“Animation, masks,” the 12-minute 29-second film that is the entirety of Jordan Wolfson’s New York gallery debut, has the hallmarks of a classic. It rejuvenates appropriation art through the incisive use of digital animation, achieving an intensity that rivets the ear and the eye while perturbing the mind.
Saw the candy installation at the ICA. In theory, before I saw it, it sounded interesting. At the museum, I approached from across the room. I watched at viewers picked up a wrapped candy, and walked on. Those who were in the know, made it seem ok to the others, who were not going to go away empty handed if somebody else was taking- they were going to as well. I started to think about how shallow this piece was, how much like a vaudeville one liner, unless you account for the statement it made about the typical human.
What if this candy was unwrapped? What if it was a ton of unwrapped m&Ms? Undualting like a beach- at the water's edge? If the museum replaces the picked up candy, then the peice never really changes, if I went next week it would look about the same. If I saw it in San Fransisco it would be the same, unless he switches candy every now and then. Once I get the concept, or my share of the candy, Its over for me, thats it. Conceptual maybe, but the candy was blue and it wasn't even good.
E-ISSN: 1530-9282 Print ISSN: 0024-094X
The purpose of the research reported is to argue that "formal" design solutions of past cultures can generate innovative ideas in interactive media design. The authors ask how a traditional art in which body motion is used, namely Turkish Islamic calligraphy-Khatt-can help create innovative solutions for digital interaction design. Taking inspiration from Khatt, the authors have developed a project with the aim of allowing an audience with no prior calligraphy background to experience the performance process of calligraphy by reproducing it themselves. By creating a performance interface that provides predictability components, the authors have correlated the visual compositions with sound.
Article Frontispiece. Mahmoud Ibrahim, mirror image of 'Ali wali Allah (c. 1720-1730), orig. dimensions 16 x 21.6 cm. Eighteenth-century Ottoman mirror writing on calligraphic panel. An example of Islamic calligraphy.
[End Page 450]
The purpose of our current research is to argue that "formal" design solutions of past cultures can generate innovative ideas in interactive media design. These solutions, which are processed using the "re-reading" method, contribute significantly to the interactive media design experience, particularly at the level of creative thinking. In order to test this hypothesis, in previous work we have analyzed traditional Turkish shadow play and Turkish miniature art.
In our analysis on Turkish shadow play, we encountered four different techniques of screen setting and viewing: "viewing from two sides of the screen," "performing without screen," "spatial viewing" and "interaction between the image and the actor." During an experimental workshop with students, quite unconventional design ideas were generated by integrating these four techniques with possible future technologies .
In our analysis of traditional Turkish miniature art—which we propose as the predecessor of visual information design—we asked our students to generate innovative design ideas based on formal approaches such as "mapping," "scaling, proportioning and use of templates," "linking through diagrams," "symbolization," "framing," "separating" and "simultaneous representation of different spatial and temporal environments." The aim was to develop ideas from contemporary topics and use these approaches without imitating miniature style. From this study, we concluded that this approach could motivate students to create unconventional design ideas .
The positive outputs of these previous studies suggest that we should continue testing our hypothesis on other inspiring subjects. For instance, traditional arts in which body motion is used can be a source of inspiration for gestural interface design. In this paper, we investigate whether innovative solutions for digital interaction design could (or could not) be derived from the methodology and philosophy of traditional Turkish Islamic calligraphy known as Khatt.
Khatt, which literally means "line," is described as "the art of measured and beautiful writing" using the Arabic alphabet . Khatt emerged after the evolutionary period of Arabic letters, between the 6th and 10th centuries. During the Anatolian Seljuq period, from the 11th to the 14th century, and the Ottoman Empire, from the 13th to the 20th century, calligraphy not only was regarded as an art form itself but also made a significant contribution to the other decorative arts and architecture . Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Turkish artists brought figurative and philosophical depth to the tradition (Article Frontispiece).
Khatt equipment, 2009.(Photo © Adviye Ayça Ünlüer)
[End Page 451]
The relation between sound and image, 2009.(© Adviye Ayça Ünlüer)
The practice of calligraphy requires a pen made from a special kind of reed—the same reed that the musical instrument Ney (reed flute) is made of—as well as an ink made of soot and a special paper (Fig. 1) . Khattat, i.e. those aspiring to practice the art form of Khatt, must receive guidance from a master and pass through a long and disciplined technical and philosophical education that teaches use of the body and self-control. Along with the hands and wrists, students learn how to use the whole body, posture and breath in order to convey their worldview onto the paper. Those who reach the master level receive a practicing certificate (icazetname) from their masters and obtain the authority to sign their own works .
Due to the religious prohibitions of their historical period, Khatt artists stayed away from figurative painting. This constraint caused them to apply 2D visualizations through religious writing . It was mostly verses and sayings from the Qur'an that were visualized, with the purpose of symbolizing words and ideas. This approach increased the strength of the emotional content .
Turkish Islamic calligraphy was a favored art form during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the Turkish Republic, "modernization movements" emerged (advancing, for example, the change of the alphabet from Arabic script to Latin script and the liberation of other plastic arts), and calligraphy ceased to be popular. It was at this time that Khatt became a traditional and rare art form. Today, it is taught in a limited number of specialized institutions.
Gestures for different line types, 2009.(Illustration © Adviye Ayça Ünlüer)
Calligraphic compositions can be classified into four categories: "text in a line," "text in a stack," "pictorial text" and "tuğra." Tuğra is used as sultan's signatures . For our project, we studied pictorial texts that demonstrate both iconographic and typographic features and include a plastic quality in the foreground.
In pictorial, text-based Khatt compositions, even if the text is not legible, the dynamic structure of the pictorial—which emerges from the connected letters—communicates a feeling of rhythm to the reader . By following the line in the composition, the eye [End Page 452] catches the rhythm. In this way, there is a feeling in the reader of drawing the whole composition from scratch.
This is an experience common among calligraphers during the creation process. When a calligrapher creates a composition, it is not only the hands and wrists that use the pen, paper and ink; it is also the breath and rhythm of the whole body that achieves the sublime spirit. This spiritual and emotional experience becomes the visual language of the composition. In other words, we can say that the main form, which is formed by words, is first shaped through the calligrapher's body and then projected onto the paper.
Such time-and-motion--based creation processes are found in various other art forms. For instance, a similar method is used in the art of Ney playing (or Ney blowing), which is performed in Sufi music (Fig. 2). The visual structure of the Khatt and the audial structure in the Ney of Sufi music share many similarities . The connections between the letters in the calligraphy parallel the soft transitions between the notes in Sufi music. While a calligrapher is drawing, he inhales, holds his breath and completes the composition in one cycle of breath. The use of breath during this drawing period has similarities to the uses of rhythm and breath in Ney blowing, which has the principle of using the breath fully.
Similar to the disciplines of Ney blowing and Khatt, interactive media design work requires visual and audial totality. That is why we argue that deriving inspiration from the common features of calligraphy and Sufi music can provide a significant contribution to the development of a contemporary and interactive artwork with a new language of expression. However, while generating this kind of an artwork, there are crucial points to be taken into account:
First, Khatt does not merely consist of the literal meaning of the text. The sacred text is transferred along with the stress and intonation of the body to the paper. This is why it is not possible to experience the spirit of a calligraphic work only through the literal meaning of the written words . The whole meaning of the composition is constructed by and through its performance.
Reproducing a calligraphic performance is never less demanding than the original creation. Like an expert orator, the calligrapher must comprehend all the visual and literal elements of the composition in order to fully realize the performance . The audience can understand the full meaning of the Khatt only if it is created in their presence.
Today's technologies have the potential to reveal the previously hidden philosophies behind calligraphy and make the audience comprehend the spirit of its birth. An example is the popular technology of multi-touch, which recognizes the touch, position and motion of more than one finger. As multi-touch leaves the traditional mouse and keyboard interaction behind, the user experiences a more direct interaction with the screen. With the development of interfaces that are sensitive to multi-user and multi-touch inputs, users are able to use both hands with more natural gestures .
In our study, these fundamentals of multi-touch technology allow us to increase the impact of the work by allowing the use of gestures instead of traditional user interface devices, which are often constraining. The wider screen and closer interaction with it provide an ergonomic and sophisticated workplace environment; this and the possibility for more than one person to participate in the composition creation process allow user-centered interaction design.
Compositions according to the gestures: a. Taint, b. Artificial Life, c. About Absence, 2009.(© Adviye Ayça Ünlüer)
The purpose of the project developed for this study was to create an application that complements the calligraphic artworks that we created for this study, in order to allow an audience with no prior calligraphy background to experience the performance process of the calligraphy by reproducing it themselves. The application must include clear hints and clues to guide the user on the use of the body, pen and breath of a Khatt artist.
In order to accomplish this, we first eliminated the use of pen and paper and replaced them with a multi-touch screen. We then designed an interface containing predictability hints in order to help users maintain the correct form, speed and rhythm. Because the breathing technique of Khatt requires a deep and disciplined training that cannot be completed in a real-time performance, we chose to use sound effects in harmony with the breath. This enabled the audience to overcome the tendency to make untimely breaks in their performance. We used samples of Sufi music, which has significant similarities with the performance of Khatt.
The project was designed on a 70-× 100-cm multi-touch screen, with a digital background imitating natural paper texture. The user activates the system and starts drawing by touching one or two points on the screen. By dragging the fingers on the screen, the user constructs [End Page 453] the line and hears the music. Both the sound and the line are interrupted as soon as the contact of the fingers with the screen is lost. At this point, the user becomes disconnected.
Two-handed two-fingered drawings, 2009.(© Adviye Ayça Ünlüer. Photos: Neşe Başaran.)
There are four different kinds of relations between the sound and the image in the calligraphy:
1. The direction of the line: The program creates different audial responses in accordance with the changes in the direction of the line being drawn by the user. Each musical note has been assigned to a different direction in a circular scheme. A change in the direction of drawing leads to a corresponding change in the sound (Fig. 2a)
2. The thickness of the line: The distance between the two fingers that are touching the screen represents the thickness of the calligraphic pen. This thickness, which is the thickness of the line being drawn on the screen, also defines the intensity of the breath that is playing the Ney and thus the octave of the sound being played. As the line gets thicker, the octave becomes lower (Fig. 2b)
3. The length of the line: The length of the line is linked to the time length of blowing. The note is played as long as the line continues. This allows the user to feel the heaviness of the time that passes while drawing (Fig. 2c)
4. The speed of the drawing: The volume of the sound coordinates with the drawing speed. The faster the performance is accomplished, the stronger the sound. When an optimum volume is met, the user is expected to adjust to the ideal speed of the performance.
Four different gestures have been introduced into the application:
1. In the case of one-finger touch, a black ink track is left at the point of contact, and the track will follow the finger as long as the contact remains. Ney sound will be played at the highest predetermined octave, in the direction of the hand. When the contact is over, the sound stops, but the track of the line remains (Fig. 3b).
