During the 2009 conference of the Modern Language Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Julia Bloch and Michelle Taransky organized the annual off-site poetry reading. The reading took two hours and 36 minutes and an audio recording was made; for the past several years, this long recording has been available on PennSound’s “MLA Offsite Readings” page. Now PennSound staff editor Anna Zalokostas has segmented the entire recording and we are now able to present the recording of each reader, as follows:
Thanks to the efforts of PennSound’s Rebekah Caton, principally among others, we are now able to present the text-audio alignment of the opening two paragraphs of Jack Kerouac’s ”October in the Railroad Earth.”
He became especially interested in listening to the room tone and background noise in all the recordings: the recorded texture of the room, the sound made by the recording device itself, and the non-vocal presence of Ashbery himself (a page turning, lighting a cigarette, sipping from glass of water and swallowing). Working with a friend, the artist Simone Kearney, Hawkey scanned the roughly 45 extant recordings on Pennsound to find, in each one, a clip of “silence” — a brief 3-to-7-second non-vocal moment (longer proved impossible to find) between poems, or between commentary and poems, or between title and poem. They then assembled the clips into one audio file.
It was surprisingly difficult to do this, they found, since most sound engineers remove as much dead sound and background sound as possible, or they snip off the silence at the beginning or end of a reading.
Thanks to Anna Zalokostas, PennSound’s vast Ashbery page now includes links to segments of a recording of his appearance on The Book Show in 1992. Hosted by Tom Smith, The Book Show was produced by the New York State Writers Institute at SUNY Albany. On this program, Ashbery discusses Flow Chart (1991) and Hotel Lautréamont (1992).