Voice Over Ancient Drums in a Burial Chamber

Using Adriana Cavarero’s Philosophy of Vocal Expression as a launching point to recognise the abstraction of the ‘who’ into the ‘what’, one can find parallels with both an over formalistic approach to composition for the voice, and again, through the metaphor of colonial expatriation.

This composition was formed by recording ancient drums from India in Aberdeen’s Marischal College in one recording session, then blending this with a voice recording session made on Orkney at the iron age Cuween Burial Chamber, where the recordings of drums were used as a ‘backing track’ to work with the concept of channeling the spirit of the drums after absence in their expatriation.

This places a higher contextual value on the character or personality of the drums than on their cultural value as an object which can be taken by force or under duress from the communities; who might otherwise rely on such characters or objects to form the cornerstone of their rituals, cultural identity, and their voice so often carelessly removed in the name of the colonial cultural power grab.

Aesthetic choices were made intuitively with the structure, and measured towards the impact of the absence of the drum over the added voice, so whilst it would have been more aesthetically humdrum to add effects such as reverb, I felt this would only have added an aesthetic ego value to the work and would have removed from the value of the intended context. This results in somewhat abrupt disappearances of the drums; however, this has been consciously kept to a reasonably minimal intensity as a way of making an aesthetic compromise to allow the composition to stay in the realms of quality and safety.


Many thanks to Abeer Eladany and Lisa Collinson at Marischal College for making the drums available to me.

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