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Far from creating nonsense, the overabundant contexts for the core referent overdetermine its meaning. Moreover, by connecting the meaning of smekh- with the verbal mimicry of laughter, Khlebnikov creates a language that is universal. Zakliatie smekhom lends itself to performance, as well as to reading. The development of a Russian root to produce sounds previously unknown is an avant-garde gesture that parallels the work of composers of the early s, who extended performance techniques and modified instruments in order to discover new sound worlds.
In the two lines that frame the poem, however — chashu derzhet and dramu pishet — Kruchenykh subverts the aural structure by using et words in which the stress falls on the first, rather than the second, syllable, namely DERzhet and PISHet. Mikhail Larionov, Portrait of Akhmet. In his miscellany Vzorval Explodity , Kruchenykh likewise discards conventional typesetting for hand-lithography and rubber-stamping. Seen on the page, STAro appears to rhyme with dobRO, yet the difference in stress patterns, which is audible when the words are spoken, undermines the rhyme.
Moreover, al- though all three words have meaning, their verbal sequence follows no logi- cal sense, nor does their context provide a rationale. Both the Russian avant-garde poets and the Italian futurists explored the potential of language to produce nonreferential sounds. Both ventured be- yond reading into the world of live declamation and performance. Marinetti, founder of the Italian futurist move- ment, deep changes in technology and science and in concepts of time and space called for the reinvention of all the arts, including music and literature.
German Dadaists working with sound poetry in the s dispensed alto- gether with semantic units. This thirty-five-minute performance piece follows the structure of a classical four-movement sonata, with a first movement that contains an opening rondo with four themes, a largo modeled on the characteristic slow movement , a scherzo-trio the dance movement , and a presto finale that includes a lively cadenza. Recapitulations may occur in each of these movements, but development is most audible. By repeating and slightly varying his minimal combinations of let- ters, Schwitters makes the structure of his piece audible.
Schwitters composed the Ursonate over a ten-year period —32 , giv- ing improvised readings, designing and publishing provisional scores, and expanding the piece. When he published the full score in his magazine Merz 24 , he used a phonetic notation of his own invention. Figure 5 shows this notation in a rare booklet version of the score published on dif- ferent colored paper by W. Kurt Schwitters, Ursonate Ursonata. Mimeograph version of the original score of by W. For instance, Schwitters made intermit- tent but abundant use of umlauts in order to accentuate the importance of German pronunciation.
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A single vowel sound is short. This is why I like to perform my sonata in public. The mission of the musical avant- garde, like that of the sound poets, was to invent a radically new conception of musical sound. The French composer Erik Satie crafted irreverent stories and essays and iconoclastic compositions in which he slyly provoked his fel- low composers to break with German romanticism and French impression- ism.
Satie mocked what he considered to be the pedantry, academic serious- ness, and artistic sublimity of this repertoire and advocated a pared-down music that fused art with everyday sounds and styles. Let us wander through a great modern city with our ears more alert than our eyes, and enjoy distinguishing between the sounds of water, air, or gas in metal pipes, the purring of motors.
We shall enjoy fabricating mental orchestrations of the banging of store shut- ters, the slamming of doors, the hustle and bustle of crowds, the din of railway stations, foundries, spinning mills, printing presses, electric power stations, and underground railways. With his noise machines, which he labeled Intonarumori Noise In- toners , Russolo demonstrated his theories.
He divided the machines into six main categories, modeled on the four divisions of the symphony orchestra strings, winds, brass, percussion. Each category contained its own template of sounds see fig. Wheezes Sob Figure 6. Luigi Russolo, chart of sound categories for Intonarumori, c. Russolo first demonstrated his Intonarumori at a concert in Milan in April For the first of these, Russolo introduced a notation that replaced traditional music writing with a number system and a network of solid lines. It is interesting that just as Russolo devised a notation uniquely suitable for performance by his Noise Intoners, so Schwitters was to create a phonetic notation designed specifically for performances of the Ursonate.
The Californian Henry Cowell introduced new performance techniques on the piano, such as pitch clusters played by the hand and entire forearm, as early as in his The Tides of the Manaunaun. In , Cowell devised unique notations to pre- scribe performance of the clusters and the rhythmic complexities he had in mind. In the case of Russolo and Cowell, the interpretation of special forms of notation posed an additional technical challenge. This nature does not arise from pitch relations. Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise and so-called musical sounds.
Six players had the option of producing sixteen different types of sounds, some of which were unpitched. Cage scored the piece for an array of gongs including Balinese button gongs, Japanese temple gongs, suspended gong , bells, cymbals, suspended thundersheet a sheet of bronze that the performer strikes with a mallet , tam-tam, and string piano.
He inserted screws, felt weather stripping, and rubber inside the strings, then played at the keyboard, transforming the piano into an orchestra of gongs and delicate percussive sounds. The American poet Jackson Mac Low, who trained as a composer, began using chance procedures in the s to create unique, visually striking graphic scores, which he accompanied with instructions explaining the notation and the various methods for realizing it.
Live performance consisted of improvised, nonsemantic vocalizations by Mac Low and fellow poets and musicians. The German poet Bernard Heidsieck creates tape compositions that combine recordings of his voice and of everyday street sounds with live performance. In their scores of the s, Cage and his New York colleagues Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff confronted the performer with analogous challenges but invented unique notations and performance requirements not for themselves but for another musician — the virtuosic American pianist David Tudor.
