sound poetry

Imaging the voice

Notating poetic vocalization

Back cover image for 'Open Letter' (Sixth Series, no. 1: Spring 1985)

In the mid-1980s, Open Letter — Canada’s defunct and dearly missed journal of theory and poetics — dedicated five issues of the journal to notation for poetry and language. Each installment of this series contains a range of texts that intersect with the idea of notation to explore topics including reading, rhythm, composition, documentation, and performance. 

“Notation is a set

of instructions for

reading (in) the

future” (Robert Kroetsch)

 

'Schizophonophilia'

Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto, The Contact Zone Crew

Image of The Contact Zone Crew
Credit: Wayde Compton.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics. They work with sounds from instrumental hip hop, jazz, black spirituals, Japanese music, sound effects, and custom made dub plates (containing recorded readings by Compton. For Compton, the concept of schizophonophilia departs from the thinking of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer’s similar term “schizophonia.” In "The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World," “schizophonia” describes “the split between an original sound and its electroacoustic reproduction” and is characterized as an “aberrational effect of the twentieth century.” The condition of schizophonia, for Schafer, arises in part from the increasing availability of audio recording technologies, which make it more possible for sound to travel away from its time and place of origin.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics.

Word-Sound-Systems

Further notes on Kaie Kellough’s vibratory poetics

Blurry image of Kaie Kellough
Photo taken at Artists Against Apartheid concert by Mariel Rosenbluth.

The release of his most recent book of poetry, Magnetic Equator (2019), prompts my return to the spoken word and sound poetries of Montreal-based novelist, poet, and performer Kaie Kellough. When given the chance, I’ve thought publicly about Kellough’s work in other forums: a mini review of his performances here and a conversation we had about sound, technology, and ancestry here. Having just recently heard Kellough’s voice fill the atrium of the Art Gallery of Ontario at the launch for his latest collection, I was delivered back to the flows of joy and curiosity that I find his poetry and performances well within me.  Kellough has a tendency to imagine the world as a conduit for vibratory pulses: “the rain forest is a mixing board with infinite inputs and outputs,” he writes in Magnetic Equator. His poetry is often located on paper, but it is written for sounding.

The release of his most recent book of poetry, Magnetic Equator (2019), prompts my return to the spoken word and sound poetries of Montreal-based novelist, poet, and performer Kaie Kellough. When given the chance, I’ve thought publicly about Kellough’s work in other forums: a mini review of his performances here and a conversation we had about sound, technology, and ancestry here. Having just recently heard Kellough’s voice fill the atrium of the Art Gallery of Ontario at the launch for his latest collection, I was delivered back to the flows of joy and curiosity that I find his poetry and performances well within me.

Hear 'Cellar Song for Five Voices' (1960)

Emmett Williams's "Sense Sound" (left); poster for 2/6/1990 performance at Paula Cooper Gallery (right).

New at PennSound — Jackson Mac Low, Dick Higgins, Petr Kotik, Joseph Kubera, and Chris Nappi perform Emmett Williams’s Cellar Song for Five Voices. This piece was written in 1960. The recording here was made of a performance in 1990, presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble, recorded by Mikhail Liberman at Paula Cooper Gallery, 2/6/1990. Click on this link to the Jackson Mac Low PennSound page: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Mac-Low.php#cellar .

'A sound bursts out of me'

An interview with Paul Dutton

Paul Dutton, soundsinging with CCMC at 416 Festival, Toronto, 2012. Photo by Rob Allen.