2. In the case of two-finger touch, the distance between the two contact points will act as the tip of the calligraphic pen. As the hand moves, a calligraphic line will be drawn as thick as this distance. The Ney will play a musical note according to the direction of the mid-point of the two fingers, and the octave will be determined by the thickness of the line (Fig. 3a, c).
3. In the case of three-finger touch, the closest pair of contact points will act as the calligraphic line; the third will remain as a separate thin line. Each line will generate its own sound.
4. In the case of four-finger touch, two pairs are selected from the points closest to each other. Two calligraphic lines and their corresponding sound effects will be generated.
The traditional calligrapher forms text in an abstract or concrete shape in order to give a clue about the subject. Khatt artists usually avoid color and perspective and prefer using artistic principles such as white-black balance, perceivability and anatomical consistency for the sake of simplicity . They use bonds between letters to assure continuity from beginning to end and to reach an unlimited number of letter combinations. In this way, a single line can result in an incalculable number of diverse and holistic forms.
In order to mimic the Khatt performance, we developed three different compositions to be completed in one-breath and one-line cycles. We refrained from using original Pictorial Text style because of legibility problems as well as the difficulty of re-creating such complicated artwork. By developing three linear and visual compositions using the above gestures (Fig. 4), we expect that users will be able to attune themselves to the sense of time during the performance and follow the guiding hints effortlessly throughout the performance.
We believe the process of re-creating compositions must be predictable by the user, so that the user can steer away from randomness and can re-create the composition as designed. In the process [End Page 454] of re-creating the composition, the user needs clear hints in order to perform the actions and gestures properly. In the study we conducted on predictability, we developed spatial, tactile and rhythm-related clues.
One-fingered drawing, 2009.(© Adviye Ayça Ünlüer. Photos: Neşe Başaran.)
Two distinct cursors emerge on the screen and point to the coordinates that are supposed to be touched. The cursors, which become evident in opposite phases, indicate the necessity to use both hands. Once the correct coordinates are touched, four more cursors appear in order to give hints about the direction that should be followed and the correct drawing speed. When the cursors are followed by dragging the fingers, the drawing process begins and sound emerges along with the performance. If the user fails to continue in the correct direction, the sound stops and the cursors become more evident. If the visibility of the clues decreases due to being in a position right under the user's hands, the clues slide into the field of view. In this way, the drawing can be completed by following the points marked by cursors without losing contact with the screen (Fig. 5).
A cursor appears at the point of the coordinate that the user is supposed to touch. After initial contact, the drawing process (accompanied by the sound) begins and continues for as long as the hand follows the directing cursors. If the user fails to follow the rhythm, the drawing becomes dimmer and the cursors become more apparent (see Fig. 5.3). If the user continues to fail, the drawing becomes totally indistinct and the performance must be started over. The drawing is completed when the user succeeds with tracking the line and the rhythm during the whole performance (Fig. 6).
Two cursors adjoined to each other appear at the coordinates where two fingers of the same hand are supposed to touch the screen. When the user performs the correct gesture, the distance between the cursors is adjusted according to the distance between the fingers, which mostly causes interpenetration. The drawing process and the accompanying sound begin as the user follows the direction and the rhythm cursors. If the user fails to continue in the correct direction, the drawing process stops, the sound turns off and the cursors become more evident (Fig. 7).
One-handed two-fingered drawing, 2009.(© Adviye Ayça Ünlüer. Photos: Neşe Başaran.)
In this study, we explored whether two elements-one representing tradition (Khatt), the other representing the future (multi-touch technology)-could merge to create an innovative language of expression in interactive media design.
The study demonstrated that the gestural possibilities of Khatt combined with multi-touch technology leads to new solutions for predictability design. [End Page 455] As designers gain more experience in the utility of multi-touch technology, we can expect an immediate improvement in the predictability of multi-touch interface design.
The most important output of the study is the involvement and impact of sound and visuality in the design process. It has been common in previous studies to design either the visual part according to the audio or the sound effect according to the visuals in a sequential construction. Influenced by the tradition of the Khatt and Sufi music (wherein the body and the breath participate simultaneously in the creation process), we concluded that the visual and the audio components of a composition could be arranged concurrently and uniformly using multi-touch technology.
It is crucial to state that multi-touch technology must be developed further in order to meet the sophisticated requirements of artists and provide them with gestures at a more advanced level. Software problems regarding synchronization in wide screens have not yet been solved. Currently, only smaller LED screens can provide better results than projector-based applications. Multi-touch, end-user tools that are capable of meeting the artist's needs have not been realized thus far.
Due to this inadequacy of multi-touch technology, all of the inspirational features of Khatt and Sufi music could not be perfectly implemented and tested. However, advanced studies in multi-touch technology (such as applying multi-touch on cylindrical and spherical planes) suggest significant developmental possibilities relevant to the future of this project [16,17].
In light of our research and findings, we suggest that in the near future Khatt and Sufi music will be utilized to employ the body, the visual and the audial elements collectively and synchronously, not only in 2D but also in 3D design works. Consequently, new dimensions will open up for interactive design and art.Adviye Ayça Ünlüer
Adviye Ayça Ünlüer received her Bachelor's Degree in the Communication Design Program, Art and Design Faculty, Yildiz Technical University (YTU) and her M.A. degree in the Interactive Media Design Program, YTU, where she also works as a lecturer. She teaches typographic animation, icon design and multimedia projects. Her current interests are experimental typography and interaction design.
Adviye Ayça Ünlüer (educator), Yildiz Technical University, Interactive Media Design Program, Barbaros Bulvari 34349, Yildiz-Istanbul, Turkey. E-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.Oğuzhan Özcan
Oğuzhan Özcan is currently Professor of Interactive Media Design at Istanbul Yildiz Technical University. He specializes in interactive design education and practice. Özcan is supervising a number of research projects, publications and book contributions relating to interactivity and design art. He was awarded a UNESCO Aschberg Residency in 2003. Özcan also consults with several Turkish companies on interactive media design, including VESTEL Electronic Research Group, PARDUS and the Operating System Development Group of the National Science and Research Foundation of Turkey. His other publications can be accessed at <http://oguzhan.ozcan.info>.
Oğuzhan Özcan (educator), Yildiz Technical University, Interactive Media Design Program, Barbaros Bulvari 34349, Yildiz-Istanbul, Turkey. E-mail: <email@example.com>.Manuscript received 8 October 2009.
We would like to thank Irfan Kaya for implementing the prototype, Hüseyin Kuşcu for providing some references, Umut Tasa, Morgan Campbell and Aye Emengen for translations and proofreading, Neşe Başaran for photographing and E. Gökçe Çimen for discussions of design and development.
Unedited references as provided by the authors.
1. O. Özcan, "Cultures, the Traditional Shadow Play," Design Issues, MIT Press, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 18-26 (2002).
2. O. Özcan, "Turkish-Ottoman Miniature Art within the context of electronic information design education," Journal of Technology and Design Education, Kluwer Publication, Vol. 15 Issue 3, pp. 237-252 (Nov. 2005).
3. Eczacibaşi Encyclopedia of Art (Istanbul: YEM Publications, 2008) Vol. 2, p. 668.
4. O. Aslanapa, Turkish Art (Istanbul: Remzi Book-house, 1984) p. 386.
5. M.U. Derman, Pen (Istanbul: DIA Publications, 2001) Vol. 24, pp. 245-246.
6. O. Onur, Edirne Khatt Art-The Reign of Line (Ïstanbul: Dilek Press, 1985) p. 167.
7. B. Özer, Commentaries: Culture Art Architecture (Ïstanbul: YEM Publications, 1993) p. 50.
8. S. Tansug., History of Painting Art (Istanbul: Remzi Bookhouse, 1992) p. 156.
9. H. Gündüz, 1994. Technical and Aesthetic Measures of Khatt. PhD. in Fine Arts Thesis No. 0044798, Traditional Turkish Handcrafts Department, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, 1994. p. 94.
10. O. Onur, Edirne Khatt Art—The Reign of Line (Ïstanbul: Dilek Press, 1985) p. 9.
11. I.H. Bursevi, I. Güleç, Spirit of the Mesnevi (Istanbul: Insan Publications, 2006) p. 90.
12. A. Welch, Calligraphy in the Arts of the Muslim World (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979) p. 33.
13. B. Messick, The Calligraphic State: Textual domination in a muslim society (Los Angeles: University of Callifornia press, 1993) p. 240.
14. J.Y. Han, "Low-Cost Multi-Touch Sensing through Frustrated Total Internal Reflection," Proceedings of the 18th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology pp. 115-118 (New York: ACM Press, 2005).
15. H. Gündüz, 1994. Technical and Aesthetic Measures of Khatt. PhD. in Fine Arts Thesis No. 0044798, Traditional Turkish Handcrafts Department, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, 1994. p. 94.
16. B. Shizuki, M. Naito, J. Tanaka, "Browsing 3D Media Using Cylindrical Multi-touch Interface," Tenth IEEE International Symposium on Multimedia pp. 489-490 (California: IEEE Computer Society, 2008).
17. H. Benko, A. Wilson, R. Balakrishnan, "Sphere: Multi-Touch Interactions on a Spherical Display," 21st ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology pp. 77-86 (Monterey: ACM Press, 2008).
—practicing certificate given to Khattats by their masters.Khatt
—literally meaning "line," Khatt is a term used to define Traditional Islamic Calligraphy. It is also defined as "the art of beautiful and measured writing."Khattat
—the artist who performs traditional Islamic Calligraphy.Ney
—an end-blown flute made of reed, usually seen in Middle Eastern cultures. Its origins go back to 3000 b.c., and later it became one of the most prominent musical instruments in Islamic tradition.re-reading method
—an approach designed to generate innovative ideas in the field of interactive media design. It is realized by re-interpreting past design problems and ideas put forward as a solution to technological restrictions in those periods through a rehashing of the present means and opportunities. This would enable different starting points from a design point of view. Thus, this method brings a new understanding to the working field of designers who are used to producing design based on present software possibilities. Designers who are used to making an analysis by taking the patterns of electronic media as a starting point are faced with problems out of the ordinary by adapting the approaches of traditional art to their work and thus are afforded an opportunity to experiment with different design approaches in their search for a solution. [End Page 456]LINK: http://muse.jhu.edu.prxy4.ursus.maine.edu/journals/leonardo/v043/43.5.unluer.html
POETRY WITHOUT SOUND
POETRY WITHOUT SOUND. Even in its early, tentative stages, the signing poetry emerging as an aspect of the "culture of the deaf" challenges some of our cherished preconceptions about poetry and its relation to human speech. ASL or Ameslan (American Sign Language) represents, literally, a poetry without sound and, for its practitioners, a poetry without access to that experience of sound as voice that we've so often taken as the bedrock of all poetics and all language. In the real world of the deaf, then, language exists as a kind of writing in space and as a primary form of communication without reference to any more primary form of language for its validation. It is in this sense a realization of the ideogrammatic vision of a Fenollosa -- "a splendid flash of concrete poetry" -- but an ideogrammatic language truly in motion and, like oral poetry, truly inseparable from its realization in performance. (Ethnopoetic analogues -- for those who would care to check them out -- include Hindu and Tantric mudras, Plains Indian and Australian Aborigine sign languages, and Ejagham [southeastern Nigerian] "action writing": a history of human gesture languages that would enrich our sense of poetry and language, should we set our minds to it.)