Since the graphic notations of these composers left some musical parameters whether rhythm, pitch, meter, or texture unspecified, Tudor had to study the symbols and instructions and sometimes make preparatory charts of measurements and timings, in order to meet the specifications and invent performance techniques that would enable him to play the piece. John Cage, Solo for Piano. From Concert for Piano and Orchestra —58 , 9. Peters Corporation, Sole Selling Agent. Used by permission. Graphs and graph paper Cage and Feldman , white spaces to indicate silence Feldman , lines, circles, and waves overlaid on the musical staff Cage , and a seemingly random and nonlinear arrangement of graphic notations Cage represent the harnessing of conventional notation to visual ends that suggest chance and the indeterminate, chaos, or the purity of mathematical forms.
Kruchenykh, Marinetti, Schwitters, and Mac Low similarly expressed their transformation of the voice and the word through an array of visual devices that served as their notation, including uneven let- ter spacing, text misalignment, the use of handwriting and rubber-stamping, phonetic writing, and typographical design. This essay has placed sound poetry and avant-garde music within a shared history of sound and live performance. Indeed the context of sound poetry offers a new perspective on the musical avant-garde by illu- minating its radical expansion of the range of possible sounds, blurring of the line between sound and noise, and invention of new forms of notation.
Differences as well as similarities enrich our understanding of the two art forms. For instance, whereas avant-garde music is not generally performed by the com- poser, sound poetry is performed by the poet. This practice raises provocative questions about the criteria for evaluating a performance of sound poetry if a different poet steps in. Other forms of critique can also be affected by live performance. Such questions should provide fertile ground for future studies of sound poetry in relation to the musical avant-garde.
Interlocution collapses into a texture of parlance and polylogue at the same time as linguistic fragments, in French, German, and English, intersect and combine into efficacious new phrases it is surely no coincidence that the three languages utilized are respectively those of the three main combatants in the Great War. Although as a collective manifestation the simultaneity attains the status of a Gesamtkunstwerk only as parody, it nonetheless brings about that desired confluence and borderblur of song, bruitism, music, and dance that Dick Higgins in the s christened intermedia.
Seiokronto-prafriplo; Bifzi, bafzi; hulalemi: Quati basti bo. Lalu lalu lalu lalu la! Demoralized and traumatized by the horrors of actual combat, Ball came to realize the catalytic possibilities of theater to effect revolutionary change by way of expressionistic exaggera- tion.
Directed to the subconscious, this new theater developed a code of the festive, with archetypes and loudspeakers used to bypass realism. Ball believed that especially Chinese theater preserved a mantic character — a character carried over into his own sound poetry. A diary entry for April 2, , is of especial interest precisely because of its implicit comparison of actual war to the theatrical representation of battle: When a general receives orders for a campaign into distant provinces, he marches three or four times around the stage, accompanied by a terrible noise of gongs, drums, and trumpets and then stops to let the audience know he has arrived.
The words of the song do not matter; the laws of rhythm are more important. Zurich at that time was a city in a neutral nation surrounded by the carnage of a mad war of attrition. Orgiastic devotion to the opposite of everything that is serviceable and useful. Whereas in a few years Ball will inveigh against the language of journalism, in he offers a savage analysis of the material implications of the printing press itself: The machine gives a kind of sham life to dead matter.
It moves matter. It is a spec- ter. It joins matter together, and in so doing reveals some kind of rationalism. Thus it is death, working systematically, counterfeiting life. It tells more flagrant lies than any newspaper that it prints. And what is more, in its continuous sub- conscious influence it destroys human rhythm.
A walk through a prison can- not be so horrifying as a walk through the noisy workroom of a modern printing shop. Before the horror of war and its incomprehensibility, Ball reacts to the hor- rors of the machinic imaginary, and this reaction is carried over into wartime. Men have been mis- taken for machines.
Machines, not men, should be decimated. We must return to the innermost alchemy of the word, we must even give up the word too, to keep for poetry its last and holiest refuge. We must give up writing second-hand: that is, accepting words to say nothing of sentences that are not newly invented for our own use. It carries a lucid call to praxis, yet at the same time it petitions a vague mystery and pro- phylaxis.
To neologize in order to innovate? Indeed, the Lautgedicht surpasses any sociolinguistic critique of the contemporary, ambient condi- tions in the warring, secular world to encapsulate the very spiritualization of politics, sounding the redemption of the word via the power of abstract phonematicity. Ball offers an alchemical poetics of alembication by which the word, in being pulverized, is preserved as a higher distillate through re- finement from its semantic dross.
Where Pound uncouples image from a pictorial paradigm. The abstract, vocabolic string registers a confluence of negation and potenti- ality, transforming denotation into an unpredictable, indeterminate vertigo of connotational possibilities — and Ball himself seems aware of this: We tried to give the isolated vocables the fullness of an oath, the glow of a star And curiously enough, the magically inspired vocables conceived and gave birth to a new sentence that was not limited and confined by any conventional meaning.
Touching lightly on a hundred ideas at the same time without naming them, this sentence made it possible to hear the innately playful, but hidden, irrational char- acter of the listener, it weakened and strengthened the lowest strata of memory. Indeed, the mantic power within the Lautgedicht creates a semantic condition in which meaning is potential- ized and that way unconventionalized.
This is not a commitment to Cratylism that ancient belief that a word possesses a natural relation to the thing it des- ignates , but it certainly represents a significant move toward a radical cona- tive poetics grounded in irrational, infantile, and primary forces. By introducing difference into conti- nuity, the phoneme inflects the sonic with the haunting potential of meaning. The quotidian issue raised by any phonetic, nonsemantic poetry is, precisely what happens to meaning? And the answer is quite clear: phonetic poetry has a repositional rather than negative effect upon meaning; it situates the seman- tic order elsewhere — meaning becomes potential in its marginality.
