karaoke etudes

Five instrumental songs for soloists, ensemble, video and soundtrack.

Commissioned and written for Champ d' Action (Antwerp) on the occasion of their LAbO workshop March 2011.

Yannis' YouTube channel

“ 21st Century life is karaoke - a never-ending attempt to maintain dignity while a jumble of data uncontrollably blips across a screen. ”

Douglas Coupland.

This collection of pieces explores the concept of Karaoke, a form of interactive entertainment where one sings along to recorded music with a music video. In the conventional Karaoke form, the music is often a well-known pop song minus the lead vocal and lyrics are shown on a video screen, along with a moving symbol or changing color to guide the singer. These conventions are taken as a starting point for the creation of a video that functions both as visual information for the audience and as a score for the performers. The ontological levels of Karaoke: song - video - instrumental - performer - audience is expanded in these 'Etudes' to song - video - instrumental - performer - ensemble - audience. In this sense one level of audience becomes an active participant in the Karaoke performance. Another reason why this extra layer is used has to do with the fact that in Karaoke the vocal melody is always a given, it does not need to be represented graphically, it is simply incorporated in the instrumental layer. In karaoke etudes the solo part becomes some kind of written out improvisation on the melodic material. I could imagine that the solo part could even eventually become redundant, and that the soloist would improvise this part, whilst the electronic instrumental part and the video score remain as they are.

The lyrical content in the pieces is used playfully. To a certain extent I would expect an audience to guess the given song (there is always a sample used in the electronic layer) and therefore to have a relation with the lyrics that triggers a memory of the song itself. In this sense there is a misleading and recontexualisation in the use of the text, which often functions as a part of the score, in how the arbitrariness of which letters happen to be in a given word - act as a literal symbol for the ensemble.

The make up and numbers of musicians in karaoke etudes is open and can vary from piece to piece. A suggestion would be to keep the order of the pieces and have an accumulative number of musicians per movement. The first with just a handful to the last as a tutti.

performance history

  • Mar 19 2011 - Champ d'Action and students of the Labo workshop, De Singel, Antwerp, Belgie.