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009 Agnès Pe - doo, who, rrrr, brrrr. A Masquerade Symphony



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7 November 2019, at UP Center for Ethnomusicology, University of the Philippines, Manila.

Recorded by Jose Luis Espejo



‘Doo, who, rrrr or brrr. A masquerade symphony’ is a composition that was developed to be played for 6 and an infinite number of people. It premiered in Manila on 7 November 2019  in the University of the Phillippines, College of Music, UP Center for Ethnomusicology. For the occasion the workshop on performing the score ‘Buzzing doo, who, rrrrrr or brrrr’ was held in the days leading up to the premiere. The piece is created for the occasion and can be performed by people who have no knowledge of musical notation. The composition is intended to be performed by kazoo musicians with audience participation.



The cyclical structure of the composition is inspired by “Pagsamba” by José Maceda, who was a professor at the UP Center of Ethnomusicology. “Pagsamba” was composed for a mixed group of 100 voices and various instruments and bamboo gongs. It was premiered in 1968 in a round-shaped church, the Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice at UP, and a total of 241 people participated in the performance, all facing the center of the circle where the conductor led the ceremony. Because of this arrangement and configuration, each participant, whether audience or performer, hears the sound differently, depending on where they are.


TRY A MUSIC SCALE - “DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI-DO”
PLAY “DESPACITO” 
MAKE THE SOUND OF A FAST SPORTS CAR
MAKE THE SOUND OF A POLICE SIREN
MAKE A MOSQUITO SOUND


The kazoo is perhaps more accurately understood as a vocal distortion device than an instrument. When a musician plays a kazoo, s/he hums into it and that causes a thin film to vibrate. This vibration changes with the sound of the voice giving it the buzzing quality, which is unique to the kazoo. While the instrument may never get the recognition of the guitar, the tuba or the violin, the kazoo is still the only instrument just about anyone can learn right off the bat. If we consider the kazoo's function of masking voices, we may understand it as a sonic masquerade.The whole idea behind the instrument is, that a kazoo player by singing or speaking through the instrument induces an air current which makes the membrane vibrate and thus creates a summing, "nasal" sound. While the instrument may never get the recognition of the guitar, the tuba or the violin, the kazoo is still the only instrument just about anyone can learn right off the bat. 

The kazoo is perhaps more accurately understood as a vocal distortion device than an instrument. If we consider the kazoo's function of masking voices, we may understand its presence in this song as revealing that all the characters are actually in masquerade. The Kazoo is a folk instrument, but not in the historical sense of the word. Is a folks instrument since it is not part of the western "high culture" standards. Furthermore, it has a funny and phony relation with the concept of folk music, since it was produced as an industrial object in the era ethnomusicology itself was being born. Certainly, in contemporary culture, the sound of the kazoo is understood as irreverent, teasing, and possibly disruptive. These days the kazoo is a divisive instrument, and it seems to live its life mostly as a novelty toy handed out at children's parties. 

Agnès Pe

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Buzzing doo who rrrrr or brrrr' was a workshop for the interpretation of the score 'doo who rrr rrrr: a masquerade symphony' by sound artist Agnès Pe at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in November of 2019 which she facilitated with much fervor and professionalism.


The workshop culminated in a performance of an undetermined number of kazoo players in which the kazoo was used as a vocal distortion device rather than an instrument. I participated and came out with so much knowledge and insight that affected me and informed my practice as someone who works with sound and noise. I also got to bring home a kazoo as well!

Markus Bulandus, musician and participant 

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I was introduced to the kazoo when a friend brought it back from the US and it became a fun little instrument to include distortion to a voice performance. so when i saw the workshop featuring the kazoo with sound artist Agnès Pe, and inspired by José Maceda, it was immediately interesting and exciting for me.

During the workshop, we were arranged in groups, each holding the same color of kazoo immediately adding a touch of fun among the players. Each group was given a designated sound to play on the kazoo. All we had to do was follow Agnès as she conducts the performance and enjoy and listen as the sound fills the big multi-purpose hall. It was truly in the same light as maceda’s udlot-udlot where anybody can ‘make music’ given simple instructions, and the more participants there are, the more impactful the sound can be.

I am glad I joined the workshop/concert, not only as someone who enjoys the kazoo, but to have the opportunity to play it with others while exploring its sonic potential.

I thought it was an experience that celebrates the simplicity of the kazoo and how this simplicity, when multiplied, can make an interesting collective musical experience.

Joee Mejias, musician and participant 

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When I was first asked which artist I would like to invite to give a workshop on José Maceda's aesthetics, I had doubts. They lasted about 40 seconds. It was pretty clear to me who I wanted to work with. Agnès has a vast knowledge of music, but what was really crucial was her approach. We traveled to Manila to screen a documentary on Udlot Udlot. Udlot Udlot was first performed at the University of the Philippines in 1975. The film was directed by Helena Giron and Samuel Delgado. It covered the special educational program that we had organized in Madrid in order to perform this piece as part of the 2019 Archipiélago Festival. It was also about the building we chose to perform the piece: The Crystal Palace. This building hosted part of the General Philippine Exposition of 1887. When the Philippines were a Spanish colony, they created the exhibition to encourage Spanish entrepreneurs to start extraction projects in the forest. I figured that Maceda's theoretical and formal work on the bamboo would be a nice way to exorcise the dark past of that building. Agnès found much more in Maceda's aesthetics. The putting together, the playfulness, the use of nearby materials.  What was the point of thinking about the wood? If Maceda had used bamboo instruments because they were close and uncomplicated, Agnès used kazoos because they were also close and easy to use. She clearly understood that besides the music, the point was to make it together, right there, that evening. It has been one of the best travels I have ever made and I remember every day with enthusiasm and joy. Forgive me if I don't jump into theorizing, it was simply great fun.

José Luis Espejo, researcher and sound curator 

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