Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Experimental vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth to make Penn State concert debut Nov. 17 at Schwab

Experimental vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth to make Penn State concert debut Nov. 17 at Schwab

Roomful of Teeth, an avant garde a cappella octet dedicated to discovering the potential of the human voice, will make its Penn State concert debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, in Schwab Auditorium.

The program will feature ensemble member Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Partita for 8 Voices” and other works.

Purchase tickets, which are $42 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student and $32 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

Artistic director Brad Wells founded the group in 2009, but the idea came to him while he attended college in the 1980s. “I started thinking about forming a particular vocal ensemble dedicated to new music in some way,” he said in an interview with the Center for the Performing Arts.

The artists have collaborated with a variety of composers and popular artists, including Tune-Yards vocalist Merrill Garbus, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe and Kanye West. The group also performed music for “The Colorado,” a documentary about the Colorado River Basin featuring works by former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.

Roomful of Teeth finds inspiration by studying past and present vocal techniques, including Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, Korean pansori, death metal and various classical singing styles. According to Wells, the studies provide the singers with new and unusual vocal methods, which allows a composer to create an experimental work based on the singers’ abilities.

The ensemble’s 2012 self-titled debut was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. In 2013, Shaw won the Pulitzer Prize for her four-part suite, “Partita for 8 Voices.” In 2015, Roomful of Teeth released the album “Render.”

“More than anything else, it’s the irreducible strangeness of these noises, ejaculations and polyphonies that underlines just how divorced we are and have become from our own capacities and natures,” a critic wrote of “Render” for music and film webzine Tiny Mix Tapes.

Roomful of Teeth vocalists Estelí Gomez and Shaw will be the featured speakers in a post-performance discussion with audience members.

Find more information about the concert and a Wednesday, Nov. 16, Classical Coffeehouse featuring Roomful of Teeth.

Complimentary parking for the performance will be offered at the Eisenhower Parking Deck, and complimentary wheelchair-accessible shuttle service will be provided from the parking deck to Schwab.

Watch the ensemble perform an NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Eileen Leibowitz sponsors the performance. WPSU is the media sponsor.

This presentation is a component of the Center for the Performing Arts Classical Music Project. With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project provides opportunities to engage students, faculty and the community with classical music artists and programs.

The Center for the Performing Arts is part of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State.
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