An early and seminal account of ASL poetry, "Poetry without Sound" by Edward S. Klima and Ursula Bellugi, appeared in Jerome & Diane Rothenberg"s Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics (1983), currently out-of-print. Michael Davidson"s "Hearing Things" and Dirksen Bauman"s "Redesigning Literature," presented here, are both scheduled to appear in the long awaited Signing the Body Poetic: Essays in American Sign Language from The University of California Press.
Source:Rothenberg, J. POETRY WITHOUT SOUND. Retrieved from http://ubu.com/ethno/discourses/rothenberg_poetry_without.html
The White Lodge
7-1/2 x 10-1/2
As a kid , I remember seeing cars and trucks with dead deer lashed to them in Autumn. Deer Season. The men in our neighborhood would go up to Wisconsin or Northern Illinois and hunt White-tail Deer. the argument was always , that without a certain amount of thinning the herd -- the deer would starve during the winter-- which seems a logical premise. People ate the venison they harvested throughout the winter-- it was healthy, low-fat meat that was plentiful.
Still, it bugged me. The killing of Deer seemed ugly . Or shooting birds. I never liked the idea of it. I've eaten plenty of venison and have liked it, but I don't think I could ever look through a scope and pull the trigger on a Deer. It seems like a sin. Like something that should be a crime. I see them once in a while, walking placidly across a field out by the airport -- or on a ride up to Wisconsin-- and the seem more mythic as I get older-- more poetic-- more like something to protect rather than bust a cap in.
I am not squeamish about guns-- I'm a firm believer in the right to bear and keep arms-- I am very pro 2nd amendment. Hunting does not even bother me so much-- though I choose not to do it.
Crazy Horse hunted Buffalo with a.....bow and arrow. Now, piss off a fully grown Buffalo and watch how fast he stomps a mud-hole in your ass. He also hunted Antelope, Deer and Elk-- all of them formidable creatures when wounded.
Often roving groups of shit-heads hunt wolves-- from helicopters-- with high-powered rifles-- or hunt quail-- which are about the size of a feather-duster and about as ferocious-- with shot-guns....on game -farms-- like Dick Cheney.
These tool's are not without their comic value though -- at least once a year a story surfaces that one of these Bwana-types gets snot-flying drunk, and despite the orange vest-- blows the brains out of one of the other he-men in his hunting party. Oops. I often wonder if it is a cock-size thing that makes grown men go out and blast ducks out of the sky....really , what for? Though I agree with Ted Nugent on the 2nd amendment-- I despair at the endless photos of him with some magnificent animal he has just killed--to take this much joy in killing is psychotic . At one time Hunting to eat made sense-- now hunting just seems to be an exercise in cruelty.
Originally posted on: http://tonyfitzpatrick.com/artwork/1043241_The_White_Lodge.html
From Sound Poetry: A Catalogue, edited by Steve McCaffery and bpNichol, Underwich Editions, Toronto, 1978
The 1950s saw the development of what might be termed a third phase in sound poetry. Prior to this time, in a period roughly stretching from 1875 to 1928, sound poetry's second phase had manifested itself in several diverse and revolutionary investigations into language's non-semantic, acoustic properties. In the work of the Russian Futurists Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh, the intermedia activities of Kandinsky the bruitist poems of the Dadaists (Ball, Schwitters, Arp, Hausmann, Tzara) and the 'paroles in liberta' of the Italian Futurist Marinetti, the phonernatic aspect of language became finally isolated and explored for its own sake. Prior to this there had been isolated pioneering attempts by several writers including Christian Morgenstern (ca. 1875), Lewis Carroll ('Jabberwocky'), August Stramm (ca. 1912), Petrus Borel (ca. 1820), Moliere, the Silesian mystic Quirinus Khulman (1 7th century), Rabelais and Aristophanes. The second phase is convincing proof of the continuous presence of a sound poetry throughout the history of western literature. The first phase, perhaps better-termed, the first area of sound poetry, is the vast, intractible area of archaic and primitive poetries, the many instances of chant structures and incantation, of nonsense syllabic mouthings and deliberate lexical distortions still alive among North American, African, Asian and Oceanic peoples. We should also bear in mind the strong and persistent folkloric and ludic strata that manifests in the world's many language games, in the nonsense syllabery of nursery rhymes, mnemonic counting aids, whisper games and skipping chants, mouth music and folk-song refrain, which foregrounds us as an important compositional element in work as chronologically separate as Kruchenykh's zaum poems (ca. 1910) and Bengt af Klintburg's use of cusha-calls and incantations (ca. 1965). Consequently, the very attempt to write a history of sound poetry is a doomed activity from the very outset. For one thing, there is no 'movement' per se, but rather a complex, often oppositive and frequently antithetical interconnectedness of concerns - attempts to recover lost traditions mix with attempts to effect a radical break with all continuities. What is referred to by 'sound poetry' is a rich, varied, inconsistent phonic geneology against which we can foreground the specific developments of the last two decades.
In the work of Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh (ca. 1910) we find the first concerted attempts to isolate the concrete, phonic aspect of language as an autonomous focus of interest. In their manifesto The Word As Such comes the first decisive break with language's symbolic relation to an object, with the consequent disappearance of the thematic and the minimization of the semantic levels. For the Russian futurists, poetic language was to be characterized by its unique organization of the phonic, As Khlebnikov states, 'the element of sound lives a selforiented life.' The organization, then, of language around its own phonic substance, as a self-referring materiality, non- representational and escriptive rather than descriptive, took prime importance in their work. In Kruchenykh especially, the folkloric strata is significant; his concept of 'zaum' (or transrational language) was later to be described by Dada sound poet Raoul Hausmann as 'an old form of popular and folkloric language' and both Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh openly acknowledged their debt to popular forms. For Kruchenykh poetry was a conscious attempt to return language to its a-rational ground. It involved him in the open sacrifice of meaning as a constituent of the poem (or rather meaning in its restricted semantic sense) and the deployment of various 'poetic irregularities' such as clipped words, lexical hybrids, neologisms, and fragmentations.
FT Marinetti (1876-1944), the core architect of the Italian Futurist movement, developed a poetic technique called parole in liberta or words in freedom. It was an attempt at syntactic explosion, at the liberation of the word from all linear bondage and the consequent conversion of page, from a neutral surface holding neutral graphic signs, into a dynamic field of typographic and sonographic forces. In performance Marinetti laid heavy stress upon onornatopoeiac structures. Less interesting, morphologically, than the work of Kruchenykh (for in parole in liberta sound is still anchored in a representationality) one may think of Marinetti's work as an attempt to find a more basic connection between an object and its sign, a connection predicated upon the efficacy of the sonic as a direct, unmediated vector. Perhaps the most significant aspect of parole in liberta was its lasting effect upon the poem's visual notation. Marinetti's famous Bombardamento di Adrianapoli, for instance, is a stunning handwritten text of great visual excitement, employing different letter sizes, linear, diagonal and vertical presentations of non-gravitational text, all intended for vocal realization. It marks one of the earliest, successful attempts to consciously structure a visual code for free, vocal interpretation.
It can be safely said that the sonological advances of the futurists have been unfairly eclipsed by the historical prominence that the Dada sound poets have received. Hugo Ball (1886-1926) claims to have invented the 'verse ohne Worte' (poetry without words) which he also termed 'Lautgedichte' or soundpoem. Ball, in a diary entry for 1916, describes the compositional basis for this new poetry: 'the balance of vowels is weighed and distributed solely according to the values of the beginning sequence.' In actual fact, the form is little different from earlier attempts at the end of the nineteenth century by such poets as Morgenstern (Kroklokwafzi was published in 1905) and Paul Scheerbart (whose well known Kikaloku appeared in 1897). Tristan Tzara is noteworthy for his developmentof a pseudo ethnopoetry realized most successfully in his 'Poemes Negres': loose and often pataphysical translations f rom the African which Tzara then used for sound texts. The collective energies of Janco, Ball, Huelsenbeck, Tzara and Arp at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich produced the simultaneist poem: a high energy, performance oriented cacophony of whistling, singing, grunting, coughing and speaking. Partly based on the earlier work of Henri Barzun, the simultaneous poem stands as an early example of intermedia. De-fying categorization as either theatre, music or poetry, it emphasized the improvisatory, spontaneous and aleatoric possibilities of multivocal expression. Raoul Hausmann is perhaps the most significant of the Dadasonosophers and largely because of his instrumental advancements in the techniques of notation. Hausmann in 1918 developed his 'optophonetics' which used typographic variations in size to indicate proportionate variations in pitch and volume. Optophonetics is an open code, of low denotation that nevertheless permits a wide range of imaginative interpretation. It is in current use today with many text-sound composers. Perhaps the greatest scope is evidenced in the sound poems of Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) whose phonetic experiments took him into large and small structures alike. His 'Ur Sonata' ranks as one of the longest of all sound poems, whilst 'W' (a single letter on a white card, and performed with the full gamut of pitch, tone, volume and emotional intensity) must be one of the shortest.
Founded by Theo Van Doesburg in 1917 for both the Dutch avant-garde, de Stijl served as a vital outlet for Italian futurism and European Dada. Doesburg's own work appeared under the pseudonym of I. K. Bonset. In 1921 he published three 'letter-sound images' with the following statement accompanying: 'To take away its past it is necessary to renew the alphabet according to its abstract sound-values. This means at the same time the healing of our poetic auditory membranes, which are so weakened, that a long-term phono-gymnastics is necessary!' Mention too should be made of Arthur Petronio the inventor of 'verbophonie' which made attempts to harmonize phonetic rhythms with instrumental sounds into what Petronio termed 'verbalplasticisms'.
Self-styled in the relatively sparse decade of the forties, Lettrisme, as a 'movement', constituted a particularly creative source of linguistic experimentation. Founded by Isadore Isou and Maurice Lemaitre in Paris, Lettrisme offered a full-scale lexical revolution. Their poetic strategy was to be based, like Doesburg's, upon an alphabetic renaissance, and the use of a totally new lexicon. This Lexique des Lettres Nouvelles drawn up by Isou and Lemaitre comprised over 130 entries to be employed as an alphabet of sound in vocal performance. Other members of the group (still flourishing) were Roland Sabatier, J-B. Arkitu and Jean Paul Curtay. Francois Dufrene, a former member, left the original movement to pursue his own 'ultra- lettrism'. Dufrene's work in many ways culminates the phase of second generation sound poetry; it is charactrized by a vocal purity (Dufrene eschewed entirely the attraction and dangers of the tape recorded), an energetic intensity and - in his cri-rhythmes - an intensely somatic base in sub-phonemic units.