One is thus left questioning whether Ball broke away from the tenets of symbolist poetics or enriched those poetics by adding an abstract method onto a poetics already geared to suggestion. The constitutional paradox at the heart of the Lautgedicht is readily apparent: when precise denotation is eliminated, the connotational potential of the phoneme and phonemic string — as well as its susceptibility to stirring the irrational and mnemonic strata in the addressee — is maximized.
Significant but not egregious, for the psycho-anthropological thinking Ball inherits marks his grammology as more typical of the times than ex- ceptional. The childlike quality I mean borders on the infantile, on dementia, on paranoia. It comes from the belief in a primeval memory, in a world that has been supplanted and buried beyond recognition, a world that is liberated in art by unrestrained enthusiasm, but in the lunatic asy- lum is freed by a disease. The lights went out, as I had ordered, and bathed in sweat, I was carried off the stage like a magical bishop.
Renouncing one type of institutional codification, Ball returns involuntarily to another: the Catholic church. By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. I let the vow- els fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat miaows. Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh 37 I find it hard not to read into this curious dramaturgic equation of words to body parts surely one of the strangest equations of body to language ever con- ceived a reference to the creation of the Golem, a being infused with the illu- sion of existence, a rabbinical creation from the four elements, a simulacrum destined to serve man in a better way than language.
Two Lautgedichten found their way into his fantasy novel Tenderenda the Fantast, and his total legacy to the new genre is a mere six poems plus a handful of equally short statements most of which this essay supplies. Donna J. Har r away My composition The Cyborg Opera is a long poem in progress — a linguistic soundscape that responds to the ambient chatter of technology by arrang- ing words, not according to their semantic meanings, but according to their phonetic valences.
I suggest that even though we have become ever more detached from our voices owing to the advent of such technologies as vocal recording, vocal telephony, and vocal synthesis , poets continue to argue that, nevertheless, we must find ways to access the unique music in our inborn styles of speech.
I have, therefore, begun to wonder how a poetic cyborg of the future might grow to find its own voice amid the welter of our cacophonic technology. The Cyborg Opera responds directly to these issues of primordial experi- ence, insofar as my work reacts to the precedent set by Schwitters in his poem Die Ursonate one of the most beautiful, but most difficult, Lautgedichten in the world to perform. Die Ursonate consists of four movements, inspired in part by the classical structure of a sonata complete with a rondo and a largo, a scherzo and a cadenza — and each movement enacts a series of variations upon a theme, riffing off the phonetic phrasing in several Dadaist poems by Raoul Hausmann.
The Cyborg Opera strives not only to extend, but also to exceed, this poetic legacy — a legacy that has sought to document the most primitive, most in- tuitive, utterance at the sudden moment when it emerges, both authentically and spontaneously, from the body of the ecstatic organism itself. This is not because I harbor any Luddite reaction toward the use of either vocoders or remixers; on the contrary, I do hope to experiment with such machines as part of my artistic research.
We have already created a poetic version of this older, improv form, but we cannot readily imagine a poetic cognate for a newer, techno beat. Even though such poets often exploit updated, musical styles of speech like dub, rap, or ska , all of which ema- nate from the technocratic environments of urban youth, the practitioners of these varied poetic genres still value the performative authenticity of a sin- cere speaker, whose literary charisma can establish an organic rapport with an intimate audience.
They do not recite sound poems so much as retell rhyming stories, riffing off hip-hop phrases, for example, in a manner that still calls to mind the average, beatnik raconteur at a jazz club. I argue, however, that in order to explain avant-garde sound poems through the trope of music, poets of today may have to adopt a genre better suited to express our millennial anxieties in an era now driven by the hectic tempos of our technology.
Of all the art forms at our disposal, music has evolved to become not only the most dominant, and most abstract but also the one whose progress has begun to outstrip our capacity both to com- pose it and to consume it without the aid of ever more advanced devices. To a greater degree than other art forms like painting and writing , which often solicit a contemplative, if not a philosophical, response from their audiences, music induces in its listeners a whole spate of autonomic reflexes and emo- tional twitches, any of which can transform the audience into an unthink- ing prosthesis of the medium itself.
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Is it not fair to say that beats of music rather than daubs of paint or words in verse can more readily convert a quiescent person into a turbulent rioter? I argue that whenever we enter the dance floor, we do so in order to become the robotic puppets of deejays, who use music to command our nervous systems via remote control.
The Cyborg Opera anticipates a future poetry that, when performed by a human being, transforms the versifier into a kind of athletic, musical engine — one able to spit out each word with the accuracy, if not the veloc- ity, of a rivet. Modern genres of electronica like techno or trance have al- ready supplied a paradigm for this literary activity.
Such music typically features as- sertive bass lines made amenable for dancing, and because the work almost always remains instrumental without any accompanying vocalization, such compositions often avoid any overtly melodic structure, relying instead upon synched rhythms, modified by reverbs and filters. When Paul D. While Japan has so far remained the only country on the planet to suffer atomic attack, the nation has, eerily enough, chosen to counterstrike, not with its own military weapons of mass destruction, but with its own cultural symbols of cute disposition: Hello Kitties and manga girlies.
The poem responds to this modern milieu of global terror by combining, purely for phonic effect, silly words from the popular culture of globalized capitalism, doing so in order to suggest that, under atomic threat, life itself has taken on the cartoonish atmosphere of our pinball arcades. The bloops and bleeps of the originary videogame sound humorous, of course, and my work merely imitates some of this goofiness for comic usage. Such research has resulted in a sidelong interest in the work of beatboxing performers, who use their voices to simulate the toolkit of deejays, mimicking the riffs of turntables and the loops of synthdrums.
