‘Synthrumentation’ is a technique for the resynthesis of speech with acoustic instruments developed by the composer Clarence Barlow in the early 1980s. Over the past decade instrumental speech synthesis has been thematised by a diverse range of composers (e.g. Peter Ablinger and Jonathan Harvey); however, Barlow's work is rarely accorded the credit it deserves for the pioneering role it played in this field. This article seeks to explain the basic mechanics of the synthrumentation technique and to demonstrate its practical application through an analysis of Barlow's ensemble piece Im Januar am Nil composed between 1981 and 1984. It should become apparent that Barlow never uses synthrumentation in its conceptually pure form, but rather its realisation is always integrated into an overarching musical context, which reflects Barlow's general approach to musical invention allowing different factors to interact.
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