Partita for 8 Voices

Caroline Shaw, Roomful of Teeth


Broadway Plaza between 43rd and 44th Streets

Partita is a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another.”

—the score inscription for Partita for 8 Voices

Caroline Shaw composes and performs music inspired by a range of sources and traditions: re-imaginings of gospel and bluegrass songs, extended vocal techniques, and the relationship between repetition and meaning. Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for music, having won the award for her Partita for 8 Voices, the only a cappella work to ever receive the prize.

Partita for 8 Voices (2009-2012) consists of four movements — Allemande, Sarabande, Courante, and Passacaglia — each named for dances from the Baroque era (ca. 1600–1750). Shaw fragments and texturizes this historic framework through overlapping gasps, murmurs, throat sounds, recitations of drawing instructions, and undulating melodies. The piece combines a variety of sources, taking inspiration from the wall drawings of Sol Lewitt, square dance calls, Inuit-inspired throat singing, or “hocketing,” and the American folk hymn “Shining Shore.”

Partita was composed for and is performed by Roomful of Teeth, the acclaimed ensemble of which Shaw is a member. Roomful of Teeth’s unique approach to singing and vocal timbre helped to shape the work during its creation, and the ensemble continues to refine and reconsider the colors and small details with every performance.

“Since my very first years living in New York City, I have spent a lot of time in Times Square. I used to walk through the area right after I moved there just to take in its unique combination of chaos and magic. It is truly unlike any place in the world. I love to see how many people come to the city and visit Times Square, who are always looking up in awe and confusion and wonder. It is that mix of confusion and wonder that is also deeply in Partita.”

—Caroline Shaw

Shaw lives in Hell’s Kitchen and imagined Partita for 8 Voices on 3am walks through Times Square ten years ago. She now returns to the neighborhood with Roomful of Teeth to perform an environmental staging of the work in its entirety. Set on the Broadway Plaza between 43rd and 44th Streets, this is the first ever public rendition of the work.

“I'm excited to bring this piece to Times Square because I think Partita reflects the spirit of this public space. I also like to think about the traffic patterns that move through Times Square, intersecting, crossing, and pausing in different ways, just like the text in the first movement, Allemande, especially "the detail of the pattern is movement."

—Caroline Shaw

In addition to Roomful of Teeth’s vocals, the public staging will include a dance performance from artist duo Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya with the LEIMAY Ensemble. The ensemble will interweave movement and spatial design into the musical textures of Partita, the flow of passersby, and the architecture of the plaza.

"Time Square is a potent symbol of the entanglement between multiple spaces, temporalities, and beings. Within this landscape, we are interweaving Partita’s musical textures, points, and vectors with the rearrangement of public furniture and the vibrations of singing and dancing bodies; resonating in an environment which is seemingly quotidian and opening a space for the potential of the unfamiliar."

—Ximena Garnica, LEIMAY Ensemble

Partita for 8 Voices is presented in partnership with PROTOTYPE Festival as a part of the 7th annual festival of PROTOTYPE: Opera|Theatre|Now from January 5–13, 2019.

Roomful of Teeth:  Caroline Shaw, Estelí Gomez, Abigail Lennox, Virginia Kelsey, Eric Dudley, Avery Griffin, Jeff Gavett, Dashon Burton

Stage Director & Dramaturge: Ximena Garnica

Space Design and Choreography: Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya

LEIMAY Ensemble: Masanori Asahara, Krystel Copper, Derek DiMartini, Mario Galeano, with guest dancers Erin Landers, Light Mcauliffe, José Rivera Jr., and Mary McGrath