My opera may come to include such overtures of verbalized percussion — but so far these tracks constitute an amateurish experiment, documenting some of my initial efforts to master some of the elementary vocabulary for a few of the drum kits most often used by beatboxers. I am hoping that, with advanced practice, I can soon integrate some linguistic variations of these effects into the structure of my poem.
The Cyborg Opera does promise to be a lengthy project, evolving in re- sponse to my ongoing research, but so far I am hoping that this essay might illuminate some of my rambling thoughts about the role of avant-garde sound poems in a growing, digital culture — a culture where poetry falters in its attempt to retain even a dedicated, but dwindling, readership. Poets in such a command economy of information make almost no money from their work — and in fact they can barely give their poetry away for free.
Such a plight represents an extreme version of the conditions already faced by other artists, particularly musicians, whose work gets copied and given away online with almost no hope of enforceable restitution; however, such artists do gain a potential audience that might in turn demand other commodified experi- ences, such as lectures, seminars, or readings. Under these conditions, poets must at least offer some demonstrable, performative competence in order to justify the expense of their appearance in person at a venue — and thus I have done my best to live up to such standards by emulating the acrobatic technique of performers like Chopin and Dutton or better yet, Razael and Dokaka , all of whom have perfected a glorious delivery free from error and ennui, despite the superhuman virtuosity needed to voice their works.
While the first view might allow the perfor- mance as a variation of the original, the second implies that textual and vocal instances of the poem offer discrepant versions of the work. Any reader can perform the written text of a poem, and indeed many poems need to be read out loud in order to make tangible the rhythm and sound patterning. The facts on the ground are these: the archive of recordings, as well as the live performance, of con- temporary poems is almost exclusively composed of poets giving voice to their own work; in the first instance, the claim for the significance of poetry performance is less theoretical than an acknowledgment of actually exist- ing poetic practice.
Striking an altogether different note, Caroline Bergvall, in a perfor- mance, samples, warps, and not so much rearticulates as reaccents Geoffrey Chaucer, bringing the putative godfather of English poetry into a multilecti- cal and ideolectical sound spectrum that includes Middle and contemporary English, French, and Latin. At least this is true for those poets for whom performance is a central part of their practice. For poets so engaged, there are as many modalities of poetry performance as there are styles of poems. The poetry of analphabetic cultures used prosodic for- mulas both to aid meaning and to goad composition.
Since there were no scripts, literal memorization was inconceivable. Memory, as a poetic prac- tice, involves an active exploration of the unknowable in ways that impart an evanescent presence. Memorization is post-script technique that requires precise, literal reproduction of a prescribed source. In contrast, the oral po- etry of analphabetic cultures is a technology for the storage and retrieval of cultural memory that involves variance, repetition, improvisation, elabora- tion. In this sense, memorization in poetry is a theatricalization of orality rather than an instance of it.
Listen- ing to such recordings, we hear a voice, if not of the dead, then one that sounds present but is absent, a voice that we can hear but that cannot hear us. Perhaps this touches on the reason poets read the work of their contempo- raries almost only at memorial gatherings, as a space of mourning in which we keep the poet among the living for one last time. In that sense, though, any perfor- mance of a poem is an exemplary interpretation, that is, one that imagines itself as rehearsal rather than as a finalization. The alphabet, with its thirty or so marks, offers a remarkably agile tech- nology for noting speech sounds, which, in our digital environment, makes it remarkably easy to cut, paste, and transmit.
In contrast to alphabetic writ- ing, the grammaphonic inscription offers an immensely thicker description of the voice, making explicit many vocal features that need to be interpolated when a poem is read from an alphabetic script. There are four features, or vocal gestures, that are available on tape but not page that are of special significance for poetry: the cluster of rhythm and tempo including word duration , the cluster of pitch and intonation including amplitude , timbre, and accent. The first two of these features can be visually plotted with waveforms; the gestalt of these features contributes to tone.
If performed rhythm trumps idealized meter, tempo can be used to telescope or attenuate articulated rhythmic patterns. Nonmetrical and polymetrical poems will have rhythms and shifts of pitch that are not necessarily apprehendable on the page even while they are foregrounded in performance and visible in waveform graphs. Tsur notes that his catego- ries are related to psychological studies of dogmatism and the authoritarian personality.
Performance allows the poet to refocus attention to dynamics hidden within the scripted poem, refocusing emphasis and overlaying immanent rhythms. The performance opens up the potential for shifting frames, and the shift of frame is itself perceived as a performative gesture. Camus is said to have remarked that after a certain age each person is responsible for her or his face. After a certain age, each poet is responsible for his or her voice. For the modernist poetics of the Americas, the artifice of accent is the New Wilderness of poetry performance, that which marks our poetries with the inflection of our particular trajectories within our spoken language.
While script permits the poet to elide, if not to say disguise, accent, per- formance is an open wound of accentual difference from which no poet escapes. This is not the accent of stress but accents of distressed language, words scarred by their social origins and aspirations. In those cases, orthography was bent in service of the sound of the spoken language; but words spelled according to the standard can be pronounced slant.
Accent is a matter of technical investigation for poetry performance, fully as much as rhythm. For modernist American poetry, the performance of ac- cent needs to be read within the context of the emergence of mass literacy, the prevalence of second-language speakers of English, the new presence of sound reproduction technologies, and generations of poets for whom poetry was as much an arena to resist cultural and linguistic assimilation as a place that marked such assimilation. In a sense the modernist period represents a reaccentuation of English, but not by the English.
Indeed, the new ways of alphabetically representing or refusing accentuated speech is a primary area for technical innovation in poetry during the modernist period.
