For a city obsessed with tasting menus and small-plate smorgasbords, there is a fitting festival of experimental vocal music.
“I always make the comparison to a beer flight,” said Lucy Dhegrae, the founder of the Resonant Bodies Festival, which takes place this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Roulette in Brooklyn. “Or a flight of anything, a cheese tasting. When you put three of something next to each other, you appreciate their differences.”
It may have been, as she said with a laugh during a recent interview, a “super bougie” comparison, but it wasn’t a bad one. Resonant Bodies, which began in 2013 and has swiftly become an invaluable part of the New York musical calendar, has a simple, distinctive premise: Ms. Dhegrae picks nine vocalists — three per night, over three nights — and gives them complete freedom to program 45-minute sets.
“I think it works for audiences because people are doing things they need to do and want to do,” she said. “We open this space and they fill it with what they want. You get experiments happening; it’s not always a fully formed thing.”
The wide-ranging results are often as much a surprise for Ms. Dhegrae as for the audience. The past few years have brought folksy screeching, glacial silences, drawling speech, powdery bleakness and spiritual solemnity; last year, a keening Ethiopian folk song was tricked out with an avant-garde mixture of yelps, croaks and hums.
Among the artists there is refreshing diversity — of race, nationality, gender, style and age — but it never feels like Ms. Dhegrae is merely checking demographic boxes. And if a night brings together three women, or even three sopranos with similar voices, their proximity emphasizes their individuality.
Having patiently built its profile in New York, Resonant Bodies is now embarking on an ambitious expansion. A small Melbourne festival last May will be followed by another in Sydney next summer, as well as coming versions in Chicago and Los Angeles and a residency in Banff, Alberta.
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