Rehearsal Manager: Andrea Jones

Caroline Shaw (born 1982, Greenville, NC) is a New York-based musician—vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer—who performs in solo and collaborative projects. She was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy-winning Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member. Recent commissions include new works for Renée Fleming with Inon Barnatan, Dawn Upshaw with Sō Percussion and Gil Kalish, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with John Lithgow, the Dover Quartet, TENET, The Crossing, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, the Calidore Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, the Baltimore Symphony, and Roomful of Teeth with A Far Cry. The 2018-19 season will see premieres by pianist Jonathan Biss with the Seattle Symphony, Anne Sofie von Otter with Philharmonia Baroque, the LA Philharmonic, and Juilliard 415. Caroline’s film scores include Erica Fae’s To Keep the Light and Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline as well as the upcoming short 8th Year of the Emergency by Maureen Towey. She has produced for Kanye West (The Life of Pablo; Ye) and Nas (NASIR), and has contributed to records by The National, and by Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry. Once she got to sing in three-part harmony with Sara Bareilles and Ben Folds at the Kennedy Center, and that was pretty much the bees’ knees and elbows. Caroline has studied at Rice, Yale, and Princeton, currently teaches at NYU, and is a Creative Associate at the Juilliard School. She has held residencies at Dumbarton Oaks, the Banff Centre, Music on Main, and the Vail Dance Festival. Caroline loves the color yellow, otters, Beethoven opus 74, Mozart opera, Kinhaven, the smell of rosemary, and the sound of a janky mandolin.

ROOMFUL OF TEETH is a GRAMMY-winning vocal project dedicated to reimagining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from vocal traditions the world over, the eight-voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an ongoing commissioning process, forges a new repertoire without borders.

Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth gathers annually at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Massachusetts, where they’ve studied with some of the world’s top performers and teachers in Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, Broadway belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing, Sardinian cantu a tenore, Hindustani music, Persian classical singing and Death Metal singing. Commissioned Composers include Rinde Eckert, Fred Hersch, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, Toby Twining, Missy Mazzoli, Julia Wolfe, Ted Hearne and Ambrose Akinmusire, among many others.

Projects in 2016-2017 include The Colorado, a music-driven documentary film that explores water, land and survival in the Colorado River Basin (featuring former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche); collaborations with A Far Cry and Nick Zammuto of The Books; appearances at new music festivals in the US, Canada and Sweden; and partnerships with nearly two dozen higher education institutions across the country.

PROTOTYPE – OPERA l THEATRE l NOW is an annual festival of visionary opera-theatre and music-theatre works by pioneering contemporary artists from New York City and around the world. PROTOTYPE is a co-production of Beth Morrison Projects and HERE, two leaders in the creation and presentation of contemporary, multi-disciplinary opera-theatre and music-theatre work. The pioneering festival is the only one of its kind in New York City and is a model now emulated around the country - presenting both complete performances as well as works-in-progress through partnerships with local performing arts venues.

PROTOTYPE gives voice to a diverse group of composers, librettists, performers, and musicians across all genres. The festival provides a recurring showcase of visionary chamber-sized opera-theatre and music-theatre pieces that then tour around the world. The festival also presents groundbreaking new works by international artists and has become a global reference of artistic excellence in the field of opera and music-theatre.

LEIMAY Ensemble is a group of five international dancers and performers who create body-centered works around the principle of LUDUS, a practice that explores methods to physically condition the body of the performers and develop a sensitivity to the “in-between space.” Founded in 2012 by Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya the group took form through the creation of the Becoming Series pentalogy. The group holds a regular practice at their studio in Brooklyn where they engage in the creation of new work as well as on teaching, training, research, and distillation of years of direct transmission of embodied knowledge by Japanese Butoh pioneers, Noguchi Taiso practitioners, and Experimental Theater innovators. Their work has received commissions by the Watermill Center, Performa, HERE Arts, and the New York Restoration Project.

Ximena Garnica (born 1981, Bogata, Colombia) is a Colombian multi-disciplinary artist, director, and choreographer. She works in collaboration with Japanese multi-disciplinary artist Shige Moriya. Their collaborative works manifest in live body-rooted performance, photography, sculpture, video, and mixed-media installation art, as well as publications and research projects. Shige and Ximena are the co-founders and artistic directors of the arts organization LEIMAY and the performance group the LEIMAY Ensemble. The word LEIMAY is a Japanese term symbolizing the changing moment between darkness and the light of dawn, or the transition from one era to the other. Ximena and Shige work out of their home studio CAVE located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their work has been presented at a number of art spaces including BAM, The New Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, The Watermill Center, HERE, Japan Society, and The Asian Museum of San Francisco. This year they have been nominated for the USA Artists Fellowship and the Herb Alpert Award. They have been part of the Bessie Schonberg Individual Choreographers Residency at the Yard, the Watermill Center Residency Programs, and the HERE Artist in Residency Program. Ximena was a recipient of the Van Lier Fellowship for extraordinary stage directors, and she is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California Riverside. Her article LEIMAY, CAVE, and the New York Butoh Festival has recently been published in The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance.