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Irish composer Amanda Feery contacted The Outer Church some months ago requesting advice on matters pertaining to the paranormal. Naturally, we obliged, the only condition being that she furnish us with a specially tailored sonic collage and commentary. Feery chose to assemble a mix of vocal music, which can be found below, along with some highly illuminating notes on each piece. "I work with acoustic, electronic, and improvised music," she says. "I’m interested in writing for anything or working with anyone that reinforces my musical ideas. I’m interested in the connection between creativity, memory, and everyday life - everyday flaws, fears, and passions, and how these translate into something musically meaningful. I’m determined to realise some of these ideas through a wider community, whether orally, or through non-conventional notation. Abandoning notions of ever becoming a pianist, I started composing seriously around 2006, and have been very lucky to work with peers, teachers, and musicians through various disciplines of film, theatre and sound art.

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"I’m drawn to musical harmonies and timbres of vocal music that have a basis in nature, the body, and an uncanny connection to the past. I’ve come to believe that this goes back to our relationship with a very remote musical history, an evolutionary relationship with the voice, as far back to our ancestors - how song, and how harmony emerged and evolved. With regard to vocal timbre, there’s nothing that breaks me more than an open throat vocal sound, belted out right from the gut, at breaking point. I think that must hark back to our evolutionary makeup on some level, something to do with our ancestors in danger? Through mimesis and physical response, we know the tension involved in producing that quality of sound. Through our emotional affinities we understand the associations behind producing such a sound. I think the sounds that we vocalise that come to us so instinctively, when presented to us in the context of an already affective music, give the music itself a heightened meaning.

"In vocal music, for me, harmonically, less is more. I’m not drawn to complicated vocal harmonies. A small group humming a two-part harmony makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention more than a group tankering forth with a 7-note clusterfuck of a chord. There are 2-note musical intervals that have a very open sound that interest me. These intervals are found in many other scales and styles beyond Western music. I think that commonality must have something to do with how sound and harmony vibrates in our environment, what intervals sound consonant to the ear, whilst other intervals cause a literal dissonance. These are the intervals, from my own experience, that I find singers naturally tend to produce during improvisation, communally arriving at a concord.”

1. Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music (excerpt)

"Most of my first listens of Meredith Monk result in me scooping my jaw from my lap, as did this the first time I heard it. It begins liturgically and unfolds into a sort of ritualistic chant. You can clearly hear the gradual transition from a pure voice to a more open throat sound as the nasal phonemes burgeon from the texture. The voices rise in tension and the pacing is so effective - exhalations that expand and disperse across the vocal spectrum. The rest of the album is also incredible.”

2. The Watersons - Souling Song

"The Watersons’ harmony is in another dimension altogether. There’s no point trying to notate it or recreate it, you will fail. I’ve never heard anything like it. As much as I love a full choral sound, The Watersons are testament to how colourful and raw and flawed a smaller vocal group can be. All voices are exposed, with little room for gloss and perfection. It’s the imperfections and singularity of each voice blending together that makes their sound so individual. Their harmony is so instinctive and ephemeral that you’ll not hear the same song performed the same way twice.”

3. Orlande de Lassus - Motet for 8 Voices - Osculetur me Osculo

"When I was a dossy, unappreciative undergraduate student, the only worthwhile thing I did in the library was listen to CDs from their extensive collection. I was immediately attracted to the early music CDs, particularly Lassus. The celestial purity of the early music sound is one attraction, but with Lassus if you listen long enough you’ll come up against these jarring points, harmonies that sound more at home in contemporary music. It’s like a double-take for the ears.”

4. Gavin Bryars - Glorious Hill (excerpt)

"I love how this piece vacillates between the past and somewhere more contemporary - a palette of austere and chromatic sounds.”

5. Stefan Dragostinov - Planino Stara Planino Mari

"This is my ‘right from the gut’ choice for the mix! I first heard it in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. It’s cut to the most amazing underwater scene in the Antarctic, a thick frozen sheet of ice for the sky with the deepest blues and turquoises dotted with luminescent sealife. Jaysus. I think it snapped the heart strings off of me when I heard it, and I’ve been trying to create the same affect in every piece I’ve written since, whether vocal or not."

