Gustavo Penha

UFMS – Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil;


One can think about the concept of solfege far from its habitual conceptions, which is understood as a decoding process of information written in a musical score as well as a discipline from the formal music education systems. In a larger view, one may also see solfege as a filter or an operator in the musical listening, which selects some expressive lines from sound and musical objects. The construction of this capacity of selection is very gradual during musical learning and practicing. In the auditory listening, this selection process is directly related to a singular and subtle connection between ear and voice, in which the voice is activated, as an instrument with its own “keys”, as soon as a sound signal turns into a perceptive-auditory signal in the listening process. Then, when its “keys” are activated by the ear, the vocal instrument selects and captures some expressive lines from the sound signal, according to the listening capacities and the actual motivations of the listener. According to the French musicologist Gisèle Brelet, the voice is on the origin of the sound: “the voice released and truly created the sound by pulling it out of the things”
Brelet also affirms that “the musical gesture, by excellence, is the vocal gesture.” By making this provocative affirmation, Brelet distinguishes: the vocal gesture, related to a certain dynamic configuration, actual or virtual, of the phonatory system; the instrumentalist and singer body gesture, related to their motion and acting during a performance; and the melodic gesture, related to the curves and contours of a melodic line. The vocal gesture is implied both in body and melodic gestures, and “escapes from all visible manifestation: it is just translated by sounds.”
Thus, these Biran’s and Brelet’s proposals establish an interesting possibility: the thought that the analytic-musical listening depends on an inseparable accomplishment between voice and ear. In other words, the expressive line selection occurs by linking the phonatory and auditory systems in a zone of indiscernibility. It is as if all sounds that reach the ear, yet to be analyzed, pass to a vocal filter that repeats, in an interval, some aspects of the listened sound and make it possible, thereby, the selection and certain measurements of some expressive sound lines. This vocal activity works in the listening process as the “petites perceptions” which is derived from the conscious perceptions. As “petites perceptions”, or “unconscious perceptions”, the vocal effort implied in the auditory listening works as “invisible presences that make other presences ready to signify”. This process works as a becoming, a double capture (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 1987[1980]), by which the ear becomes voice and the voice becomes ear, expanding themselves and opening, by experimentation, new and unpredictable modes of actuation.
This paper seeks to raise some practical problems for researching, learning and practicing music, which is derived from the continuous and infinitely creative operation of this ear-voice machine in musical listening.

Keywords: Solfege; Ear-voice; Listening.


Gustavo Penha was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He took his Bachelor’s degree (2009) in Musical Composition at FASM, where he studied with Sergio Kafejian and Paulo Zuben. He got his master’s (2011) and his PhD (2016) degrees in Music at UNICAMP, supervised by Silvio Ferraz and with FAPESP scholarship, which also contributes to his studies at the University Paris 8 with José Manuel López López, Anne Sedès and Alain Bonardi (2013-2014). His compositions have been performed at several events and festivals in Brazil and abroad, as England, Italy, France and Canada. In 2017, he made post-doctoral research at USP with CNPq scholarship. Since 2016, he is professor and researcher at the UFMS (Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul), with CNPq research support. He is also composer and theorbist of the Duo Amálgama, with the violoncellist Sandra Tornich, since 2010.