The Current Decades
Sound poetry prior to the developments of the 1950s is still largely a word bound thing. For whilst the work of the Dadaists, Futurists and Lettrists served to free the word from its semantic function, redistributing energy from theme and 'message' to matter and contour, it nevertheless persisted in a morphological patterning that still suggested the presence of the word. It is Dufrene's especial achievement to have pushed the limits centripetally and to have entered into the micro particulars of morphology, investigating the full expressive range of predenotative forms: grunts, howls, shrieks, etc. Important too, in this light, is the way meaning persists as a teleology even in zaum. Khlebnikov, for instance, speaks of new meanings achieved through by-passing older forms of meaning, of meanings 'rescued' by 'estrangement'. Ball, too, speaks of exploring the word's 'innermost alchemy'.
So word persists even in the state of its own ex-communication throughout the century. It could be said that what sound poetry, up to the exploitation of the tape recorder, did was to render semantic meaning transcendental, as the destination arrived at by the disautomatization of sound perception. It is this theological contamination, of the meaning, like God, as a hidden presence, that specifies the limits of sound investigation up until the nineteen fifties. With the fifties, however, came the gift of an external revolution: the availability of the tape recorder to sound poets made audio technological advancement of the art form a reality. To summarize the several revolutionary capabilities that tape allowed: the transcendence of the limits of the human body. The tape machine, considered as an extension of human vocalityallowed the poet to move beyond his own expressivity. The body is no longer the ultimate parameter, and voice becomes a point of departure rather than the point of arrival. Realizing also that the tape recorder provides the possibility of a secondary orality predicated upon a graphism (tape, in fact, is but another system of writing where writing is described as any semiotic system of storage) then we can appreciate other immediate advantages: tape liberates composition from the athletic sequentiality of the human body, pieces may be edited, cutting, in effect, becomes the potential compositional basis in which time segments can be arranged and rearranged outside of real time performance. The tape recorder also shares the micro/macro/phonic qualities allowing a more detailed appreciation of the human vocal range. Technological time can be super added to authentic body time to achieve either an accelerated or decelerated experience of voice time. Both time and space are harnessed to become less the controlling and more the manipulable factors of audiophony. There exists then through recourse to the tape recorder as an active compositional tool, the possibility of 'overtaking' speech by the machine. Sound poetry mobilizes a certain technicism to further the cleconstruction of the word; it permits, through deceleration, the granular structure of language to emerge and evidence itself. Phonetic poetry, the non-semantic poetry of the human voice, is more limited in its deconstructional scope, for it accepts the physical limitations of the human speaker as its own limitations. The tape recorder, however, allows speech - for the firsttime in its history -a separation from voice. The advantages of tape began to be realized in the fifties. Henri Chopin (b.1922) makes the decisive break from a phonetic basis to sound poetry and develops his self-styled 'audiopoems'. The audiopoem utilizes microphones of high amplification to capture vocal sounds on the threshold of audition. In this respect Chopin's work can be regarded in the tradition of lexical decomposition outlined above. But the audiopoem constitutes a much more fundamental break with the whole tradition of western poetics.
Chopin's early work (ca. 1955) comprised the decomposition and recomposition of vowels and consonants. Still connected to the word, these pieces can best be described as technological assaults upon the word. The word is slowed down, speeded up and superimposed up to fifty times, whilst additional vocalic texture is provided by a variety of respiratory and buccal effects. Later, Chopin discovered and used the 'micro-particle' as the compositional unit of his work, abandoning the word entirely. This marks the birth of 'poesie sonore', which Chopin distinguishes from 'poesie phonetique'.
Chopin's art is an art entirely dependent on the tape recorder. Chopin's 'vocal micro- particulars' are only realizable through the agency of modern tape technology. It is an irrevocable marriage. His material comprises the full gamut of orally produced phenomena beyond and beneath the atomic limit of the phoneme.
Bernard Heidsieck commenced sound poetry in 1955 with his 'poempartitions' and, since 1966 on, a species he terms 'biopsies'. Both types are rooted in a direct relation to everyday life. Heidsieck sometimes refers to both the biopsies and poem-partitions as 'action' poems (not to be confused with the action poetry of either Steve McCaffery or Robert Filliou). 'Action' since the pieces incorporate the actuality of quotidian soundscapes: subways, streetcars, taxis. Texts utilized are often found and superimposed and involve complex variations in tape speed, volume and editorial juxtaposition. In addition to their value as social comment, Heidsieck sees his sound texts existing within the domain of 'a ritual, ceremonial or event' that assumes an interrogative stance vis a vis our daily wordscapes. The day to day is appropriated and animated to make meaningful 'our mechanical and technocratic age by recapturing mystery and breath'. Heidsieck incorporates the taped-text within the context of live performance and plays off his own live voice against his own voice recorded. It is a positive solipsism that frequently results in a rich textural fabric. Since 1969 Heidsieck has called his tape compositions 'passe-partout' viz. universal pass keys. The passe-partout marks a further development in Heidsieck's central interest: the use of everyday, incidental soundscapes to be isolated and presented in their intrinsic integrity and their electroacoustic modification.
The first text-sound compositions in Sweden were by Öyvind Fahlström in 1961 and 1962, followed in 1964 and 1965 by Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars-Gunnar Bodin. By 1967 virtually all text-sound composition had centered around the Fylkingen Group for Linguistic Arts. Sweden has become the center for technical-acoustic sound poetry; its studios in Stockholm are currently unrivalled, and the resultant pieces display a remarkable degree of sophistication. The main artists are Bengt Emil Johnson, Sten Hanson, Ilmar Laaban, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Svante Bodin, Bengt af Klintberg (who makes extensive use of local dialect and folklore elements), Ake Hödell and Christer Hennix Lille. Lille was one of the first artists to employ synthetic speech in a texts-ound composition (Still Life, 'Q') in which the synthesizer's computer unit is programmed to produce reshaped oscillations, mutation frequencies and deliberate distortions in syntax and pronunciation. Though it would be misleading to suggest a single'Swedish School' of text-sound composition, it can be said that the general interconnected concern is the exploitation of that interface between art and technology The Bodins, Hanson, Johnson, Laaban, Hodell and Lille all subject texts to electronic modification and transformation.
In Italy, post-futurist developments have been noteworthy. Mimmo Rotella (b. 1918) developed an 'epistaltic' language, anchored in live performance and in the tradition of phonetic plasticization noted in the Lettristes, futurists and Dadaists. Arrigo Lora Totino (b. 1928) however has concerned himself with both live performance and tape manipulation. A man of extreme inventiveness, Totino has developed the Idrornegafono, a rotating horn allowing a projection of the speaker's voice in a 360 degree circle. Totino has used the hydromegaphone in a series of 'liquid poems' in which the voice is sounded through water. Mauricio Nannucci is another Italian sound poet who has devoted much additional energy into organizing manifestations and anthologies of text-sound composition.
In the Netherlands, Herman Damen has developed two sonic genres: verbosony and verbophony. The former deals with vocalized morphemic elements aligned, configurated and concatenated with each other. Verbophony relies upon the electronic treatment of voice in a manner similarto that developed by the Fylkingen Group for Linguistic Arts. Damen's total aim is much more ambitious than the parallel development of two sound genres. Both Verbosony and Verbophony he sees as two elements of Verbal -Plasticism which in itself forms part of Phonography which attempts 'to investigate the possibilities that there are for a relationship between sound and picture, between speech morphemes and letter fragments, between audible and visual rhythms.' Phonography exemplifies one of the central concerns in current sonic poetries: the desire not to harden into a fixist category, the desire to connect with other media and explore practically the margins of aesthetic categories. There has been much activity in Holland since the fifties. In addition to Damen are Paul de Wee (b. 1919), Gerrit Pleiter (who has combined verbosony with radio plays), Gust Gils who has extended investigations in the area of non-semantic destinations through tape manipulation, Tera de Marez Oyens who has used tape delay to great effect in compositions she calls vocaphonies. Greta Monach's work (such as her Automerga) isolates single spoken sounds as abstract, syntagmatic clusters which she terms'words'. The semantic level, whilst never totally obliterated, is never prominent. Unlike Henri Chopin, Monach locates within the tension of conflicting categories to produce compositions that draw upon the familiar and the unfamiliar response. Michael Gibbs is a British poet now living in Holland. A multi-disciplinarian, he has developed a series of chancegenerated sound-texts. This stream of aleatoric composition runs deep through the geneology of sound; it is evident in the Dadaist use of chance and reaches great refinement in the work of Gibbs and the American poet Jackson MacLow.
In Great Britain sound texts started to appear in the earlier sixties. Bob Cobbing, a tireless innovator and publisher, began his sonic explorations as an integral step within concrete poetry. Concrete Sound, as Cobbing terms it, is a 'return to an emphasis on the physical structure of language ... the sign made by the voice ...' Cobbing centralizes several diverse threads in his work. Tantric, Dada, Shaman, intermedia are all present in his solo work and group manifestations (The Konkrete Canticle and, more recently, AbAna.) His texts he terms 'song signals'; they are low clenotational, highly suggestive codes permitting maximum imaginative interpretation. One of Cobbing's lasting contributions to text-sound activity is his revolutionising of what can constitute a 'text'. Cobbing (along with Paula Claire) has frequently abandoned the graphic imprint and received 'song signals' from natural objects: a cross-section of a cabbage, a stone, a piece of rope, the textured surface of bricks, cloth etc. Text can be anything. Paula Claire's contributions to opening up the domain of textuality to conventionally nontextual objects are especially important. Her work investigates the complexities of micro- linguistic elements along analogical lines to nuclear physics, molecular biology, computer miniaturization etc. Since 1973 she has been performing her 'pattern sounds': i.e. sound improvisations on the surface patterns and textures of inanimate objects. Her Codesigns (1976) use photomicropgraphs as texts; they are a stunning synthesis of code and sound. 'To sound these codes,' writes Claire, 'is to approach the miracle of the gestation of language.' Since the mid 1960s she has been working with live improvisation and audience participation: 'I wish to be a catalyst, not a performer to a passive audience.' Claire's work capsulizes and exemplifies several of the concerns of contemporary text-sound composers, especially the synthesis of a highly sophisticated codicity (how more complex and how more simple can you get than a wood knot as a score?) and the desire for a human contextualization of heuristic activities in a shared, communal experience.
