Singing without words - Jorane uses the cello as a means of expression

Posted by on 30 July 2004

FFWD Weekly July 22,2004 Preview Article by Kenna Burima

For all the chanteuses that try desperately to emulate Tori Amos using their pianos, it is Jorane, a Quebec-based cellist, who comes closest to breathing new life into that now-stale emotional musical genre. The almost-frightening emotional quality of Jorane’s voice, coupled with the bizarre soundscapes she creates with her cello, shows breadth and maturity well past her years.

Having picked up the cello at age 19, Jorane has perfectly blended voice and cello together, creating a beautifully harmonious instrumental duo. Though initially friends and family were unconvinced of the pairing – Jorane’s whispery soprano seemed an ill fit for the rich, sonorous cello – all doubts were set aside with the release of her debut album Vent Fou in 1999. What started as a musical experiment developed into a formidable musical expression as Jorane honed her voice as a well-tuned instrument. Treating it as such, Jorane soars, screeches and moans through elaborate song structures and classical jam sessions.

Her next album, slotted to come out this summer is another wildly divergent romp through classical and rock instrumentation, new-age sound effects, jazz improvisation and words. Known for her vocalizing rather than word play, Jorane is excited and pleased with what has come from her new musical growth.

"It’s really weird," she admits. "Using words definitely changed the way I sing. I am fascinated by the power of words sometimes. But when I would just vocalize, I had all these different sounds that I wouldn’t necessarily use when I would sing in French or English. Even though I sing the same songs each night, each time is different because the sounds changed all the time depending on the emotion I wanted to share. But I have found that even with the words, the story still changes. It’s still very important for me to keep the music as the main language."

Her cello communicates this language. Her proficiency with the instrument is almost startling given that she has studied only half as long as many young prodigies, but the relationship that Jorane has with her cello is much different than that of a typical classical cellist.

Though Jorane owns hundred of instruments, crammed into her apartment in Montreal – among them a double bass, a harp, two electric cellos, a piano, guitars, keyboards and Wurlitzers – the acoustic cello is the vessel of her musical expression. Jorane playing resembles a dance, choreographing her left hand to swirl and sweep in tandem with the many intense, carnal sounds.

"It’s the source of creating for me," she says. "I started to sing with the cello even before I was able to play. I’d bow the open strings and it seemed like such a natural pairing."