Roomful of Teeth

The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth are putting together their debut CD for New Amsterdam Records, and they need your support. The recording, which will be featuring music that intends to explore diverse styles of vocalization from around the world, is being covered through that ever-popular crowd-funder known as Kickstarter. The funding is largely for the production and packaging costs of the release.
And the music on the CD is being written by a lineup of composers that already looks like it’s worth every bit of the money: Sarah Kirkland Snider, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, and Rinde Eckert, just to name a few!

You can contribute to the drive up here or on the bottom.

Artistic director/founder Brad Wells and singer-composer Caroline Shaw from the group had a few minutes to discuss the project.

CM: Can you please talk about the group itself and how this project happened?

Brad: The group is the fruition of an idea that had been rolling around in my head back in college when that tension began to develop between my love of the power and range of western classical singing and the excitement and visceral response I had to contemporary singers of all stripes from Meredith Monk and Cathy Berberian to Neil Young and Bono and many others. Over the next years I did lots of investigating of world vocal styles and what they had in common with our familiar singing techniques. This eventually led to the idea of developing a sort of Swiss Army knife vocal group for which composers could write and really explore a fuller notion of the voice.

CM: The idea of the different styles of vocal being used in these pieces looks really interesting! Could you talk about that?

Caroline: Each summer during our residency, I just fall so wildly in love with a particular new sound or texture we’ve been working on that I stay up til 3am every night writing. “Passacaglia” came entirely out of my obsession with the yodel break (the way the sound changes when you click from your chest to your head voice). And “Courante” is built on a woven bed of hocketing voices that are engaged in an abstracted form of Katajak, the Inuit throat singing tradition we had been learning about with Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik. Sometimes there are little things we’ve come up with in our sessions or when we’re making dinner that end up in a piece. One of my favorites is a deep growl that we call the “Akinisie Rumble”. (Listen for it near the end of Courante, when Estelí opens her mouth and makes the most terrifying, beautiful, insane sound!)

CM: Has there been any talk of what the next ideas will be for the group’s follow-up?

Brad: Later this month we’ll be working with a quartet of guys who are real masters in the “cantu a tenore” tradition from Sardinia. I’m also listening to techniques from various parts of Africa and South America to possibly study in the near future. And collaborations with composers further afield are also on the horizon.

Ecstatic Music Festival – Roomful of Teeth and tUnE-yArDs from Kaufman Center on Vimeo.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The project looks like it has reached its goal, but you can still contribute to help them with additional costs and also get some rewarded perks in the process. They got a week left!

Click here to contribute to the Roomful of Teeth Kickstarter campaign

Roomful of Teeth (


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