In his April 24, 1985, presentation of "Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol," Nathaniel Mackey spoke about Sonny Rollins for six minutes or so. Hannah Judd of the PennSound staff has now segmented the entire recording of the talk by topic. Here is the segment on Rollins: LINK.
Well before I’ve clicked the audio file, the reading begins with the email invitation to (re)produce a “first reading” of a “spoken word” performance by Cecil Taylor. His name rings jazz bells, so I’m reading my mind, too. As a student of jazz vocals in Manhattan, I sat in with Reggie Workman, but didn’t feel free enough to accept the invitation to join his ensemble.
The first thing I’m concerned with when hearing a poem read, especially if there’s no text in hand, which of course I can’t tell in this case, is the manner of the poet’s speaking: their pronunciation, phrasing, rhetorical emphasis, tone, accent, cadence, etc. Do they let their words speak, or do they tell us how meaningful each word is by their emphasis? Do they sound completely phony through trying to sound sincere? With a sound poem this is less of an issue; yet I’m still listening for cliché, something I’m less expert at perceiving, however, having heard less sound poetry than spoken word. I’m also more familiar with experimental improvised music than with (free) jazz as such, and I’m not even sure what their connection is. I couldn’t hear a lot of the words Taylor said at the beginning.
1. Fred Moten had it: “I’ve been preparing myself to improvise with Cecil Taylor.” Or something like that. I’m not looking it up. Have I been preparing, and with what? That, perhaps, is the quintessential question that comes up when one listens to Cecil Taylor, kids are climbing walls downstairs and I need the question, that comes up, is who you be, listening — not so much, as Baraka had it, “how you sound” but who you be, or more precisely, pass/assist how, listening, to INCARNATE THYSELF.
2. Overdub is palimpsest in heat. My headphones are not blocking out the noise enough. I am having a good time. I am easy.
3. There’re two voices in this poem, one is melancholy, musing, marveling, fingering some dictionary, the other is more demonic easy more detonated, more disintegrated. Are they talking to each other absolutely not but TO INTERSECTwell then if that’s the case, it’s something to aspire to.