Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Ch’intrate: An Original Composition Utilizing Screaming Vocals in Classical Music

Peter Swanson '16

Peter Swanson ’16
Major: Music

Research Abstract

Writing for a chamber ensemble and screaming vocalist, Peter composed this piece as an attempt to bridge the gap between the worlds of classical music and modern metalcore music by using the extended vocal technique of metal. It uses a text by a current metal lyricist and employs contemporary composition techniques to unify the two realms.

Bringing Two Musical Worlds Together

Peter’s two favorite music genres are classical and metal. “Most people at Luther know me for playing cello, singing in choir, or composing, but not as many know that nine times out of ten you will find me listening to progressive metalcore bands,” he says. “One of the biggest dividers of the two genres is the vocal technique used in metal known as ‘screaming vocals’.”

Peter liked how his capstone project would bring the two worlds together. “In some ways, my topic is made up of two parts: write music that will convincingly incorporate screaming into classical music, and investigate how to safely and effectively scream,” he says. “It became a fairly personal project for me, as this was the first time I had ever truly shown people my screaming.”

Creating a Unique Musical Piece

In his research, Peter found that outside of a few instances of other extended vocal techniques (i.e., shouting, throat-singing), there was not been any classical music written like "Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Ch'intrate" (the piece written for the project). “It was exciting for me to think that this piece was a totally brand-new idea. Also, in researching the screaming technique, I was surprised to find that it was much more simple than I thought it might be.”

Screaming seeks to avoid the voice completely and instead uses a different part of the vocal apparatus to keep the vocalist from damaging anything.

Challenges in Blending the Genres

“The biggest obstacle for me was in the pre-compositional phase,” Peter says. “Hours upon hours went into thinking about how the piece would go and how to make the screaming work with the other instruments. It was several weeks before I even put the pencil on the paper.”

Peter felt he had to hear in his head what the piece would sound like. “I’m a fanatic about the architecture of my music, how it is structured and how it develops and moves forward,” he says. “When it came to this piece, there needed to be unifying ideas and recognizable sounds for the audience to latch on to and also sounds that would create the atmosphere of unease I wanted.”

Peter’s reward was the premier performance for the music department’s Senior Project Showcase. “The performance went very well,” he says. “The enthusiastic response from the audience told me that I had succeeded in bringing screaming into classical music.”

A Demanding, Yet Rewarding Experience

What Peter learned from this experience is that it takes a huge investment of time and brainpower to write a substantial piece of music. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see your music come to life, and it also teaches you about yourself,” he says. “Some of the most impressionable moments in my life have come from hearing my music performed.”