A brief survey of European text-sound composition should include mention of several other artists. Brion Gysin, working in the earlier sixties, adapted techniques borrowed from the visual arts to language, and conceived the permutational poem in which semantic units are treated as mobile modules. it might best be described as a syntactic rather than sonic poetry investigating the possibility of verbal liberation (parole in liberta) through exhausting the totality of possible combinations. Gils Wolman, working alongside Dufrene in the 1950s, gave sound poetry the megapneumes. With an intensely physical anchoring in the potential of the human vocal- respiratory system, Wolman pursued language back beyond the threshold of the word and letter to breath, energy and emotion. The form bears comparison with Olson's statements on 'the laws and particularities of breath' as outlined in his essay on projective verse, for the megapneume and Dufrene's crirhythmes demonstrate the full implication of a pneumatic centered communication.
Austria's sound poet par excellence is Ernst Jandl, the principle practitioner of phonetic poetry. Jandl's pieces employ processes of word fragmentation and recomposition to alter meanings by elaborate structural puns. Germany's major exponents are Gerhard Rhum and Frans Mon; in Yugoslavia Katalinal-aclik, and in Czechoslovakia Ladislav Novak.
Sound poetry has been a later development in North America and has developed in part from a very different background. Practitioners in Canada and the United States have, in general, pursued a non-specialist line, there has occurred much more of a horizontal integration of a sonic art into more conventional concerns. Jackson MacLow, in New York, introduced systematic chance operations, simultaneities and assymetries and ranks as one of the most seminal influences on the continent. His performed work is rich and varied; many are complex realizations of written chance generated structures, much else is a complex interweave of multiple voice and tape. MacLow has been seminal in relocating poetry in the alternative domain of programme and procedure; meanings are not imposed but rather auto-compose themselves and syntactic and phonemic structures are selfdetermined. In the work of Jerome Rothenberg we find the highly significant fusion of ethnopoetry and modernity. Rothenberg, conceptor of total translation, has arrived at a new performative based very largely on translative methods. A highly important researcher into primitive poetries, Rothenberg offers a diachronic alternative to the normally accepted 'history' of poetry. His is an oral hybrid thatfuses avant-gardist concerns (decomposition at the semantic level, repositioning of language within the domain of the body etc.) with tribal oralities. His translations, with Frank Mitchell, of the Senecan 'Horse Songs'are historically unlocateable. Neither primitive nor modern, they hang between chronologies as their own time-defying events. Charlie Morrow works closely with Rothenberg and has developed his art towards the Shamanic. Like so many other contemporary sound artists, Morrow directs his work towards audience participation and intimate settings. He has researched cross-species communication, experimented with breath chants, synchronized mass breathings ('breathe- ins'), sound healing, and vision inducing chanting. John Giorno, a sometime collaborator with Gysin and William Burroughs, is a more syntactically based composer. His works tend to use found material (cf. Heidsieck) which he structures into double repetition patterns textually reinforced and modified by multi-track tape recorder. On the West Coast Michael McClure developed, in the sixties, his beast language which alternated structurally within more syntactically conventional sections. A powerful performer, McClure's beast tantras search for the nexus between biological code and cortical language. Charles Amirkhanian is perhaps the best-known text-sound practitioner currently working in America. His work gives prominence to textual fragmentation by way of rhythmic patterning and configu rations. Larry Wendt is another West Coast artist who, along with Stephen Ruppenthal, registers as possibly the best electroacoustic text-sound composer in the country
In Canada, things start not with Bill Bissett or bpNichol, but with Montreal Automatiste Claude Gauvreau. Gauvreau, working in the 40s, made structural modifications to French Surrealist ideas, especially the diminishment of pictorial image in favour of what he terms 'rhythmic images'. Gauvreau's work, which bears comparison to Artaud and the Dadaists, is theoretically hermetic - a non-semantic language of pure sound which, however, never dominates in any one text. Rather Gauvreau exploits the tension between familiar and unfamiliar linguistic experiences, thrusting the listener into disturbingly volatile states of alternate comprehension and uncomprehension. Gauvreau's influence, however, has never extended outside Quebec (his work, for instance, was a seminal influence of Raoul Duguay) and Anglophone sound poetry does not surface until the early sixties in the work of bpNichol and Bill Bissett. Bissett and Nichol were both familiar with the work of Michael McClure, but it seems that European influence did not occur until well into the sixties. For Bissett, it was the realization that his visual, typographic experimentations could be sounded that led to his first attempts at isolating sound. Nichol's work similarly started with a realization about the syntactic, permutational play of his early concrete poetry. It is live performance and a relatively crude chant-based structure that informs both Bissett's and Nichol's early work. Both of them too, have been significant in pushing poetic composition into the communal domain. For Bissett it was his work with the Mandan Massacre and for Nichol early collaborations with Steve McCaffery and D.W. Harris that indicated the teleology of the poem as a communal product and a collective experience. In 1970 Nichol, McCaffery (after solo and duo sound performances) joined cause with Paul Dutton and Rafael Barreto-Rivera to form the first sound-poetry ensemble, The Four Horsemen. Their work is very much an experiment in collective communication, the sensing of chaning biological-emotional states which guide the shifts and structural decisions in their highly improvisatory performances. Recently a second sound poetry ensemble has emerged: Owen Sound (Steve Smith, David Penhale, Richard Truhlar and Michael Dean). In both Owen Sound and The Four Horsemen an intermedia experience is generated on the liminal zones of theatre, music and poetry.
In Montreal, a similarly collective encleavour has emerged in the work of the Vehicule artists: Stephen Morrissey and Pat Walsh's Cold Mountain Revue; Richard Sommer, Andre Farkas, Ken Norris, Tom Konyves and Claudia Lapp. There has been comparatively little investigation into the technological treatment of voice in Canada. In general, a preference for live performance in group structures has developed as the major single feature. However, Sean O'Huigin and Steve McCaffery have collaborated (together and independently) with electronic composer Ann Southam to produce text-sound compositions of high sophistication: synthesized speech, various speeds, splicings and superimpositions have all been investigated by O'Huigin and McCaffery.
Prior to this Nichol had investigated electroacoustic effects (largely echo and reverb) on his album Motherlove. However, Nichol's interest has never developed beyond this one, isolated instance. In conclusion, it should be said, that this Introduction is intended to be no more than a survey of current concerns against a background that is still being 'invented'. Sound Poetry is marked as much by its differences as its similarities. It is, above all, a practice of freedom. Most artists have entered the domain feeling consciously the current inadequacy of language; that need to test all categories, confront the fixist and offer both the problems and solutions of new possibilities. In many poets it has led to a renaissance in awareness; to an acknowledgement of roots much more primitive and universal than the diachronic highpoints of Futurism and Dada. In many others it has led to an open future, to a language without words and hence to a history without history.
Julia Kristeva has written of literary practice as being 'the exploration and discovery of the possibilities of language as an activity which frees man from given linguistic networks'. Sound Poetry is best described as what sound poets do (or as I once answered 'it's a new way to blow out candles'); it thus takes its place in the larger struggle against all forms of preconditioning.
Bring back the future.
Toronto, August 1978
above copied from: http://www.ubu.com/papers/mccaffery.html
Visible Language, 2001
After providing three "anti-definitions" which locate sound poetry by specifying what it is not, a new term is introduced, "intersign." Intersign poetry does not priviledge sound, but focuses on new integrative sound-vision presented by technology through digital means. Technology-based poetry is traced to French experiments in the 1950s. Following a brief history of poetic development, intersign poetry is contrasted with sound poetry and positioned relative to multimedia and hypermedia. The engagement of the audience is viewed as a critical component in exploring meaning and sensory development.
This text deals with three trends of experimental poetics based on sound poetry today:
1) The return to acoustic experiments;
2 The presence of the body;
3) Hypermedia techniques which develop new ways to construct poems as a mix between sound, verbal and visual elements.
To understand the trends of experimental poetics based on sound poetry today, it is necessary first to understand in general what sound poetry is, if not by exactly defining its field, at least by defining what is not contained within it.
1 Sound poetry is not a declamation of a written poem, even if the declamation is an oralization of an experimental written text, for instance, a visual poem. Sometimes a visual poem is taken as a basis for an experimental way of reading aloud that has a distant connection with the visual features. So the reading must be considered a new poem created by the speaker, as in some performances by Lily Greenham. To summarize: sound, in sound poetry, is not the same as the auditory aspect of verbal discourse.
2 Sound poetry is not a text-based poem, where text is conceived as a complex of syntactic, semantic and pragmatic levels of verbal signs. Even when the reading of a text has as background musical elements disrupting normal oral reading, it is not sound poetry. In another way, it could be said that sound poetry is not a musicalization of a poem. To summarize: sound, in sound poetry, is not an extraneous element of a verbal poem, inserted as a background to its reading; nor is its function to reinforce the text meanings or to illustrate a reading of the text.
3 Sound poetry is not a performance of poetry with decorative sounds derived from the performance. This means that a performance could never be considered as a sound poem when the sound aspects of presentation work only as a collage with the rest of the elements, without a formal organization or a function within the performark;
These anti-definitions come from analyzing sound poetics, theoretical statements, manifestos, critical essays on the subject from the nonsense poetry of the end of the nineteenth century to the many types of experimental poetry of the twentieth century. If, however, it is difficult to use the above points to define precisely what sound poetry is, at least they might be useful in distinguishing good from bad sound poems.
Nevertheless, maybe as a term, "sound poetry" is to be put aside if we intend to make clear distinctions between a poem that has sound as an internal structural element or a poem in which the sound aspects are simple derivation from the verbal signs or incidental and dispensable elements. It may be a fact that "sound poetry," as formulated by Henri Chopin in the 196os and widely used all over the world, is losing its capacity to define a poetics. 1
Many poets of different countries have adopted it to name their poems, most of them, applying it to poems that could be included in the three categories noted above. In Brazil, for instance, after my introduction of sound poetry in the beginning of the 1990s, with a book (1992), poems (1993/94) and radio broadcasting series (1994), sound poetry as a term provoked controversial disputes between visual poets who intended to demonstrate how their visual poems were "potentially" sound, even if printed (and silent). Some poor presentations have been made of them, which have had strong repercussions in the Brazilian media, establishing the term sound poetry simply as a new name for declamatory poetry, sometimes using noises of musical instruments as a background or a distant reference to the field of experimental art. Perhaps it is correct to leave the term "sound poetry" free to be used without definitions to avoid worthless disputes.
