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VOCALISE began in the winter months, like both its predecessors, Songs Without Words and Fanfare for the Common Man. Living in the Pacific Northwest, winters are defined by dark, dank days and very few, if any, sunny blue skies. Personally, I find the winter months my most productive time to begin large projects such as this one. The Danish created the term “hygge” to describe the feeling of comfort and pleasure being indoors when weather and low temperatures are unpleasant. I have lived in Seattle almost all my life; I actually love this type of weather – the cold and the wet, the snow and the rain, and the comfort from the little heater in my studio.

I decided to test my musical limits once again and sing compositions that I thought were initially “un-singable,” which led me to focus on the pens of Russian masters Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky, whose works make up 60% of the material in this project. Vocalizing these works was a huge challenge and, in the end, VERY gratifying. I discovered some new techniques and textures. One of the prevalent elements was my solo voice, which I began to explore on Fanfare for the Common Man. Another is the advanced vocalization of instruments in the percussion section. I analyzed and sang each component of the specific instrument’s sonic fingerprint separately, then combined them to form the final instrument. This worked exceedingly well, and if I close my eyes and listen carefully to the snare drum in Prokofiev’s “L’Amour des Trois Oranges: Marche,” it is difficult to tell it was produced by my voice.


Another new discovery is the use of my classical choir technique as demonstrated in Fauré’s “Pavane.” The challenge here was to be able to layer choir vocals over existing orchestral vocals without sonically competing with each other. Almost all the orchestral vocals are non-vibrato. All the choir vocals were sung with vibrato and classical vocal resonance. The choir parts in this score were in the typical SATB format, so to create a full-sounding chorus, I adjusted the size of my mouth (the resonator) to approximate either men’s or women’s palate timbres. Another experiment or “what if?” that worked!

Three arrangements in this new project were derived from piano (not full orchestral) scores. Once I realized I could achieve complex works like these, I set my sights higher on increasingly difficult and even more engaging material. Prokofiev’s “Toccata” was nearly impossible to sing. There were more than a few late evenings when I left the studio hoarse after arduously focusing on the details of this piece.

Another piano score discovery was “The Mystic Barricades” by François Couperin, suggested by one of my friends in the medical community. What a great suggestion, Dr. Don – thank you! It is a beautiful work, light and delicate, that makes even Seattle’s bumper-to-bumper, rainy morning commuter traffic tolerable.

On Fanfare for the Common Man, I included the revered and famous work by Gustav Holst, “Mars: The Bringer of War” from his masterpiece, The Planets. This time, I included another great composition by Holst – “Suite 1, Movement 2, Interlude.” Arranged for wind ensemble, I was able to preserve some of the military band feel.

Moving through the pieces, one of my absolute favorites is the stunning work by Prokofiev – “Montagues and Capulets” from his ballet score to Romeo and Juliet. Using high-definition audio at a high bit rate, I was able to recreate the dynamic range of the orchestra with just my human voice. Watch your speakers!

The other Rachmaninoff composition, his piano work, “Prelude #5 in G Minor” was also quite a challenge. There is an intricate little continuo part under the middle section of this work that took a long while to sort out and perfect. What a gorgeous work by Rachmaninoff.

Prokofiev’s “L’Amour des Trois Oranges: Marche,” is known as a technically difficult composition; I wasn’t sure my vocalization would do it justice. As I launched headlong into it, I felt the power and grandioso while singing it. When one listens to all three of Prokofiev’s works together, his genius is undeniable.

Usually, I conclude with an adagio to allow the listener to ponder all that they have just heard. On Songs Without Words, the adagio was Albinoni’s “Adagio in G Minor.” On Fanfare for the Common Man, it was Khachaturian’s “Gayane’s Adagio.” For this project, I decided to keep the tempo and feel of an adagio but with a Celtic-inspired composition that is reflective and uplifting. I chose an instrumental piece by Dire Straits’ frontman, Mark Knopfler, which he scored for the film Local Hero. Arranged for voice and fretless bass, it makes the perfect close to this project.

I hope you enjoy this new recording as much as I did creating it.

Dan Dean, Mercer Island, WA, February 2024