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The Duke of York

by Jen Wang and Isaac Io Schankler

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shush 00:54
nessun dorma 02:54
eeaao 01:40


Alvin Lucier's The Duke of York (1971) is a remarkable piece of music for a vocalist and a "synthesist," who uses electronic equipment to "alter the vocal identity" of the vocalist. Lucier is expansive in his imagining of vocal materials: the singer may select "any number of songs, speeches, arias, passages from books, films, television, poems, or plays, or any other vocal utterances including those of non-human intelligences."

There is also, as always, a personal dimension to Lucier's work. He envisions the piece as a way for performers to "strengthen personal ties," working together to select music that "either or both have known and remembered since childhood, arranging them in the order of their emergence in their awarenesses."

In the hands of Jen Wang, the piece becomes a meditation on the complications and tensions of her Chinese-American heritage, with the inclusion of childhood lullabies, anecdotes, operatic arias, and poignant quotations in English and Mandarin.

Meanwhile, Isaac Io Schankler's electronics create a chorus of imaginary voices as accompaniment and counterpoint to Wang's vocals. Using a machine learning model called RAVE (Realtime Audio Variational autoEncoder), Schankler creates several versions of Wang's voice that are then tweaked in various ways to create new harmonies and textures. Sometimes these voices hew closely to Wang's original vocal; at other times they seem to become distracted or rebellious.


"I think that, for the children of immigrants, the notion of identity and of 'home' can both be confusing and intertwined things. Home is the literal place you go home to; home is a country your parents have told you about (but that you may or may not have ever been to, that may well have changed a great deal since your parents left); home is the country you live in (but that country may not always make you feel wanted or welcome). I also think that, as a human being (and, specifically, a queer Asian American woman), the existential question I struggle with most is how to... function, how to just *be*, how to keep that spark of joy going in your life, on days (or in months, or years) when it can feel like the only home you know doesn't want you. When you don't know if your idealism is wise, or stupid, or if there even is a right answer to the question of how to see the world around you."

"So the piece, as we performed it and as it's realized here, has bits of lullabies; a childhood story that my dad used to tell about his three kids that defined each of us, in a way; an aria from Turandot, the first opera my dad took me to, which we both loved and felt deeply ambivalent about because its China is (to say the least) not his China; an Appalachian song about homecoming (my own background with Appalachian music started with trying to better understand this country, my home); and a final passage from Everything Everywhere All At Once, where the movie-star-smokeshow-universe Waymond explains how he survives."

-Jen Wang


released April 7, 2023

The Duke of York by Alvin Lucier

Jen Wang, voice
Isaac Io Schankler, electronics

Track 2 - Music & text: Chinese traditional
Track 3 - Text: Jen Wang
Track 4 - Text: Unknown, Music: Heinrich Isaac
Track 5 - Text: Maxine Hong Kingston, from “The Woman Warrior”
Track 6 - Text: Giuseppe Adami & Renato Simoni, Music: Giacomo Puccini, from “Turandot”
Track 7 - Music & text: Appalachian traditional
Track 8 - Text: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinhert, from “Everything Everywhere All At Once”

Mixed by Isaac Io Schankler and Nick Norton
Mastered by Nick Norton

RAVE (Realtime Audio Variational autoEncoder) by Antoine Caillon and Philippe Esling:


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isaac io schankler Los Angeles, California

Isaac (they/them) makes various kinds of music for concerts and interactive media.

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