• Jennifer Tham

Watery sounds : Miniwanka, choral soundscapes, and watercolour choirs

Many songs have been written about water.

Some of these have been written for choir.

One of the most fun to sing is Miniwanka, R Murray Schafer's choral soundscape of the moments of water. Most probably because there is no wrong way to sing CHUCK! or nibinibi or BRRRRRRRAASHSHHSSSOHHOHSSS ... unless it's bel canto.




Water never dies.

The SYC picked up Miniwanka again at our most recent sing-along, 24 years after we first performed it. Zoom lag improvised natural polyphony, voices flowing in outer space, some light years ago.

Watery sounds are fun, teaching us what we can do with (to?) our voices.

And Schafer brings back the joy of consonants. SPLoSH!

(More on Consonants Are Our Friends in a later post. Remind me.)

But—I want more. Something beyond sounding like water—

sssssffftststsststss do we perform the idea of water?

Jennifer Tham | umbrella songs

It seems to me that sound behaves in much the same way water would—traveling far or not so,

faster or slower, depending

on obstacle, or weight,

allowing the contours

of its container

suggest its form and shape.

Inspired by the way water frees paint, releasing colour that catches unevenly across the textured canvas, I wrote some songs for the SYC—

Jennifer Tham | umbrella songs (stage layout)

umbrella songs :

an umbrella octet sings from the middle of the stage, surrounded by a watercolour choir, who catch and carry the words.

Sounds travel through the space,

words get caught, painted

on the canvas that is the SYC.

During our Zoom call, the singers asked about catching and releasing sounds—

Must Nic wait for ZY to sing before she does? (See annotations on stage layout.)

What if JR—who has good ears—is the only one singing on stage left?

My response—let sound behave as sound does, changing through space, over time.

We only have to receive (words) with open hearts, and re-sound them with open voices.

SYC Zoom Chat snippet

A splatter, random.

One or two droplets.

Diluted paint.


Different paper, different smudge = Different hall, different spread.

Q: How does the song end?

A: I don't know. Water never dies.

Yeah, interesting to see how this turns out.