation, as I know she was a big influence on my beloved Liz Fraser (as it happens, Liz was also beloved by Jeff Buckley – funny how these things circle round). I figure with a new genre, starting with a compilation or two and then following my nose from there is more sensible than listening to the 20 ‘greatest recordings’, risking not liking them, and giving up.

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      2. What a question. You’re back in full force! And because it’s you, I’ll answer this question I tend to avoid. I’m no musician, but I’ve dappled and been around it my entire life. I’ve worked a lot behind boards, beside boards, in choirs, next to choirs, turned pages, read pages, on stages, and next to stages. I’ve been in and around classical crowds, jazz lounges, mosh pits, rave dens, rap battles, open mics, hoedowns, funk bands, and musicals. I’ve studied a variety of instruments and different musical theories. When it came to shows, I’ve often found myself behind “the curtain” in one way or another. I was either dating, fucking, friends, family, or associated in some way to musicians. After the curtain closed, and everyone went somewhere to celebrate, I was there. Watching classical music is all fine and well, but it’s a special performance when those motherfuckers throw down at some house, at that perfect level of drunk and high, and suddenly you’re running away from the cops and helping someone carry their beloved instrument. Watching a jazz trio play what they actually want after some terrible party gig is where that shit really shines. I’ve often watched crackled old dudes sing their fucking guts out in that high lonesome sound as they pluck banjos faster than Bach. In all of these worlds, once all the pageantry was over, everyone talks about the music in the same way. They just love that shit and they all learn from each other. I continue to read and learn about music. I sometimes play an instrument or sing a song. But, in the end, I’m a hardcore motherfucking audiophiliac that just loves this fucking shit more than a mother does her kids. I hope this answers your question.

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      3. Better than I’d even hoped, thank you. I could say more, but really, you’ve said it all – I can only hope I get to follow in your footsteps, you crazy audiophiliac motherfucker.

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