After three years of well attended performances at MASS MoCA in 2009, 2010, and 2011, Roomful of Teeth returns to perform what is quickly becoming an annual sold-out favorite on Friday, August 31, at 8 PM in the museum’s intimate Club B-10. Roomful of Teeth is a vocal octet that embraces the full spectrum of non-traditional vocal practices and develops new compositions through an ongoing commissioning project. Founded in 2008 by Williams College music educator, conductor, and singer Brad Wells, the ensemble is built upon the idea that any singer can learn any “non-native” singing language, regardless of his or her background. Roomful of Teeth incorporates an ever-widening circle of singing styles and invites composers to develop new works for this new model of vocal ensemble. For this year’s work-in-progress concert, Roomful of Teeth will perform work by young composer Missy Mazzoli, who Time Out NY calls “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart”.Roomful of Teeth is founded upon the notion that the membranes that separate one vocal style from another are wholly permeable. Brad Wells says singing styles are “audible fingerprints”, as they serve as markers of the human diaspora on the original instrument, the voice. He believes that the vocal techniques required to create these diverse fingerprints can be taught to anyone despite cultural, ethnic, and musical background. Wells hopes to “bring the full range of human voice back together for a family reunion” by incorporating and overlapping varied singing techniques from around the world into one ensemble of performers.
During a two-week residency at MASS MoCA, Roomful of Teeth’s eight classically trained Western singers embark on a journey with master teachers from around the globe. Past residencies have seen the ensemble study yodeling, Tuvan and Inuit throat singing, traditional Korean and Georgian techniques, Broadway, belting, and pop singing. Roomful of Teeth has premiered works by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Rinde Eckert, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, William Brittelle, and Caroline Shaw, among others. The group has received rave reviews for their vibrant performances and, in 2010, won The American Prize for professional vocal ensemble performance. Roomful of Teeth will release a debut CD recording this fall on New Amsterdam Records.
Pianist Missy Mazzoli, deemed by The New York Times as “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York”, will write new music for the ensemble. Her music has been performed by the Kronos Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, New York City Opera, and Minnesota Orchestra, among others. She is the founder of the all-female quintet Victoire, which is dedicated exclusively to performing her compositions. The group’s debut CD was named one of 2010′s best classical albums by Time Out NY, NPR, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. In 2011, Victoire toured with The National and Owen Pallett in the Netherlands.
Mazzoli is currently the composer-in-residence at Albany Symphony in Albany, New York. She is also preparing for the October 2012 premiere of SALT, a multimedia collaboration with cello virtuoso Maya Beiser (who was in residence with her cello opera Elsewhere at MASS MoCA last winter). Mazzoli is the recipient of four ASCAP Young Composer awards, a Fulbright grant to the Netherlands, and various grants from the Jerome Foundation and American Music Center. She has been a music composition professor at her alma mater, Yale University’s School of Music.
Roomful of Teeth with Missy Mazzoli will perform in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Friday, August 31, at 8 PM. Drinks from the MASS MoCA bar, as well as dinner and snacks from Lickety Split, are available before and during the show. Tickets for Roomful of Teeth are $15 or $10 for students. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 10 AM to 6 PM every day. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours, or purchased anytime online at www.massmoca.org.