Why do you never speak? Accented voices are easily dismissed as unrefined, crude, even ignorant, just as accented or deformed syntax may register as just noise. Zukofsky understood that radical modernism, like racial modernism, inevitably connected to the multiplicities of spoken sounds. The burden of modernist composition was to articulate the range of sounds in complex patterns, not purify the language. Performance always exceeds script, just as text always outperforms audibil- ity.
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The relation of script to performance, or performance to script, is neces- sarily discrepant, hovering around an original center in a complex of versions that is inherently unstable. Poetry readings proliferate versions of the poem, each version displacing but not replacing every other. As such, close listening presents an ongoing challenge to readings that, in their intolerance of ambi- guity, associative thinking, and abstraction, reduce the poem to a single level of meaning, banishing from significance — as stray marks or noises — all but the literal or concrete.
Which is to say, to come to some conclusions A work of art always exceeds its material constructions As well as its idealizations Physical or digital instantiations Anterior codes or algorithmic permutations Experiences while reading or viewing are no more than weigh stations And any number of interpretations, contexts of publications, historical connections — All these have a charmed affinity Clustering around a center that is empty.
That empty center or blank space is the possibility of freedom. Such an assessment implies a shift of focus from the poem or art work as autonomous object, to be experienced in relative passivity, to the process of its production: sharing the realization of the work and inscribing plurality within the procedures of its creation place an emphasis on the very nature of these procedures.
Un- derpinning this process lies the unstated and often unacknowledged fantasy of reversibility that the exchange implies. This dream of reversibility or os- cillation between sounding the visual in performance and visualizing sound either as a script for performance or in a transcript from performance is at the core of a number of contemporary works in American poetry, especially works by the late Jackson Mac Low — The interaction between visual and audible versions constitutes one type of possibility, but one might also think of the interaction between the visual as stabilized on the page and the visual as enacted on a stage or on video.
Their publication not only proves problematic but at times hinders their analysis. In an interview with Barry Alpert in , Jackson Mac Low outlines the various influences that shaped his poetic experiments, stressing their double aspect: the preoccupation with the forms of the poem, and the underlying political awareness that generates these forms. The impulse to share authorship is an impulse to share responsibility for the poem, which leads Mac Low to devise works whose unfolding involves interventions from others.
The focus on complex visual organization, which entails intense ac- tivities of deciphering, and on sound production, the result of performance in most cases, is a direct consequence of this intention. In all this, the interac- tion with and mediation of John Cage is central: both Cage and Mac Low were students of the Zen master Daisetz Suzuki at Columbia University between and ; Mac Low joined Cage and Merce Cunningham at Black Mountain College in experimenting with aleatory methods of compo- sition, in the elaboration of multimedia works, and in the increased aware- ness that readers can be empowered at the same time as they are made to experience being controlled through the poem.
Yet the modes of their reverberation vary: where a given printed text is reprinted, for example, duplication does not produce an identical text; it is always slightly altered. Inscribing the uniqueness of the work of art, in typography or on canvas, finds alternatives in the reenactments or reactualizations of scenarios in time and space. This impels the audience toward a comparison with music, but that parallel can also prove limiting: we are not dealing with the plurality of interpretations for a single score, an equivalent for a master text since plu- rality can affect many levels.
Artists play on an increasing number of variants, constantly working on the different parameters of the work so as to obtain ever changing results. The resulting pieces stand out as provisional and ephemeral organiza- tions meant to persist mainly in their subsequent reenactments, works that amount to temporary aesthetic formations of social space. Basically, the work questions the nature of poetry, the nature of the poetic gesture, its modes of composition as well as its modes of reception.
Worked into the variations on pronouns, these relations become unsettled and problematic. How to figure an ideal of freedom of action, without renouncing authorship altogether? If one fo- cuses back on the dialectics between the visual organizations the card collec- tion or the page of the manuscript and their sound versions reading aloud or freely associating , one realizes that the different aspects of the work func- tion in a system whose consequences cannot be grasped unless the system is seen as the heterogeneous whole that it is, and not as the linear unfolding of a creation whose horizon would be performance.
The repetitiousness of the process Mac Low incites us to repeat his experiments, to create our own sets of cards, etc. Reprinted with kind permission of the Estate of Jackson Mac Low. Since Mac Low understands his work both as a poet and as a musical composer, the material on the page can be taken as verbal text or as musical score. One can elaborate an entire series of possible readings. First, there is a prescribed reading, which one finds in the instructions for performance and in the actualizations that follow them.
We are dealing with a score for four voices numbered one to four. The first voice keeps the basic elements that it shares with the others but does not co- incide with them any longer. The variation in the simultaneous rapports be- tween the voices underscores the general instability of language paradigms, the divergence of identical paradigms that initially deluded one into mean- ing and into the sharing of meaning. A second reading strategy would recognize that we are dealing with a lin- ear text, made up of blocks of four lines each stanzas, maybe, whose linea- tion would be emphasized by numbering , so that one would read line 1, then line 2, then line 3, etc.
In such a configuration of reading, the initial utterance is rapidly dismantled, to be reformed and again decomposed in a vertiginous succession of interrogations. The question is constantly shifting or oscillat- ing; now it bears on identification, now on possession, now on the status of the subject and of the object, then on the referential capabilities of language.
Finally, yet another possibility would be to remember the page organiza- tion of Asian poetry, printed into vertical columns, columns that would go down the whole length of the page or only down four lines, so that this op- tion decomposes into two. Meaning be- comes incidental when the chances of combination flittingly coincide with the accepted architectures of language. The passage from one status of the chanted text to another blurs the limits between modes of per- formance otherwise distinguished and sometimes opposed, at the same time as it alters the meaning of the text according to the modes of its sounding.
