More About Vocabularies
To begin this experiment, longtime manager and producer, Linda Goldstein recruited Roger Treece, a classically trained composer/arranger and vocalist. Treece found starting places for his compositions in the most interesting motifs from Voicestra live-concert recordings, and in classic songs from Bobby’s catalogue. “I set out to construct each piece with lots of twists and turns and modulations, like a page-turner or a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat,” says Treece, “but I also wanted to stay true to the loose, easy feel of Bobby’s singing, the joyful quality. What emerged was through-composed music that’s got groove.”
After spending a year writing the body of the album, Roger began enlisting members of Voicestra and fine vocalists from the worlds of jazz, opera, performance art, early music, cabaret, and rock and roll to begin the seven-year process of recording and editing and re-editing to design the right sound.
Among these were Grammy-winning recording artists like R&B singer Lisa Fischer, Brazilian jazz innovator Luciana Souza, Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer, and the stellar ensemble singers of New York Voices. The singers were recorded one at a time and in small groups to create a virtual choir of roughly 200 vocal tracks per song. Over the course of many years and over a thousand hours of studio time, the best performances were captured and sculpted into form. “The music emerged elegantly from the meticulous craftsmanship of Roger’s surgical recording and editing process,” says Goldstein. “Voices of different colors, types, and stylistic bents were joined to invent a new sound, inspired by Bobby McFerrin. The technique allowed us to combine studio R&B sound, classical choral blend, and African tribal chant. We melded them into a new amalgam, built up layer by layer.” The final mix required over 100 gigs of audio memory to house the enormity of the musical material: intricate, overwhelming, and yet vividly joyous.
The seven songs that make up VOCAbuLarieS “keep the listener’s ear in a constant state of surprise,” says Treece. Each song unfolds a kaleidoscopic perspective on Bobby’s irresistible vocal riffs. The lyrics offer a collage of Latin, Italian, Sanskrit, Zulu, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Arabic, German, English, Gaelic as well as languages invented by Treece to express the dynamic shape and articulation of each phrase. The song Say Ladeo sums up McFerrin’s musical philosophy. “Time for taking words away,” he sings, “the melody will tell the story as we go along.”
From the opening cry of Baby through the final notes of Brief Eternity, McFerrin, Treece and their virtual choir transport us to uncharted ground. It’s like arriving in an unfamiliar city that feels like home. This is a universal music that works on many levels. Every listener will hear something different in VOCAbuLarieS. “One song becomes a thousand songs,” the choir sings. Within the seven songs of VOCAbuLarieS are many thousands of songs, each one a moving, wondrous, enveloping creation brimming with ecstasy, uplift and a sense of infinite possibility.