Paul Dutton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Paul Dutton 

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The way "free-voice singer" Paul Dutton shrieks, gurgles, snorts, clicks his tongue, and otherwise carries on, it can make you wonder just how our standards for a "good voice" ever came about in the first place. How, for instance, could vocal sound have become codified in such a way as to exclude the exhilarating sonic blur that Dutton achieves by swallowing his tongue and forcing air through his sinuses? Such high jinks, however, don't simply represent rebellion for its own sake. Not satisfied with simply discovering these sounds, Dutton organizes them into an extraverbal language with which he can construct rich, varied works--and it's what he says with this language that ultimately makes him worth listening to. His remarkably complex tapestries of vocal sound show how even belching can work in service of beauty. Dutton, who started out singing British folk music and Gregorian chant (and who says his "sound poetry" owes as much to R & B singers Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Clarence "Frogman" Henry as to dadaists Kurt Schwitters and Hugo Ball), is working some heavy territory here, but what could come off as daunting impenetrability in some hands is never less than engaging in his, thanks to his playful sense of humor and his innate musicality. Monday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ellen Band.

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