The plurality of voices and the proliferations of meanings inside and out- side the text also lead to a reassessment of the rules presiding over commu- nication in language and of the hierarchies at work in the enforcement of these rules. The plastic qualities of text reforms the page into the map of a territory to be explored both within and without the conventions of reading. But this impression of an overall checkmating of method is the mere result of a temporary crazing of reading, of a poetic wager that suspends the activities of deciphering, not to suppress them but to enforce the actuality of plural and coexistent modes of deciphering, all of them systematic but according to varying systems.
The maze is thus a locus not of disorder but of apparent disorder, where the con- ditions of loss are recreated with a horizon of recovery. However, recent experiments in this field have integrated a thematization of reading as part and parcel of the creation process and as a demanding physical participation from the reader. The itinerary of the text, whose mantra-like repetitiveness induces a numbing of the quest for meaning, places the word in a landscape, as suggested by the title.
Yet one is also forced to see that the word itself creates this landscape. His work is a great testament to the possibility for structures in and of themselves, and for the sufficiency of possibility. That it is architectures that shape the world, but we who must fill them up. Such visual organization, introduced as it is by the key to the choice of words and let- ters all are derived from the name of poet and friend Armand Schwerner , summons a controlled exercise of freedom, caught between the effort to reconstruct the name of Armand Schwerner in a personal reenactment of the homage an effort to decrypt the encrypted name and the temptation to try out new combinations with each new approach to the text.
Actually, this temptation soon becomes the reality of the reading experience, since the sound text produced by reading is never the same, depending on the moves on the grid, be they directed by improvisation or through predefined pro- cedures. In the performance of the Armand Schwerner gatha by Jackson Mac Low and Anne Tardos, the two voices, and the decisions they make in their performance, show the diversity induced by the presentation in a grid and the permission given by the author to the reader to follow instructions and improvise on them.
The use of words from other languages than English French, German, etc. A return to the grid might yield these words, but it would first and foremost yield a new and different reading, and consequently a new and different performance of the gatha. In this sense, going back and forth from text to sound never allows for a return to the same original place: on the contrary, it makes us experience the im- possibility of return, the condition of irreversibility that is ours.
The Texts and Sounds of Irreversibility Irreversibility is further stressed when the visual layout of the gatha becomes not just one source for several sound performances but also one possibility among several visualizations for a single sound event. The suggestion or invi- tation to create visual actualizations of a sound text prevents us from falling prey to the simplification according to which this grid would just be a form of maze in language, for us to get lost in or desperately try, again and again, to find new ways in or out.
The links between petroglyphs, concrete poetry and graffiti and digital poetry may be tenuous, but just because the web of associations is delicate does not mean it should not be explored. From its roots in the organic knot of human preoccupations, the visual blending of text and image with graphical trace has taken diverse roads to satisfaction. Cave walls and corporate billboards share a similar appeal, their absence provokes anarchist aesthetic sensibilities to scorch the emptiness with contorted logos. Concrete poetry has many tentacles, arising simultaneously in multiple countries, one of its more forcible threads emerged in Brazil.
Forty-six years later in , de Campos began creating animated gifs and Flash-based versions of his poems. His poetry traveled from painstaking manual playing with typography to animated digital works. Scratching on page to scratching on screen. From sharpened stick, to crushed pigments, to printer ink, the concern remains consistent: migrating the preoccupations of mind across the membrane from its interior onto an exterior skin. Leaving a trace that evokes a language shape. Contemporary aerosol graffiti has its origins in the late s as bombing and tags proliferated across North America.
Tangents and floods of typographic mutations and hiphop converged to provoke a radical shift in the possibilities of text as image. In many respects, graffiti outpaced the innovations of concrete poetry: unconstrained by pages, impassioned by their position outside the laws, graffiti artists radically redefined the terrain of typography. Contemporary assimilation of graffiti and concrete poetry into motion graphics —ironically immersed in consumerist advertisements—, was the next burp of typography. Computers enabled a generation to convert the sensuous curves of cave-urban petrographics into motion graphics.
Graffiti was animated in the service of selling new shoes to kids ingesting hiphop mythologies of style. Interspersed with his purely visual explorations he sporadically returns to typographic explorations that usually involve text generated and manipulated in realtime. Schwitters screaming at the top of his lungs probably imagined his gutteral morphemes spattered against clouds, strewn across buildings, diving through screens. In The Dumpster Golan Levin , Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg blog posts are dynamically searched and the ones that refer to romantic breakups are injected into a visualization.
Unwittingly broken-hearted bloggers become collective authors at a party hosted by the programmer. Texts that were once announcements of isolation enter into a massive herd of blobs that have gravity. A taxonomy of tools explored thru examples follows. First example of text created by lines on elastic springs interactively controlled by user. Instrumental meaning not semantic meaning is foregrounded. So display and appearance begin to have semantic sense and are coherent.
Synaesthesia possibly enters into consideration. The choice of text occured after the design, so that the symmetry between semantic meaning and interaction is only occasionally insightful, but it is very effective at engaging people, at inviting them to play with language with their bodies. Questions arising: are people still reading when they are interacting? Interactivity is implicit and can be discovered by the viewers. The 3 first season connect content to context literally. The final season which incorporates a tree is the least effective which suggests that incorporating visual indicators that are not algorithmic.
