Vocalistics: Cascades From The First Instrument
In McFerrin’s vocalistics you hear something ancient and yet truly new. It is not a matter of form – although the music is defined by a nominal form – the circle. The circles occur not only in space, but in sound. There is the creation of circles of sound – one of the most intuitive ways to make music. While musical notation allows for epic genres – such as the symphony, opera and concerto, which unfold in linear measures of time, oral tradition music has always favored circular and cyclical forms. Rounds and canons are a venerable form of western music. In the great musical traditions of the East, rhythm and melody are often conceived in circular periods. Breathing is circular: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale! Awareness of the circular rhythm of breathing is one of the cornerstones of daily practice in many spiritual disciplines. Chanting gives voice to the rhythm of breath and synchronizes the breathing of the singer into a collective rhythm that can – and does – invoke considerable power. On the right conditions, this power of collectivity may overcome the power of ego and create an opening through which the human being can link himself to forces greater than himself. When those forces are imbued with the spirit of the Divine, chanting takes on the quality of a sacred music.
This is where the art of vocal music is headed – or ought to be headed – from this seminal work by Bobby McFerrin. This is the state of the art of vocalistics. This is music that comes directly from the spirit. Now the search ought to be on for the ‘perfect note’, as we dig deeper into the soul. And the discovery will come: when the cry that is provoked by the fear of death colliding with the ecstasy of liberation. This is, after all, the true spirit of vocalistics. This is jazz!