Editorial note: Fellow Canadians Paul Dutton and W. Mark Sutherland ply the field of unconventional poetic practice in this interview, conducted by Sutherland in December 2009 and January 2010. Sutherland, an intermedia artist perhaps as heavily invested in language as Dutton (with whom he has collaborated artistically in the past), explores his colleague’s vast array of poetic practices, including visual poetry, sound poetry, and improvisational soundsinging. Dutton has released five books and four recordings of his solo work (recent examples include the CDs Mouth Pieces and Oralizations), but is widely recognized for his ensemble work as well, namely his participation in the Four Horsemen with bpNichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, and Steve McCaffery. Below this interview, you will find six poems by Paul Dutton. — Kenna O’Rourke

A vocabulary of sounds for Amiri Baraka

Andrew Demirjian participated in ModPo during the fall of 2013.  “As I was reading the poems and watching/listening to the videos,” he wrote me recently, "I was working on two pieces as a creative response to the course.” One of those pieces is entitled “Amiri Baraka A-Z.” It is an alphabetical vocabulary for Baraka, consisting of word-length clips drawn from PennSound’s Baraka recordings, each embedded under a letter of the alphabet. Click on a letter — or touch a letter on the iPad — and Baraka’s voice performs single words beginning with that letter. Once you start the web-installation poem, it will continue; you can stay with a letter, or move around and spell out your own performative vocabulary.

Gone is the word as word (PoemTalk #72)

Bob Cobbing, 'Portrait of Robin Crozier'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Bob Cobbing (1920–2002) — sound poet, visual and concrete poet, DIY printer, and active member of an alternative socio-poetic community in the UK — insisted that there’s no use in adding to poetry what’s already there. In “Some Statements on Sound Poetry” (1969) he wrote: “Gone is the word as the word, though the word may still be used as sound or shape.” And he added: “Poetry now resides in other elements.” In this episode, Al Filreis is joined by sound poet Jaap Blonk, phonotextualist Steve McLaughlin, and experimental archivist Danny Snelson as they approach a single work by Cobbing, “Portrait of Robin Crozier,” in an effort to identify generally those “other elements.”

Robert Sheppard on Bob Cobbing in honor of his 75th birthday

From Jacket #9 (October 1999)

Robert Sheppard contributed this piece to Jacket issue 9 to mark the occasion of Bob Cobbing's 75th birthday:

I visited Bob Cobbing, and thus met my first poet, on November 3 1973. I was still at school, keen to put on an exhibition of concrete poetry. I recognised this as the wilder edge of the new British poetry I had discovered through Horovitz' anthology Children of Albion and Bill Butler's Brighton bookshop. In the school library there was, unaccountably, Emmett Williams' An Anthology of Concrete Poetry. Bob was in it.

When I arrived at Randolph Avenue to collect some hansjörg mayer posters, Bob was already talking to a student who was writing a thesis on language in visual art. I listened as they talked and sounded some of the Shakespeare Kaku. I remained mute, uncertain. Bob played a tape of himself and Peter Finch performing e colony from the Five Vowels, a then incomplete project. He showed us the work in progress. I stayed for six hours literally learning the life of a poet.

English and Yíngēlìshī

Jonathan Stalling's homophonic translations

Yíngēlìshī
The cover of Jonathan Stalling's Yíngēlìshī, as published by Counterpath Press in 2011

Like Place’s iterations of Gone with the Wind, Jonathan Stalling’s Yíngēlìshī 吟歌丽诗 also takes as its impetus the copying of another text and also addresses racial stereotyping and the negative attitude toward accents and dialects of English that differ from enforced norms. In Yíngēlìshī , Stalling appropriates an English phrasebook for Chinese speakers. The phrasebook uses standard characters for representing English speech. These characters are not meaningless but their use is conventionalized and in this context they are meant simply to stand for the English sounds––their meaning in Chinese is considered irrelevant. Stalling reproduces the Chinese and English from the phrasebook.

Charlie Morrow at Kelly Writers House

Charlie Morrow. Photograph by Sophia Ciocco.

Charlie Morrow visited the Kelly Writers House recently and gave a packed house quite a performance. As usual, of course, he got us involved in making meaning of “mere” sound. The program is further described here. Soon — but not yet — links to both the audio and video recordings will be available at that page and also at PennSound.

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