I prefer to introduce the concept of intersign poetry, which I developed in 1985 to define a new kind of visual poetry. The idea of intersign poetry was, in the beginning, used to define a sort f visual poem in which visuality was neither the visual features of the verbal sign (as in the old figurative poem, from carmina figurata or pattern poem to the Apoilinaire's calligrams or in concrete poetry), nor the illustration extraneous to the verbal mode (as we see in the illustrated poems of William Blake or the Italian visible poetry of the 1960s). The concept was of a poetry that carries out a formal integration between visual elements (photos, drawings, numbers) and verbal signs, each species with its own semantic information, merged in order to produce a whole to be deciphered in the pragmatic action of reading or observing the poem. The same approach could be considered as applicable in understanding sound poetry (here already is a generic term in which many forms of auditory poem can be included). It could be said that an intersign sound poem deals with the sound neither as a declamation of verbal discourse, nor as a dispensable sound used to reinforce and illustrate the verbal declamation, as in a poem set to music. It is a poem where sounds of any species (phonetic, bodily noises, especially from a vocal tract, noises of natural or artificial origin, daily life auditory elements), are put together, formally related to each other, constructing a whole meaning or sense of the poem to be understood by the audience.
The conception can be extended to a wide field of contemporary technologies. Indeed in 1998, I organized an exhibition where I tried to put together visual poems, sound poems, object poems, live performance and computer poems where the same idea of intersign poetry is present. The exhibition was called "Intersign poetry - from visual, to sound and digital poetry." What interests me is to discuss how we could understand and explore the passage from traditional bases and media, like orality and visuality, to new technologies, where the space is conceived as an environment to mix sound, visual and verbal signs. If we approach new technologies with old techniques and obsolete ways of combining the three different sign systems (visual, verbal and sound), we are using old forms in new media, that is, old languages in new technologies, but not exploring the possible new languages suggested by new technologies. To submit visual and sound elements to the axis of verbal signs is to use new technologies as a printed page and, more than that, as a mentality constructed by the text. The possibility of a new language, that is, a new way of combining signs, or new forms of organizing signs, seems to me to be opened up by the technologies of hypermedia, as a radical extension of the hypertext.
On the one hand, it is necessary to distinguish the experiments of computer graphics from the new possibilities of hypermedia. In computer graphics, the poem is essentially visual. Features which distinguish it from the printed poem, such as the movement of letters, the kinesthetic sensation of the passage of time, a non-linear trajectory of the eyes, are not unimportant. But in any case, computer graphic poems are visual and, in many cases, a sort of externalization of a latent movement in the printed poem. And as a visual poem, computer graphic poems are deaf and mute. Despite the fact that the techniques of video and computer are fundamentally multimedia, the sound is included a posteriori, as an appendix, reinforcement or illustration of what is shown by the visual development of the poem in a video or computer screen. Often the video poem is a computer version of a conventional visual printed poem where the suggestion of movement was implicit in the visual structure of the poem, as in the computer or holographic versions of concrete poems. So new technology does not allow us to state that the presence of sound in kinesthetic poems (be they computer-based or in video) leads us to a realm of new language in which the integration of visual, verbal and sound signs is different from the old printed visual poems.
On the other hand, it may be ridiculous to affirm that a simple movement of the eyes, different from when they are reading a poem printed on the page, has such an important role that video, computer or holographic poems produce more interactivity than a stable fixed page. Even in verse poetry the movement of the eye is different from reading prose, as the repetition of phonetic figures requires an attentive and circular reading of the poem.The slight movement of the eye to follow a kinesthetic poem (whether in video, computer or in holography) is not far from the movement of the eye and the hands leafing through the pages of printed poems, particularly in the case of books of visual poetry, where the linear development of the text is neglected and it is sometimes necessary to change the position of the book to see the poem.
The sound aspects of experimental poetry are so misunderstood that, despite the fact that the first manifestations of post war technological poetry were made in a sound laboratory, the history of technology-based poetry is still seen as a development of visual poetry. This misconception seems to be based in part on the emphasis on the presence of visual elements in debates on the mass media and its derivations in experimental poetry. Mass media studies point to the fact that we live in a visual environment, in a civilization of the image. It fails to take into consideration that one of the first modern mass media was the radio and the main distinction between the mass culture in the twentieth century and in the previous century is based on the reintroduction of the oral culture within the modern culture. When cinema became auditory, the speech deconstructed the mute narrative, preparing the coming of television language, evidently oral as well as visual. The next step which is taken by computer systems of communication is to overcome the keyboard, based on the visual typewriting system of the visual culture of the last century, in order to introduce the oral dialogue between the user and the computer. And due to an old mentality, the approach towards new technology is always done on the development of deaf and mute poems.
The two last movements of experimental poetry are both part of the visual tradition of contemporary art. Poesia visiva, in Italy, concentrated on the deconstruction of magazine and newspaper information and took over the tendency towards a visual approach. The other movement, concrete poetry, sometimes tried dialogue with sound features, but its characteristics as a visual poetics preclude any such dialogue. Concrete poetry had everything to do with concrete fine art and nothing to do with the concrete music. Its conception of form and the use of the space and time was completely derived from the rationality and geometric abstraction of the concrete visual art of the 1930s and 1940s. On the opposite side is concrete music, based on the free organization of auditory elements, taken from the chaos of daily life or produced as pure effects in the sound laboratory. Creating dialogue with concrete music, and far from concrete art and concrete poetry, French sound poetry of the 1950s was the first movement of technology-based poetry. And when at this moment we have an opportunity to think through the ways opened by the new technology for experimental poetics, we are forced to revisit the experiments of sound poetry in these last decades.
A first period of a proto-sound poetry was marked by phonetic experiments. But these were created under the influence of radio broadcasts and the internationalization of the communication system passing through the radio waves. The optophonetic experiments of dada, the onomatopoetic of Italian futurism are the most impressive production of this phonetic moment. Following the war, when the first concrete musicians were experimenting in sound laboratories, French poets were doing the same and often together, opening a new world of sound effects to the human ear. The performances included techno-sounds and the recordings sometimes reached such a high technological level that was it impossible to identify the human voice in it. The return to acoustic elements was a trend founded by performance poets in order foreground the human voice and the body that produces it. In performances many other elements are involved with the poem as an inextricable part of it: position and expressions of the body, face and hands, video images in the background, light, rhythm of the event, direct contact with the audience. Sound signs keep their position as a central element in the poem, but due to the fact that the poem is presented alive in front of an audience, the poet has two options with regard to how to make the other elements involved in the presentation of the poem work: i) make the other elements work as a reinforcement of the sound poem; 2) make the meaning of the other elements contrast and combine with sound elements.
The latter requires from the audience an attentive deciphering approach towards each element of the scene. The first option gives us a sound poem as performance. The second one presents an intersign poem live.2
The performance of experimental poetry offers us some bases on which it is possible to debate hypermedia poetry, a new kind of technology-based poem. When presented live, many sign components must be involved in the poetic situation in an intersemiotic-based poem. A distinction must be established between two different approaches to technology. So, we must consider "multimedia" a term which does not deal with a process of combining different sorts of signs, but it is a term related to an environment in which those signs appear. This technique can be used following three different stages:
1. Multimedia, as a general concept, is exemplified in some artistic production: signs of different sorts are put together in a system of collage, in which the association between them is due to the fact that they are present in the same space. In spite of this, the relation between them is not based on any formal integration, but the fact that are next to each other, inhabiting the same space. It is a concept that comes from fine art installation whose goal is to produce sensorial impact on the observer.
2. Hypermedia, as a computer system applied to informative products, is characterized by signs of different species that are offered as options to the user. Deriving from the hypertext system of links, hypermedia offers linkages between visual, verbal and sound signs, as options of each other. These options are presented as complementary or illustrative information. Normally the verbal sign conducts the complex of signs; the visual and sound signs work as optional illustration which can act as substitutes of the verbal sign.
3. Intermedia, understood not only as a system, but as a process, is derived from hypermedia and carried out in a multimedia system. But intermedia has some particular characteristics: it is not a free space where the integration between different signs is given by their simple proximity (as in multimedia); it is not a system of options between signs of different species (as in hypermedia).3
Intermedia is the conception of interpoetry applied to technological-based poetry, carried out in multimedia environments, structured on a hypermedia system of links, but based on the principle of formal integration and semantic composition between signs of different sorts, as an integrated process of meaning to be attentively considered by the user during his or her reading. So the pragmatic aspects of communication exercise a fundamental role in the intermedia process. Intermedia/poetry4 emphasizes the necessity of participation on the part of the user (reader/observer), because the poem must be constructed, in its many available paths, by the action of the user, in the countless features that different sequence of paths can produce.
Effective interactivity works as a game to be played by the user in his or her intuitive action of constructing the poem. The poem is not available as a whole, as an integral unit which must be completely read to be understood, but as ways of reading to be reconstructed by the user. At the same time, the action of constructing the interpoem is also an investigation through the paths, directed by the intention of discovering the complex of meanings hidden in each path available. Play, research, reading, sensorial effects, decision of the reader, are pragmatic elements suggested by the intermedia way of combining sound with image and text, in formal relations and semantic combinations as a poetic process.
Written in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Scott, Dublin, Spring, 2000.
1 Henri Chopin wrote in an article published in his magazine Ou, in the i96os, that sound poetry is a matter of vocal micro-particles rather than the Word as we know it, as far as the art of the voice and the mouth are concerned, this art can be more easily codified by machines and electricity and also by mathematics."
2 A poem of mine that could explain this conception of intersign poetry applied to performance of poetry is entitled "Future." First issued in a CD (Menezes, 1996), "Future" was presented live for the first time in Portugal (Festival de Poesia Sonora, Guarda, 1999). The sound poem is the word "future" in Portuguese, stretched out for two minutes by the deformation of the voice in a sound laboratory.The word looses its phonological timing and, consequently, its identity as a lexical item, draping its meaning in the process. Live, the poem is presented in complete darkness. White the poem sounds, the poet, using a little flashlight, writes the word "future" in the air as an ephemeral sign of the passing time.
3 Intermedia is a term coined in the i96os by the North American poet Dick Higginns (1987) before the coming of multimedia as a term used in computer systems. But Higgin's conception of "intermedia," as we see in the fluxus movement, is more related to the conception of multimedia as developed here than properly to the "intermedia," as it has been developed in this text.
4 A first experiment in interpoetry was carried out in Brazil by me in collaboration with the designer Wilton Azevedo. It has been shown since 1998 in international exhibitions, conferences and biennales in many cities in Brazil as well as in Los Angeles, Barcelona, Bologna and Lima (Peru).
above copied from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3982/is_200101/ai_n8950234/pg_1
Most sound poets and observers of the contemporary scene approach sound poetry as if it were a purely contemporary phenomenon, but this neoteric view simply does not hold up. It is true that some kinds of sound poetry are new in the sense of being without formal precedent. But just as "concrete" and other recent visual poetries have their analogues going back into folklore or into (for example) the Bucolic Greek poets, so sound poetry too has its close analogues. This is natural, since it is natural for anyone who is interested in poetry to try, at some point, isolating the sounds of poetry from other aspects of it and to try out the making of poems with sounds more-or-less alone; only if such an experiment were totally artificial could something so basic as a poetry of sound alone be entirely without precedent. But, to start our investigation, let us consider sound poetry not (as might be tempting) by some tight definition that gave a climactic structure to the argument of the critic or poet who offers it-the revelation-of-the-here-to-fore-unknown-truth kind of discussion-and simply use "sound poetry" as, generally, poetry in which the sound is the focus, more than any other aspect of the work.
