Michael Edward Edgerton
Michael Edgerton is at the forefront of vocal exploration by extending the technical and expressive capabilities of voice. As performer, composer and researcher, he has presented new developments in the search for the limits of sound production. Notably, he has systematically investigated extended singing using the tools of voice science and psychoacoustics. This approach has earned Mike considerable renown for those interested in the present and future of modern (experimental) voice.
As a composer, Michael’s music coalesces diverse influences such as European avant-garde, American experimentalism, and world music into contexts that are informed by scientific models and metaphors. Initially stemming from his work with voice science and dynamical systems, Michael has, since the mid-90’s been pioneering work with multidimensionality and nonlinear phenomenon applied to sound production and composition. Michael’s artistic mission is to liberate those sounds that otherwise remain in danger of being overlooked or going unheard, so that audiences may explore less well-traveled regions of a global, sonic landscape. In recent years, in an effort to focus on fine-tuned acoustical signatures that result from scaled manipulations of sound production, his music often explores extremely close or even internal microphone placement.
Michael has received prizes for his compositions. In 2007, his Tempo Mental Rap, written for Stefan Östersjö received the prestigious Kompositionspreis der Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart. In his review “Eloquent gestures full of tension”, Ulrich Köppen from the Stuttgarter Nachtrichten wrote “The (fingers of) guitarist Stefan Östersjö whistled along the strings, whispered fleeting noise-clusters and coaxed long drawn out tones from his instrument, sometimes similar to improvised, hectic gestures at dangerously fast speeds. The Tempo Mental Rap was seen to be a ghostly or disembodied piece, in which conventional musical expressions were thrown out. Throughout the piece, innovative extensions involving sound production hinted at an otherworldly expression.” Further accolades for his compositions include those from The MacDowell Club, The Michigan State University Orchestral Composition Contest, The 5th China-Asean Composition Competition, The Netherlands Radio Choir, The Dutilleux International Composition Compétition, The 31st Festival Synthese Bourges, The Friends and Enemies of New Music, The Midwest Composers Symposium, The National Federation of Music Clubs. Michael has also received recognition (awards, grants, support) from Musicacoustica Festival Beijing, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2nd party), The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2nd party), The National Gugak Center in Seoul, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2nd party), China-ASEAN Music Week, Forum Zeitgenössischer Musik Leipzig, City of Oulu, Kulturstiftung Dresden, Kulttuurivoimala – Culture Power Station, City of Oulu, Kemi City Council, Küng Blockflöte, The Leverhulme Trust, Paul Sacher Stiftung, The American-Scandinavian Foundation, The European Union & State of Sachsen & Capitol City Dresden, The Arts Council of North Karelia, Förderband e.V./Kulturbüro, Scientific American, American Composers Forum – Chicago, National Center for Voice and Speech, Arts Midwest/Meet-The Composer, Kittredge Fund.
In 1995, Michael was asked by Barney Childs and Philip Rehfeldt to contribute a book on modern vocal techniques to the New Instrumentation Series. Since his approach has been to focus on the mechanics of voice production, Michael applied for and received a three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Center for Voice and Speech to study voice science and participate on research projects that included: reinforced harmonics, chant, ingressive airflow phonation, vocal violence. In 2005, THE 21St CENTURY VOICE was published by Scarecrow Press, with the second edition being released ten years later with Rowman & Littlefield. The book proposes continued exploration of vocal production based within the framework of voice science. Michael has also published scholarly articles on music composition, the extra-normal voice, nonlinear phenomenon and multidimensional scaling in sound production.
