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Electronics in Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele

Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?” was Vivier’s final composition before his untimely death – an eerily titled, premonitive work considering the circumstance of his tragic murder. Interestingly, in addition to voices, narration, and percussionists, Vivier also calls for synthesisers and electronics. Composer and sound designer Adam Scime, who is at the helm of the electronics for Soundstreams presentation of Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, describes how their incorporation contributes to the creation of “…a mysterious and deeply personal sound world that beckons the listener toward the music”.

Margaret Bárdos, mezzo-soprano

What electronics does Vivier call for in Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele?

Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele Vivier asks that a number of synthesizers be used with a variety of effects in different places throughout the piece. There is also a vocoder necessary for the voice at one point.

What role do the electronics play in the piece?

 On a very basic level, they act as support for the voice in a more or less accompanimental role; however, Vivier has also used the synthesizer sounds to enhance the unique timbral elements present within the orchestration. For example, in the last third of the piece, the synthesizers are used to heighten the quality of unique vocal utterance production – an effect that is undoubtedly influenced by the study of vocal formants and sound perception as defined in the field of psychoacoustics.

Vivier has also placed a vocoder on one of the solo voices in the first part of the piece. This processing effect places somewhat of an electronic veil over the text, an interesting choice as one contemplates the poetic implications of the words.

Excerpt from Musik für das Ende

What is the effect of using electronics in this work?

I think Vivier’s use of the electronics adds quite nicely to the mysterious nature of the music and doesn’t feel superficial in any way. The combination of electronics, percussion and voices is used quite originally in this case, it truly is a very special and personal sound environment.

In the wrong hands, using three synthesizers and a vocoder has the very real potential to result in a catastrophe of clichés. This is not the case with Vivier as he has incorporated the electronic sounds as indispensable elements within his musical alchemy. One does not feel they are listening to voices and synthesizers but as a unified musical instant: one timbral element being inseparable from the other.

Adam Scime

Adam Scime

As a young composer and performer living in Toronto, Adam Scime has been praised as “a fantastic success” (CBC). His work has received many awards including the 2015 CMC Toronto Emerging Composer Award, The Socan Young Composer Competition, The Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music, and The Esprit Orchestra Young Composer Competition. His music has been commissioned and performed by many renowned ensembles and soloists including Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne, The National Arts Centre Orchestra, The Esprit Orchestra, The Gryphon Trio, New Music Concerts, Soundstreams, and l’Orchestre de la Francophonie. Upcoming projects include commissions from Array Music and the The Esprit Orchestra. Adam is currently based in Toronto where he is finishing his Doctorate in composition at UofT with Gary Kulesha, and performing regularly as a double bassist.

About the Author

Recently named as one of Canada’s hot 30 classical musicians under 30 by CBC, Katerina Gimon is an award-winning and emerging Canadian composer, improvisor, and vocalist based in Vancouver, British Columbia.