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Durham University



Publication details for Dr James Weeks

Weeks, James (2019). Finnissy's Voices. In Critical Perspectives on Michael Finnissy: Bright Futures, Dark Pasts. Pace, Ian & McBride, Nigel London: Routledge.

Author(s) from Durham


The human voice has a central place in Michael Finnissy’s work. As Finnissy attests, part of the voice’s significance to him lies in its tendency to melody: his is an art of line, of connective lyric movement spun out over a breath. This chapter aims to probe the generalisations a little more deeply and investigates the nature and nuances of Finnissian vocality in two vocal ensemble works written thirty-five years apart: Tom Fool’s Wooing and Gesualdo: Libro Sesto. Demanding as it may be, much of the vocality of Tom Fool’s Wooing is rooted in fundamental vocal archetypes, connected with the work’s similarly archetypal themes of love, courtship and coupling. Thus Finnissy adopts and develops Gesualdo’s harmonic and textural strategies, and the expressive principles underlying them, in different directions within the work. Finnissy’s voices are not only bodies but someone’s bodies, placed in relation to these cardinal questions through which they interrogate their own humanity.