Three basic types of sound poetry from the relative past come to mind immediately: folk varieties, onomatopoetic or mimetic types, and nonsense poetries. The folk roots of sound poetry may be seen in the lyrics of certain folk songs, such as the Horse Songs of the Navajos or in the Mongolian materials collected by the Sven Hedin expedition.1 We have some of this kind of thing in our own culture, where sound poetry fragments are apt to be used at the ends of stanzas, such as the French "il ron ron ron petit patte à pont" in "Il était une bergère," or the English "heigh down hoe down derry derry down" in "The Keeper." Similarly, in Black American music there is a sound poetry tradition, possibly based originally on work calls, which we find metatacized into the skat singing styles of the popular music of the 1930's, in the long nonsense-like passages in Cab Calloway's singing of "Minnie the Moocher," for example.
In written literature, by contrast, most of the sound poetry fragments are brief, onomatopoetic imitations of natural or other sounds, for example the "Brekekex ko-ax ko-ax" of the frogs in Aristophanes' drama, or the "jug jug jugs" of the birds among the Elizabethans. This use of sound has no semantic sense to speak of, although, on occasion, its freshness consists of possible overlaps between nonsense and sense. Even some recent sound poetry has an onomatopoetic element. For example, my own Requiem for Wagner the Criminal Mayor is above all a structural piece, but its sounds resemble the fighting of cats and also the so-called "Bronx cheer" of traditional calumny.
Some of the most interesting sound poetry is the purely nonsense writing of the periods in Western literature when nonsemantic styles and forms were not supposed to be taken in full earnest. One of their delights is the art with which they parody the styles of their authors' native tongues. Try this English example, for instance, from the Victorian, Edward Lear:
Inky tinky pobblebookle abblesquabs?
Flosky! beebul trimple flosky!-Okul scratcha-
bibblebongebo, viddle squibble tog-a-tog, ferrymoyassity
amsky flamsky ramsky damsky crocklefether squiggs.
While not set up as verse and therefore not exactly sound poetry, this text is from the period when prose poems were re-developed, and it tropes the style of a conventional polite letter of its period quite admirably. Another well-known example from its time would be the nonsense words in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky --'Twas brillig in the slithy toves. . ." and that kind of thing. The protagonist is equipped with a "vorpal" sword, and speculation on that kind of sword has been abundant ever since. When I was a child I had a science fiction magazine in my possession-long since vanished-in which two genius children invented a "vorpal" sword to protect themselves against an invasion of creatures from another dimension, and there are currently even a literary magazine in California and an art gallery in New York City named-what else?-Vorpal. Thus though no meaning has ever been assigned definitively to "vorpal," the word has become familiar as a sort of empty word, significant for its lack of meaning and for its harmony in a sentence of other, more semantically significant English words.
Similarly, in Christian Morgenstern's "Gespräch einer Haussechnecke mit sich selbst," from the famous Galgenlieder, a snail asks if it should dwell in its shell, but the word fragments progress arid compress into strange, decidedly ungrammatical constructs; these use a sort of inner ear and inner grammar of the German language which reveal a great deal about the sounds and potential of that language:3
Soll i aus meim Hause raus
Soll i aus meim Hause nit raus?
Einen Schritt raus?
Lieber nit raus?
which Max Knight has translated as follows:
Shall I dwell in my shell?
Shall I not dwell in my shell?
Dwell in shell?
Rather not dwell?
Shall I not dwell,
shall I dwell,
dwell in shell
shall I shell,
Of course in German the last five words can be perfectly compressed into one invented word each, which cannot be done to the same extent in English. This illustrates not only the uniqueness of the German language but also the unique relationship between successful sound poetry and the effective use of the linguistic potentialities in any given language.
II - When sound poetry becomes conscious of itself as just another genre
At some point around the time of the First World War it ceased to be assumed that sound poetry could only be used for light or humorous works or as interludes in otherwise traditional pieces, or as something so unique that each poem appeared to be the first sound poem in history-assumptions that seem to underlie most early sound poems. The sense of pioneering was replaced by the sense of potential mastery, and a tradition of sound poetry was precipitated. Implicit in this development is the even more radical aesthetic shift which seems to have begun at this time (and to have become even more pronounced recently, since, say, the late 1950's) that it is no longer de rigeur that a poem must attempt to be powerful, meaningful or even necessarily communicative (a main assumption of the 18th and 19th century poetries). I have developed this observation more fully elsewhere, 4 but basically my argument is that poetries which used means which, while not unknown, were not usually taken seriously in the West, especially visual as well as sound poetry,5 could now be accepted as valid possibilities and genres.6 Thus the parole in libertà (1909) of the futurist F. T. Marinetti or the dada lautgedichte of Hugo Ball ( 1917), both of which flourished at this time and both of which, while they may include elements of humor, are not particularly intended as divertissements as is, for instance, the Edward Lear piece I cited. The cycle since then is a sort of arc of increasing acceptance of these genres as our mentality has shifted from the normative art of power in the late 19th century towards an art of experience and paradigm today. As a measure of just how much a Ball lautgedicht (a work which probably seemed quite esoteric at the time of its composition) is accepted, one can point to the use of Ball's "I Zimbra" in its surprising appearance as the lyrics to a recently popular song by the punk rock group, The Talking Heads.7 The punk rock song, like Ball's poem, opens with "Gadji bera bimba dandridi," which is not even anchored in the parody of any one language but is purely without reference to any known language. This in turn evokes the possibility of an artificial invented language, an idea which was also explored at this same time in the Russian Iliazd's "zaoum" or the German Stefan George's "lingua romana" pieces. In our taxonomy, then, works in an artificial or non-existent language will be the first class of modern sound poems.8
A second class comprises works in which the joy or other significance of the work lies in the interplay between the semantically meaningful lines or elements and those which are probably nonsense. It is thus related to the first class, and such pieces often use found materials collaged into the text, as it were, so that one gets either a shock of recognition or a momentarily heightened sense of immediate, concrete reality. These works parallel, conceptually, the early collages of Picasso or Braque with their inclusion of newspaper fragments among the forms on the canvas, or the use of photographs by the dadaists and such Bauhaus figures as Moholy-Nagy, or the objets trouvés of Marcel Duchamp. That traditional critics can still be puzzled by such works is indicated by the titles of the contributions to a 1972 issue of Text+Kritik devoted to the writings of Kurt Schwitters, the German near-dadaist who flourished in the 1920's and later. Sample titles: "Kurt Schwitters' Poem 'To Anna Blume': Sense or Nonsense?" or "On the Function of the Reality Fragments in the Poetry of Kurt Schwitters," etc.9 Another such device, though not one that fits into sound poetry, would be the "newsreel" passages of John Dos Passos' USA trilogy, which I only mention as a parallel paradigm.
A third class might be called "phatic poems," poems in which semantic meaning, if any, is subordinate to expression of intonation, thus yielding a new emotional meaning which is relatively remote from any semiotic significance on the part of words which happen to be included. If, for example, one were to wail the words "blue" and "night" repeatedly over a period of time, the initial function of those words to establish a frame for the wail would soon become unimportant by comparison with the musicality of the wail itself and the residual meaning of the two words would come to seem more like an allusion than a conveyor of meaning. One would have, in effect, an invocation without anything specific being invoked. This is precisely the effect which one gets from the recently re-discovered recording by Antonin Artaud of his "Pour en finir avec le jugement se dieu," which was originally recorded in the late 1940's a short time before the poet's death, broadcast (causing a great scandal), and then lost for many years until Arrigo Lora-Totino unearthed it in the archives of Radiodiffusion Francaise.10 Here Artaud uses more-or-less conventional words, but they are, as I have suggested, essentially allusions-or perhaps illusions, since so few can be understood anyway. Instead Artaud's emphasis is on high sighing, breathing, wheezing, chanting, exclaiming, exploding, howling, whispering and avoiding.
Poems without written texts constitute a fourth class. They may have a rough schema or notation that is akin to a graphic musical one (and there are those who regard a magnetic tape as a sort of notation), or there may be some general rules, written out like those of a game, which, if followed, will produce a performance of the work. But by comparison with the role of the written text and the heard result in traditional poetry or in the previous sound poetries that we have discussed (except, perhaps, the previous class, the phatic poems), they are relatively unnotated. Highlights in this class would be Henri Chopin's explorations of the voice by means of microphone and tape recorder, François Dûfrène's very phatic crirhythmes series (which, perhaps, constitute a transitory class between the phatic poems and the un-written-out ones), or the highly sophisticated tape recorded poems produced in the recording studio by such artists as the Swedes, Bengt Emil Johnson, Sten Hanson and others." A very large portion of the recorded literature of sound poetry, especially in Europe, is of this type, presumably because of the inherent close connection between such works and audio recording as an industry. Although this is also the class in which most American sound poetry falls, the American literature tends to be aesthetically naive by comparison to the European (and Canadian) works. The artists seem ill at ease with the very "performance" of their "texts." For example, there are some ten records in the Poetry Out Loud series edited by Peter and Patricia Harleman, which seem somehow like an extension of the beat poetry of the 1950's with its heavy jazz influence, its anti-formal bias and its dogmatic insistence upon the freshness of improvisation.12 There exist also similar records edited and produced independently by John Giorno, whose work tends to sound improvised even when it is not. These have isolated fragments of rich material, but most are heavy-handed in their unformed iconoclasm. Fortunately, even in America, there are exceptions such as the works of Jackson Mac Low, Richard Kostelanetz and Charles Stein which are not of this sort.
The fifth class is the notated sound poem, which comprises the largest volume of sound poetry to date. By "notation" here I am referring to the normative sort of musical notation, in which there is some kind of correspondence between space, time, word and sound and some form of graphic or textual indicator of these elements. Some of these notations closely resemble musical notations and have elaborate scores, such as the work in the 1940's of the lettriste Isidore Isou or the monumentally complex works that came out of Germany in the 1950's, such as Hans G. Helms' Golem or Wolfgang Harig's das fussballspiel/ein stereophonisches hörspiel, a page of which is reproduced herewith:
Harig's das fussballspiel ("the soccer game") is, as its cover proclaims, "a stereophonic radio play," the word for which is, in German, appropriately enough, "hörspiel" or "hear-play." The resources called for on the depicted page alone are one chorus which evidently is working in unison here with a second and third chorus, a man and a woman. The work was first broadcast by Sudwestfunk in Stuttgart on April 11, 1966.13
However, it could also be argued that any text, when it is taken as a work of art by a person who does not understand the meaning of its words, is conceptually transformed into a sound poem of this class. For example, in February 1960, during a now-legendary performance of some "Happenings" at New York's Judson Church, Claes Oldenburg (who later became celebrated as a pop artist) read aloud to his American audience from a Swedish translation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Since Oldenburg's Swedish is excellent, what the audience heard was all the phatic and phonetic materials of the Swedish language. Once the spectator gave up trying to understand the semantic meaning of the words, the result was fresh and meaningful on another plane.