What happens to sequential meaning or stroy when words are mosquitoes generating. A voice speaks. Does this construct a model of memory as menacing, small morsels of language that distract us from the present? Migratory bits that need to be pushed away, put back into the past, onto the wall. So basically the active detioration of memory is converted into a game, the primrdial spasm of the subconscious as it ejects material is problematic in that it puts the viewer into a singular linear relation with the text: user as superego, cave as id, time as the inexorable forward motion of past events.
Personal postscript: this lecture set me thinking about the seed text that I will use in a piece currently under production. Seeking the symettry of code and content, form and feeling, interaction and intuition, seems like the equivalent of serarching for the sweet spo, groove, attunement, flow etc… that occur when all the disparate levels and radiant topology of creation converge in a singular work.
Funkhouser who evidently went to the trouble of seeing these works on an emulator writes:. Kendall was exploring textual experimentation in a manner similar to Bootz, Dutey, and Maillard and Papp by using a hypermedia narrative that combines linear words and phrases in various fonts, sizes and colours. Funkhouser, p. The wow-moment of a student introduced to poetry requires greater and greater labour and budget to compete with the coalesced output of hollywood and ad agencies. Independent poet-designers the contemporary equivalent of the small-press of yore cannot really compete against big-budget team efforts.
Video poems the descendants of kinetic poetry which feature extraordinarily rich motion graphics are also almost-invariably conservative in their poetic choices. Please direct your attention, if you will, to. Well, I nervously reply, there is none. Instead, there are pixels, semaphores of colored light on a screen invoking ranks of virtual print. There is nothing to hold in your hands. There is nothing solid and changeless.
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There is no single linear sequence underlying the text, no page numbering to guide you. Art is the technology of the soul. Apart from having created some of the earliest DOS poems, published hypertext with Eastgate, taught digital poetry, created a small collection of early web-poetry on his site Word Circuits, and created installations with original music, Kendall offers up some of the most acerbic intelligent discourse in the genre. Before reading Funkhouser, I had never heard of Kendall: not surprising in an era of 7 billion simultaneous sentient humans.
Plus, his musings on the nature of how the brain constructs meanings are in agreement with contemporary psychological models and tangentially support my tentative hypothesis of the irrelevance of media. Current theory is populist-intelligentsia-expressed in this New Yorker article on itching:.
The mind integrates scattered, weak, rudimentary signals from a variety of sensory channels, information from past experiences, and hard-wired processes, and produces a sensory experience full of brain-provided color, sound, texture, and meaning. Our view of the world emerges not so much from the immediate mechanisms of perception, with their we assume direct lines to physical reality, as from the alchemical processes of mental reflection and recollection.
Perception resides only in the fleeting moment of the present, that pinprick at the tip of the mind. So from the chaotic striving and narrow sensory-channeled sifting of memory and perception our instantaneous presence in the world generates the thick discourse of experience. What does this insight mean for digital poetry? Well it puts in question the whole hierarchy of values that cluster around which technologies are better: HD video versus YouTube becomes a mute point.
Consider how the paper page of the novel is an irritatingly static thing covered in black glyphs, yet it has and continues to provide many moments of exquisite lusciousness, provocative emotional launch points for reveries and epiphanies. The small screen of a laptop can be as absorbing as an IMAX theatre. A moment standing on the edge of the grand canyon may be truncated by the need to pee and petty irritants like a noisy bus, yet a rich multi-faceted experience may emerge for someone who sees a grainy morsel of film.
Because it is the brain which generates experience, fillng in the gaps, and often replenishing deficits in the source perception. Gawande, Atul. Funkhouser, C. University Alabama Press. Kendall, Robert. He wishes for the cloths of heaven. September 15th, — am Eduardo Kac like Melo e Castro and Augusto de Campos, was there at the birth of videopoem. Ticker tape parades of neologisms, letter growing into space, rhythmic motion. The seeds of vector animation are evident combined with a formalist approach rooted in concrete poetry give these works an austere rigorous presence.
The visual rhythm thus created alternates between appearance and disappearance of the fragmented verbal material, asking the reader to link them semantically as the letters go by. The internal visual tempo of the poem is added to the subjective performance of the reader. The poem was realized on a LED display.
Kac's digitalpoems over the next decades move into projections on walls, Director-based poems, hyertext, VRML and holography. In essence, he is one of the primary investigators of typography in digital contexts. Since , Alan Sondheim has been playing with 3D.
In a document enigmatically labeled jp. The machine was a Meta- 4, controlled by keyboard and joystick. Two women Andrea Kovacs and Beth Cannon sat at the console in turn, and attempted to control the projec- tion - driving it first orthogonally, to produce a cube - driving the cube orthogonally to produce a line - and shrinking the line to a point. The women "inhabited" 4-space. I reproduce part of the dialog Hold it. Scrolling further through the same unformatted document one encounters a set of brief quasi-psychedelic parables on geometry, desire, jokes and hypertext.
The references in this elusive jq. Indebted perhaps to William Burroughs, if Burroughs had read Vannevar Bush and ingested Ted Nelson, the stories function as elliptical entrances into a torrent of output machine poems, rants, theoretical landslides that Sondheim has released onto zines, diverse listservs and discussion groups. A sample:. The first Lieu runs as. The second Lieu substitutes language for html, transforms other sections of the texts, results in a breathing-apparatus. Formally, using locates comments, but browsers tend to ignore extraneous uninterpret-able commands.
Funkhouser also identifies the crucial connectivity of this conceptual-computational intervention to poetics and then emphasizes its uniqueness:. Such an approach to working creatively with computers was unique at the time: most works were coded so as to produce programmatic texts rather than producing an immersive experience that could lead to verbal responses. One of the pioneers of utilization of computers for creating a visual concrete poetry effect according to Funkhouser in Prehistoric Digital Poetry is Lillian F.
