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June 29, 2017

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Explore what's humanly possible

When Ralf Peters of Germany puts on a concert, it can be hard to tell what it is.

"I don't just sing songs — sometimes I sing songs, but that's just one possibility," said Peters, an artist-in-residence at the Taipei Artist Village (TAV, 台北國際藝術村).

He might start with simple vocalizations, like grunts or murmurs. He might scat sing jazz, half sing text or wordlessly express complicated feelings. There is a big bodily component: He makes shapes with his torso and arms. But the voice is equally spry: He makes noises that sound like shapes.

Peters is master of the eight-octave voice after years of training in the tradition of voice virtuosos Alfred Wolfsohn and Roy Hart. The average human voice range is just over two octaves, but Peters and extended-voice performers like him can express with all eight, in an odd and riveting display of what's humanly possible.

Tonight he is adding something new to his concert repertoire, a kind of pre-pidgin language. He has already done the prep work, collecting recitations of German texts by Taipei residents who don't know German.

"For example, I asked someone to read a very well-known German poem about the moon. She just read what she got from it. And I tried to learn exactly the way she said it," said Peters on Tuesday.

"The result is that it is not Chinese, it is not German, it is not English, it is not anything at all. But it has a structure. It has some kind of orientation. It's not just doing sounds with no idea of what it means … It's false reading, but it's reading that brings in a new kind of language, language sound."

For weeks, Peters has been listening to the recorded readings and learning them by heart. He presents them tonight at the "ImproVoice" concert at the TAV. On Sunday, Peters performs "Passion of the Soul," in which he'll use a stethoscope to explore what happens to the body when voice is stretched to its limits.

'ImproVoice' (即興之聲) ► 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 / Taipei Artist Village (台北國際藝術村) / No.7, Beiping East Rd., Taipei (台北市北平東路7號 ) / NT$150 /

No Rehearsal Required

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