Carol Sawyer, voice
Carol Sawyer’s work as a vocalist is remarkable for its expressive inventiveness and evocative power. She creates extemporized texts in German, French, and English, employs clicks, growls, and polyphonic chords, bursts into spontaneous melodies, and blends timbres with instrumentalists to create complex background textures. The large palette of vocal colours and techniques she employs is always informed by a strong sense of atmosphere, story, and emotional honesty.
Sawyer performs improvised music extensively with her quartet ion Zoo, in duo with Vancouver reeds player Darren Williams, as Handsaw with avant-garde Toronto turntablist Mike Hansen, and in the large ensemble Bug’s Black Blood, led by Coat Cooke. She has also performed in contemporary opera, most recently in the Canadian premiere of American playwright Ruth Margraff’s Cry Pitch Carrolls, mounted by Proximity Lab at Vancouver’s Performance Works.
Sawyer has used her training as a visual artist to create installation and performance works with musical themes and components, including an installation about madness in opera, Ophelia, which toured galleries across Canada and in Seattle. She collaborated with pianist Patrick Dubois in Vancouver and violinist Régis Huby in Paris to present recitals of The little known repertoire of Natalie Brettschneider, in conjunction with exhibitions of her photographs of the eponymous fictional historical performance artist and singer. She has worked as a composer, performer, and improviser on a number of collaborations with choreographers and dancers, most notably Practicality, with Helen Walkley, and Industrial Ear, with Alvin Erasga Tolentino and electro-acoustic composers Peter Courtemanche and Ken Gregory.
Sawyer studied music composition, performance, and acting as part of her interdisciplinary Masters in Fine Arts degree from Simon Fraser University. Her thesis work was an interdisciplinary performance piece that investigated various myths and fears surrounding the human singing voice. Her curiosity to explore the full expressive potential of the human voice has led this classically trained vocalist to study extensively with renowned teacher Richard Armstrong. As a regular participant in the Now Orchestra Workshop’s series at the Western Front, she has studied improvisation with a wide range of guest artists including Ron Samworth, Giorgio Maganensi, and François Houle. She also participated in the inaugural session of the Vancouver Improvised Music Institute, studying with a stellar international faculty led by George Lewis.
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