Jack Hughes – Nina Dante (voice)


Composer: Jack Hughes; Voice: Nina Dante

Recorded live as part of the Project Incubator concert at Constellation Chicago, May 10, 2015

Composer’s Notes: The idea for this piece emerged out of the inherently musical and theatrical aspects of telling children’s stories. Throughout the work the performer delivers text in various ways along the continuum from speech to song, beginning with normal speech and then slowly musicalizing her voice through the introduction of rhythm, inflection, and pitch.

The piece is comprised of three sections, each featuring a short scene from analogous positions in three different fairy tales. Each scene is followed by an ethereal, wordless melody sung in the upper register. The first two tales—“The Six Swans and The Twelve Brothers”—are from the brothers Grimm 1812 collection of Children’s and Household Tales, and the final tale is “The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. In the first two stories, a girl manages to break an evil spell that turned her brothers into birds (swans in the first, ravens in the second). The third story is about a mermaid who falls in love with a prince and gives up her life in the sea to join the human world by having a witch give her legs in exchange for her voice.

Events in the stories rupture the musical surface as the performer tries with increasing frustration and desperation to tell them. Essentially, Tell is a piece that examines the notion of voice as a mode of communication, expression, and agency. What is a voice, and what does it mean to have one? John Cage famously remarked, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it. In contrast, the performer of Tell has something to say, but can’t.  

About the Artists

Jack HughesJack Hughes earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music in May 2014 as a double major in theory and composition, studying in the studio of Keith Fitch. CIM awarded Jack the Donald Erb prize in composition, and in 2013-2014 he was appointed Composer Fellow of the Canton Symphony Orchestra. Jack entered the PhD program in music at the University of Chicago this September.  A native of Reston, Virginia, he plays the trumpet, piano, and violin.

Nina DanteSoprano Nina Dante, a classical chamber musician based in Chicago, draws deep artistic satisfaction from the continuous rediscovery of the expressive and technical capabilities of the voice in both contemporary and traditional repertoire. In 2011, Dante co-founded Fonema Consort, a contemporary chamber ensemble specializing in the performance of contemporary works for voice(s) with instruments, with whom she performs extensively. With Fonema Consort and as a soloist, Dante has given the US and world premieres of numerous works by emerging and established composers. She has performed in Chicago venues such as Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion and the Chicago Cultural Center, and in Chicago universities such as the University of Chicago and Saint Xavier University; and has recently performed in Boston and New York City, and abroad in France, Germany and Costa Rica. Last spring, Dante made her debut recording with Fonema Consort’s Pasos en otra calle, under the label of New Focus Recordings. She has recently received honors such as the City of Chicago’s Individual Artist Grant, and residencies at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts and Avaloch Farm Music Institute. Highlights of Dante’s 2014-2015 season include performances in France with the vocal ensemble Voix de Stras’, a Mexican performance tour with Fonema Consort, a performance and lecture with the New Music Miami Festival, and her debut performance with the Contempo Concert Series.