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Voice + Body: Interview with Michael Kiley

Posted August 1st, 2017

Sound designer, composer, and performer Michael Kiley makes music that is enticing and beautiful in its complexity, called “dramatic and beguiling” by The New York Times., Kiley is no stranger to using technology to synthesize new sounds and rhythms—in Close Music for Bodies, however, he aims to do just the opposite. Instead, the show (coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival) eschews any technology, or even any instruments apart from the human voice. Also experienced in sound installation work, Kiley has designed an immersive experience of sound, but this time, the speakers are the performers, and the audience becomes part of that community of sound. Kiley is also a music educator; he teaches using his own practice, called “Personal Resonance.” His approach is woven into this new work, focused on the effects our bodies have on our voices, and the effects our voices have on other bodies as well as our own. We got the chance to have a conversation with Michael about how this new piece came to be, and what we may, or may not, be able to expect!

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Close Music for Bodies came into being?

Michael Kiley: I was running. I wanted a title that represented what the piece is in a literal sense, yet also make people curious.

FringeArts: How would you categorize this performance?

Michael Kiley: I call it a voice piece. Sometimes I call it a voice piece with movement. It is immersive. It is educational. It is participatory (if you like). I always end up explaining the whole thing before people understand what I’m getting at. There is no real elevator pitch for it.

FringeArts: How do you talk to your collaborators about it?

Michael Kiley: I usually talk to my collaborators first about my voice practice, Personal Resonance. I explain that my primary goal with teaching is to have the student understand that the real beauty and benefit of voice has nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how your voice can make you feel physically—and therefore mentally. Once someone understands how to control that physical sensation, their voice becomes as accessible as breathing. My goal with Close Music is the same. I hope to, through the mediums of performance and education, create a space where a community of performers and audience feel free to access their voices together, without judgment or fear, with the simple goal of doing something that feels good.

There is no real venue for secular, public acts of group voice in our culture. The corporatization of music, and the heavy influence of technology on singing performances has driven us to feel like our voice has to be perfect all of the time. The result is that most people don’t sing. And for those who do, it is usually during some kind elevated performance, where the goal is to be impressive.  I hope to dismantle that expectation in my own small way, and change people’s thinking into understanding that simply making sound is one of the healthiest things that we can do.

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