Tiny Desk

Roomful Of Teeth

Roomful Of Teeth: Tiny Desk Concert
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/362098751/363055321" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Mix a bit of yodeling with Tuvan throat singing, add in a pinch of Sardinian cantu a tenore, fold in compositions from cutting-edge composers and you have the vocal group Roomful of Teeth. This eight-voice ensemble, which includes the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, is gleefully dismantling the traditional definition of ensemble singing right before our ears (and teeth!).

Musical descendants of the innovative extended vocal techniques of Meredith Monk, the Teeth tend to make sounds — some sweet, others alarming — that you probably haven't heard from a group of humans.

In Australian composer Wally Gunn's "The Fence is Gone," verses emerge from an infrastructure of "oh-ha" syllables and a simple drum pulse, ending with women's voices, tight in harmony, like a chord from a Casio keyboard. In Rinde Eckert's "Cesca's View," imagine a lonely cowgirl on some windswept plain. Estelí Gomez gets her yodel on, beautifully, while the three other women vocalize in close, barbershop-style harmony. It literally ends on a high note.

To finish, Teeth founder and director Brad Wells contributes "Otherwise." Warm, rounded tones in male voices contrast with a steely sheen from the women and a high drone like a Tibetan singing bowl. The harmonies take a tangy, almost Bulgarian turn, then we get something truly otherworldly. A pulsing, slightly creepy Sardinian "bim-bom" vocalise buzzes like a gigantic cicada. Dashon Burton's operatic baritone soars above it all. The agility of the voices and multicolored blend they achieve are extraordinary.

As the applause faded away, one of the Teeth said, "Thanks for letting us yell at you." No, I think it's we who are grateful — and perhaps a little stunned.

Set List:

  • Wally Gunn: "The Fence Is Gone"
  • Rinde Eckert: "Cesca's View"
  • Brad Wells: "Otherwise"
Roomful of Teeth:

Martha Cluver, soprano

Estelí Gomez, soprano

Virginia Warnken, mezzo-soprano

Caroline Shaw, alto

Eric Dudley, tenor

Avery Griffin, baritone

Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

Cameron Beauchamp, bass

Brad Wells, director

Credits:

Producers: Bob Boilen, Tom Huizenga, Maggie Starbard; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Colin Marshall, Maggie Starbard, Susan Hale Thomas; Assistant Producer: Susannah Whittle

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ben Folds

Performing solo, Folds performs three songs from his new album and two old favorites.

Tiny Desk Concert with Chelsea Wolfe. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chelsea Wolfe

Wolfe takes three songs from the metallic Abyss and makes them howl by their lonesome.

Tiny Desk Concert with Car Seat Headrest. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Car Seat Headrest

Will Toledo is a wordsmith with a vision, as well as a DIY sound that's still finely crafted.

Tiny Desk Concert with EL VY. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

EL VY

The National's Matt Berninger and Menomena's Brent Knopf team up in an intimate setting.

Tiny Desk Concert with The Arcs. Jessica Mowery/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jessica Mowery/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Arcs

It's our 500th show at the Tiny Desk, featuring The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and his new band.

Tiny Desk Concert with Wolf Alice. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

Wolf Alice

The band's music can be noisy and primal, but at the Tiny Desk it showed a different side.

Tiny Desk Concert with River Whyless. Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

River Whyless

The North Carolina band fills its rootsy music with unexpected instruments and clever ideas.

Tiny Desk Concert with Benny Sings. Morgan Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Morgan Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Benny Sings

The Dutch singer layers R&B, jazz and pop over hip-hop beats in his first-ever U.S. appearance.

Tiny Desk Concert with Natalie Merchant Jun Tsuboike /NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike /NPR

Tiny Desk

Natalie Merchant

The singer-songwriter gives a warmhearted performance of two new songs, an old favorite and a hymn.

Tiny Desk Concert with Mariachi Flor De Toloache Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Mariachi Flor De Toloache

While on tour with The Arcs, the powerhouse mariachi band performs live in the NPR Music offices.

Back To Top