Dedication: to my grandmother
The title – ‘voiceless’, from the Greek – does not refer to those who have been silenced, or who are unable to speak. It points not to the state of voicelessness, but to our experience of it: as listeners who have nothing to hear of a voice, and who must instead watch and feel and interpret the movements of a mouth.
We can of course hear the music. Yet Iannotta wants to draw us into the physicality of her sounds, as though we were trying to understand someone who can no longer speak – into the almost erotic sensations of bow and breath and fingertips that lie behind the music of a violin or a harmonica or a piano. Everything comes from the initial gesture: a piano chord, muted with Blu Tack; the constricted ‘ping’ of a very high gong; and the tinnitus ricochet of harmonicas wrapped in tissue paper. Each of these sounds is smothered or limited in some way, but Iannotta cracks open their voicelessness to reveal a rich world of percussive strikes and dense resonances. Eventually the resonances win out, as though by drawing closer to the sounds we see less of the concrete world around them and more the intangible threads that hold them together, and the work ends with a long coda of string harmonics and piano glissandi.
Àphones was written for the ‘Journées de la composition’ festival at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse, Paris, and is dedicated to Iannotta’s grandmother.
© Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2018