Recent projects include a commission from Musicacoustica-Beijing Festival for Ensemble Proxima Centauri and electronics. Other commissions were written for Angela Rademacher-Wingerath, China-Asean Youth Orchestra, Ensemble Ars Nova, Guangxi Symphony Orchestra, Jan Heinke, New Music Coop’s Combo Ensemble (Turkey), Quartet New Generation, Rebekka Uhlig, Timo Kinnunen, among others. His music has been performed around the world by ensembles including 441 Hz Chamber Choir, AuditivVokal Dresden, China-Asean Youth Orchestra, Ekmeles Ensemble, Ensemble Ars Nova, ensemble: Either/Or, Ensemble Proxima Centauri, Guangxi Symphony Orchestra, Kairos String Quartet, Loadbang, New Music Coop’s Combo Ensemble, Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, Quartet New Generation, Works-in-Progress Ensemble and by artists Almut Kühne, Andreas Fröhling, Angela Rademacher-Wingerath, Chatschatur Kanajan, Gary Verkade, Jan Heinke, Jeffrey Burns, Joshua Hyde, Mats Möller, Matt Hinchliffe, Matthias Bauer, Mattias Johansson, Moritz Ernst, Philippe Arnaudet, Rebekka Uhlig, Simon Strasser, Stefan Östersjö, Timo Kinnunen, among others.
Michael was recognized in the “Marquis Who’s Who in the World” since 2015, and his “Tempo Mental Rap” is discussed in the important book by Josel and Tsao “The Techniques of Guitar Playing” published by Bärenreiter in 2014. Other publications discussing Edgerton’s work includes: Modern Accordion Perspectives #2 (2014), Network Science (2013), Pocci Catalog (2013), Stimmig – 10 Vokalexkursionen (2012), When Words Are Not Enough (2008), New Complete Method for Clarinet (2008), The Encyclopedia of the World of Another Music (2007), KörperStimmen (2003), Manuales Auditivo-Vocales; vol. 5 La Voz y el Canto & vol. 9 Manual de Psicoacústica (2003), Information Arts (2002), and On the construction of the passing of time in music (1989).
Olaf Katzer, Artistic Director of AUDITIVVOKAL DRESDEN has written, “Forty years after Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza” the American composer Michael Edward Edgerton has illuminated in his study “Anaphora” the expressive potential of the human voice. A kaleidoscope of 56 different categories of vocal multiphonics shows the wealth that the human carries in vocal expression. It pays to listen closely because simply there are many never heard before sound landscapes, in which multiphonic and polyphonic sound cosmos appears, although they are given by only one woman. These sounds are based neither on witchcraft, nor cast by a mystical spell, but are the result of scientifically based research in the field of voice, made by the composer himself and in his book “The 21st Century Voice”. Since the publication of his book “The 21st Century Voice” (2004), the American composer Michael Edgerton has become one of the leading experts in the search for the expressive possibilities of contemporary voice. No other composer has so systematically and unconditionally applied a compositional approach to every possibility of the human voice. “Anaphora” is at the same time a sound study, in which is presented his research on 56 different classes of vocal multiphonics, opening up a new sound universe.”
Michael’s compositions are published by BabelScores, C. Allen Publications, Componistenwerk, C.P. Press Publications; Forum Zeitgenössischer Musik Leipzig, PRB Production, T.U.B.A Press and Uetz Verlag. His music is recorded on Modern Choral Masterpieces (Dux Records); raven, le corbeau (Escargot ma non troppo); Alles – Auβer – gewöhnlich (MusikForum Dresden); ELECTRONIC VOICES (Galerie SPHN). In 2012, Edgerton’s work as composer, performer and pedagogue of voice was included in a film titled “Stimmig – 10 Vokalexkursionen” by Giovanazzi. The film is a documentary about the variety of human vocal expression: Yodeling, overtone singing, buccal speech, laughter yoga, extra-normal voice, esophageal speech, beatboxing and animal voice imitation. In this film, an excerpt of Edgerton’s composition “Anaphora” is shown, as is Michael improvising; additionally two former students, Angela Rademacher-Wingerath and Rebekka Uhlig are also featured.
Michael is currently Associate Professor of Music Composition at the Guangxi Arts University.