Another such development is the use of a work which was presumably designed for an experience in some other medium in poetry, to produce a sort of intermedial translation. For example, there is the intertextual and intermedial relationship of sound poetry and concrete poetry. Concrete poetry is, quite roughly, the genre of visual poetry which uses writing or the letters of the alphabet presented visually or systemically, as opposed to visual poems which are photographic, environmental, conceptual, temporal, etc.14 Concrete poetry became a widespread phenomenon in the 1950's and 1960's. However, occasionally the need to perform concrete poetry "live" would arise. So when the poets would be asked to read their work aloud, they would often use the printed texts by analogy to musical notations, thus transforming them into notated sound poems. So close is the connection between sound poetry and concrete poetry, in fact, that many artists have done both and, in fact, one of the first phonographic recordings of sound poetry as such, the 1966 -konkrete poesie/sound poetry/artikulationen," by its very title indicates the near-identity of sound and concrete poetry; some of the artists included, such as Ernst Jandl, Franz Mon and Lily Greenham, are known in both areas, and Ms. Greenham has toured in Europe and North America with her live performances of concrete poetry translated into sound poetry.
Finally, within this fifth class there is another hybrid, sound poems which are also radio plays, or which seemed designed to be heard not as a unique experience but as part of something else, so that the sound of the words is accompanied by the meanings from some different area of experience. One hears the text with only half one's attention, as one hears most radio broadcasts with only half one's attention; this is more or less inherent in the nature of radio, that one plays it while watering the house plants, while driving through heavy traffic, or while sorting out the addresses in one's address book. My own Le petit cirque au fin du monde and Ommaje are of this subclass. The first is a "hear-play" written in French, a language I do not speak well, so that the errors in it are part of its texture, and it was broadcast repeatedly over the public address system at the University of Vincennes by Jean-Jacques Lebel's students during the May 1968 insurrection in France, a perfect environment for that piece.
These, then, are the five relatively modern classes of sound poetry:
1 works in an invented language,
2 near-nonsense works
3 phatic poems,
4 un-written-out poems, and
5 notated ones.
Obviously some of the modern works being generated today still fall within the three classes I described earlier in older sound poetry:
1 folk varieties,
2 onomatopoetic or mimetic pieces, and
3 nonsense poetries which trope their own languages.
For example, there is no doubting the modernity or avant-garde credentials of the Toronto-based group, The Four Horsemen, whose members perform both separately and together. In their performances they allude constantly to folk or popular culture, to the extent of wearing the kind of elaborate, almost psychedelic clothes associated with rock and roll groups-and they even trope the style of rock and roll to the point of listening to each other take riffs and solos and playing off each other as any tight rock group would. Their presentations are deliberately popular and light-spirited in order to minimize the gulf that usually exists between performer and audience in the new arts. Yet, formally this work belongs to two of the oldest of sound poetry traditions-the folk and nonsense traditions. In no way does this work to the detriment of their achievement, but rather it serves to remind us of something very deep within us which sound poetry expresses clearly when it is at its best-the love of the sound of poetry.
III - Some Boundaries and Non-Boundaries of Sound Poetry
Now that we have examined some eight classes of things that sound poetry is, it might be fruitful to turn our attention briefly to some things that sound poetry either is not, or is not yet.
One thing that sound poetry is not is music. Of course it has a musical aspect-a strong one. But if one compares typical sound poetry pieces with typical musical ones, music is usually the presentation or activization of space and time by means of the occurrences of sound. This is the nature of the most traditional Mozart piano pieces or Irish unaccompanied airs as of the most innovative John Cage musical inventions. But any poetry relates space, time and sound to experience. Thus sound poetry points in a different direction, being inherently concerned with communication and its means, linguistic and/or phatic. It implies subject matter; even when some particular work is wholly non-semantic, as in the microphonic vocal explorations of Henri Chopin, the non-semantic becomes a sort of negative semantics-one is conscious of the very absence of words rather than, as in vocal music, merely being aware of the presence of the voice. Thus, for the sound poet certainly and probably for the audience as well, the creation or perception of a work as sound poetry has to do with questions of meaning and experience which are not essentially musical. We identify what we are hearing more than we would if we were listening to music. We are very concerned with just who or what is saying or doing what.
Some of the things that sound poetry has not yet become are intermedial. Intermedia are those formal, conceptual areas of the arts which fall between already accepted media, such as visual poetry falling between the visual arts and poetry. However there is always a tendency for intermedia, experienced with increasing familiarity, to become themselves new media. Thus, taking sound poetry no longer as an intermedium but as a medium, it would be exciting if the sound poets would explore these three new intermedia: (1 ) those between sound poetry and linguistic analysis, (2) those between sound poetry and sculpture, to produce profoundly three-dimensional poetic constructs and not merely analytical ones, and (3) between sound poetry and the environment.
In the first of these new intermedia, we could use electronic means to apply the analyzed sounds of one language to the conceptual structure of another to see what aesthetic effects would be made possible. We could write English with the transformations of German. We could generate new categories of what the linguists have called "illegal" sentences-sentences that have no possible correspondences in the physical world (e.g., Noam Chomsky's famous "colorless green ideas sleep furiously"). All sorts of new macaronics would be worth exploring-puns and mixtures among different languages, not to be humorous but to expand our experiences.
In the second new intermedium poems would appear in situations and points of space, and would move towards other situations and points of space in an exciting way. Masses of sound and word, physical presence of more words-these things would enable new poetic structures to enter into our experience.
Finally, the third intermedium could exist in environments and situations which we do not normally regard as poetic. We could have poems for sauna baths, for sunsets, for the experiencing of elections from among the apple trees. We could use aspects of these places that would aestheticize our relationships to them, as, traditionally, a prayer was supposed to spiritualize our relationship to its circumstances-a prayer for night time, a prayer for those who were lost at sea. There is a lot to be done in these areas and more.
Barrytown, New York
October 2nd, 1980
1 Henning Haslund-Christiansen, The Music of the Mongols: Eastern Mongolia (1943; New York: Da Capo Press, 1971).
2 Edward Lear, The Complete Nonsense Book (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1934), p. 10.
3 Christian Morgenstern, The Gallows Songs (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), pp. 28-29.
4 I have developed this argument more fully in three parts of: Dick Higgins, A Dialectic of Centuries: Notes Towards a Theory of the New Arts. Second Edition. (New York: Printed Editions, 1979), pp. xi, 3-9, 93-101, and also in: Dick Higgins, George Herbert's Pattern Poems: In Their Tradition (New York: Printed Editions, 1977), pp. 18-19.
5 The early history of visual poetry is my subject in the work listed in footnote 4, above. Its bibliography will also be useful for anyone seeking to explore the matter farther. For a similar discussion of sound poetry, but one which continues into modern times as well, the best such article in English is that of Stephen Ruppenthal and Larry Wendt, "Vocable Gestures: A Historical Survey of Sound Poetry," in Art Contemporary 5 (1978) [ La Mamelle, Inc., P.O. Box 3123, San Francisco, CA 941191 , pp. 57-8, 80-104. A large study of the subject by Henri Chopin is due to be published shortly in France, which should help fill in the gap in historical scholarship in sound poetry.
6 For an example of a naïve attack on visual poetry, see Hippolyte Taine, History of English Literature (New York: Holt & Williams, 1872), v. 4, p. 54. Another such attack is in Joseph Addison, Spectator 58, many editions.
7 The Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" is on their album, Fear of Music (New York: Sire Records, 1979), SRK 6076.
8 Many excellent examples of such work are given in Eugene Jolas, "From Jabberwocky to Lettrisme" in Transition Forty-Eight (1948), v. 1, n. 1, pp. 104-120.
9 Text+Kritik (1972), n. 35/36, pp. 13 and 33.
10 Arrigo Lora-Totino, ed., Futura/Poesia Sonora (Milano: Cramps Records, 1979), 5206 304. This seven-record set contains a large book of notes with many materials that are unavailable elsewhere.
11 Recordings of highlights of seven of the International Sound Poetry Festivals, held at Stockholm from 1968 to 1975, can be found on five records from Sveriges Radios Förlag, RELP 1049, 1054, 1072, 1073 and 1074, and on two from Fylkingen Records, RELP 1102 and 1103.
12 Poetry Out Loud (St. Louis, MO: Out Loud Productions, 1971 to 1977).
13 Ludwig Harig, das fussbalspiel: ein stereophonisches hörspiel (Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 1967).
14 I say "roughly" because, for purposes of discussion, I am ignoring the sub-genre of concrete poetry which is either calligraphic or is written in non-legible writing. Many fine anthologies of concrete poetry have appeared. For example, one of the largest, one which is technically out of print but which is often found, is Emmett Williams, ed., An Anthology of Concrete Poetry (New York: Something Else Press, 1967).
15 Anastasia Bitzos, ed., konkrete poesie / soundpoetry / artikulationen (Bern: Anastasia Bitzos, 1966). Ms. Bitzos produced at least one other such record as well. There also are several records of Lily Greenham's sound poetry translations of concrete, for example: internationale sprachexperimente der 50/60er jahre / international language experiments of the 50/60ies [sic] (Frankfurt am Main: Edition Hoffmann, ca. 1970).
reproduced from: http://www.ubu.com/papers/higgins_sound.html
1. Only the development of the new technologies will mark the progress of sound poetry: the electronic media and the computer are and will be the true protagonists.
2. The object "language" must be increasingly investigated in its smallest and largest parts: the word, basis of sound experimentation, takes the characters of multi-word, broken into its inner body, restitched at its exterior. The word must be able to free its own manifold sonorities.
3. The exploitation of sound has no limits. It must be carried beyond the border of pure noise, a signifying noise: linguistic and oral ambiguity has a sense only if it completely uses the instruments of the mouth.
4. The recovery of the sense of time (the minute, the second), apart from the laws of harmony and disharmony, because only through editing is the right parameter of synthesis and balance found.
5. Language is rhythm. Tone values are real vectors of meaning: first an act of rationality, then an act of emotion.
6. Polypoetry is devised and realized for the live show; it gives to sound poetry the role of prima donna or starting point to link relations with musicality (accompaniment or rhythmic line), mimicry, movement, and dance (acting or extension or integration of the sound text), image (television or slide projection, by association, explanation or alternative and redundancy), light, space, costumes, and objects.
Above copied from: http://www.391.org/manifestos/enzominarelli_manifestoofpolypoetry.htm