6. Moondog - No, The Wheel Was Never Invented

"I had to include one of Moondog’s rounds. His album, Moondog 2, is a collection of 25 short rounds, sung with his daughter. I love rounds, because they are instant part-singing, instant community, belonging etc. I often wonder did our ancestors accidentally discover rounds and canons first, and vertical harmony was born out of that.”

7. Denson’s Sacred Harp Singers - I’m on my Journey Home

"When I talk about right from the gut singing, I had to include a Sacred Harp recording. I think the reason the Sacred Harp sound hits me at such a visceral level is because there is no real hierarchy in any of the parts. Each part carries a melody, it may not be the main melody, but there is melodic movement throughout the parts, no part is restricted to a ”harmonizing” part, if that makes sense. There is more freedom, and I think that translates into the overall sound.”

8. Karlheinz Stockhausen - Stimmung - Moment 51

"Stimmung is based entirely on overtone singing over a one-note drone, essentially one chord for about 70 minutes. This chord is continuously filtered though various phonetic inflections. The singers guide the vowel sounds full circle before moving on to explore another atom of the chord.”

9. William Duckworth - Sardina, from Southern Harmony

"I was introduced to this piece only last year. William Duckworth died last September, sadly. The title comes from the name of one of the Sacred Harp collections in dissemination, Southern Harmony. In this piece, Duckworth has rewrote, borrowed and abstracted material from the original hymn collection. The entire work is fascinating. This piece, Sardina, is based on one line from the hymn, ‘Evening Shade’. The pitches from the hymn are sustained and layered over each other, like scrolling through a waveform and timestretching one microscopic area.”

10. Bela Bartok - Bolyongas

"I used to sing this with other students in my ear-training class in college. We sang a lot of other Bartok and Kodaly short pieces. I can’t remember any of the titles, but I’d be able to sing them back to you because the tonic solfa was drilled into me! This was one of my favourites. I know it’s based on a folk melody, but I couldn’t tell you which one. Bartok and Kodaly collected a wealth of Maygar melodies, so it could possibly be based on one of those. Nice though, isn’t it?”

11. Rustavi Ensemble - Tsinskaro

"I first heard this in Kate Bush’s song Hello Earth, where it’s perfectly placed because Kate is a genius after all. I like how simple this piece is on one level, but not what it seems after a few listens. The accompanying harmony provides that wonderfully bare open sound that answers the solo melody throughout the piece. The melody, however, is dark. I feel like it’s withholding a huge amount of tension that’s trying to escape through the vocal embellishments. A lot of Georgian music I’ve listened to communicates a similar feeling.”

12. Sergei Rachmaninov - Praise the Lord, O My Soul, 2nd movement from the All Night Vigil

"The All-Night Vigil is an entirely a cappella piece set to Russian Orthodox texts. It is one of my favourite pieces, but I also return to it for scholarly, nerd-based reasons because the part-writing is so fluid, and it helps me with my own vocal writing. This movement is based on a Greek chant style of recitation, with an alto soloist.”

13. John Cage - Four2

"Four2 was composed 2 years before Cage’s death, part of his collection of ‘Number Pieces’. This piece is perfect for me because the harmonies are just given enough time to sit with you and seep into the bones. The harmonic changes, time-wise, seem to be spoton also. Total music of the spheres, if such a music exists.”

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The Outer Church Album Launch at The Hope, Brighton 02.08.13

Wrong Signals, Embla Quickbeam, Kemper Norton, Pye Corner Audio

Photography by Jonathan Carpenter

The Wyrding Module - Thrones Of Nitre

From Various Artists - The Outer Church 2CD & DL F&F028

The Wyrding Module will perform live as part of the album launch event

at Kraak in Manchester on Saturday August 3rd. Buy tickets here

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Limited Edition screenprinted t-shirt to accompany The Outer Church 28-track 2CD + DL compilation on Front & Follow. Available exclusively at the upcoming album launch events in Brighton, London and Manchester. More details here