Schwartz is typical of an early innovator, she is primarily an explorative artist who made contributions to vision theory, many documentary films as well as creating this poetic work. Observances cited in Funkhouser p. The image below utilizes a poem by Laurens R. Schwartz, is cropped, and was originally published in McCauley, Computers and Creativity :.
Schwartz began her computer art career as an offshoot of her merger of art and technology, which culminated in the selection of her kinetic sculpture, Proxima Centauri, by The Museum of Modern Art for its epoch-making Machine Exhibition. Jackson Mac Low is a poet who worked like a computer before computers, and after computers arrived began to use them to implement algorithmic methods he had already been doing by hand. From , he composed 22 Light Poems  without a computer. The poems are all combinatorial and loosely composed upon algorithmic method, sometimes he inserts his own phrases, sometimes he uses phrases from obscure sources the back of a collage as glue between algorithmically generated material.
Then he shuffled the playing cards and whenever he needed or felt impelled to insert a light word selected a card. Phrases and stories from his own process mingle with the output of constraint operations. The aesthetic advantage of taming and polishing the output of algorithms is clear.
Indeed, 42 Merzgedichte In Memoriam Kurt Schwitters is a series of poems … recombined and transformed by computer programs. Mac Low evidently easily made the transition from analog to digital poetry. The use of chance operations and algorithms in his analog work predispose him to accepting the computer as an adjunct, facilitator, and tool to increase efficiency and expand the complexity of how combinatorial phrases are produced. By merging the strengths of the algorithmically-rapid integrated circuit with the symbolically resonant and affective human brain, Mac Low rides along the rich seam created by the merger of jolting unpredictable output of randomization and the sustained process-oriented pattern-perceiving knit of mind.
Thematic consistency is ensured through authorial choice while the computer performs work of chance-choice. The author remains but the tools have changed. Cited 1. Campbell, Bruce. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. The Gale Group, The catalogue opens with an essay by Norbert Weiner on cybernetics and the exhibition was extensive: movies, paintings, dance, films, machines, environments, and poems. Baudot, and E. All of the works are generative. Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts. New York: Praeger. About This website is an ongoing process of documenting the references discovered during David Jhave Johnston's glia.
Silicon Speech Shape November 27th, — pm By modelling the geometric resonance of speech, visually expressive letterforms emerge. The advantages of light emitting screens rather than reflective paper are obvious: all the features of the letterform can modulate as sounded. Diaphragm, trachea, larynx, tongue, palette, lips: tubes that resonate to create resonance.
Language landscapes labyrinth lingual. New letterforms grown from formulas. That gap is reduced by digital typography. Occasionally, the gap is erased by digital poetry. Some celebrate. Some grieve. Is an impression a mucus? One of his most popular bots, Two Headlines , takes two unrelated current headlines from Google News and combines them into one statement while preserving their grammatical structure.
It could literally grab a random novel from Project Gutenberg. He took a digital photo the cover of his copy of the Hemingway classic and converted each colored pixel into a verbal description, in order. It reads like this:. University of California Gold.
Dark tan. Raw umber. Dark brown. Olive Drab 7. Seal brown. The code automatically generates a narrative that follows several characters traveling around the entire globe, starting and ending in London, all the while pointing out interesting historical factoids about each place scraped from geo-located Wikipedia articles. The final novel is , words long, and the characters visit 1, locations. A sample:. I remembered St Agnes Place. Unless I was mistaken, this was a squatted street in Kennington.
Passepartout asked me if it was the first to be squatted, but I did not know. Near here was the site of Kennington Common. I could see that it was a large area of common land mainly within the London Borough of Lambeth. The advantage of a networked archive, compared to a library, is that a network can be hacked. Kazemi is a well-known Twitter bot creator, but the most famous Twitter bot in the short history of the form was not his creation. The account, along with dozens of similar topic-specific spam-bots, was meant to drive traffic to an affiliate marketing website that sell ebooks.
The majority of its tweets were poor algorithmic attempts to sounds like a human Twitter user, by clumsily scraping text from a cache of cheap ebooks and other sources around the web. The tweets were often sentence fragments, or were completely nonsensical, such as:. Shape your watermelon. Shape the young watermelon. The account amassed legions of fans, eventually gaining over , followers.
People obsessed over its enigmatic tweets. She explained that the account was owned by Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender. Inspired by artists who used short bursts of text, such as Christopher Wool and Jenny Holzer, Jacob Bakkila wanted to perform as a spam-bot. Although he posted tweets manually, he never wrote a single one, they were all sampled from various places around the web.
If you do a Google search of this exact text you get a Google Books result which is a fragment of a table showing a FedEx employee satisfaction survey, from a book called Make Their Day! The table is turned on its side, causing the optical character recognition of the scan to capture an odd series of characters and partial words. Sinker is a writer and open internet advocate who anonymously ran the Twitter account MayorEmanuel, a profanity-laden parody poking fun at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Sinker references the infinite monkey theorem , the idea that if a million monkeys were allowed to randomly bang on typewriters for infinity, they would eventually type the works of Shakespeare. Mourning its loss, Sinker writes:. I want to believe that beauty can be assembled from the randomness of life all around us. There are many Librarians searching for a soul lurking in the archive. One prominent sifter of extant texts is the poet Kenneth Goldsmith.
Instead, they are told to plagiarize, repurpose papers, steal identities, sample, plunder, and appropriate. He has found that the students are very good at this, they arrive as experts. Rather than merely turning it in, students are required to give a talk on the paper to the class, adopting its arguments as their own, and defending it against critique from other students.
The secret to the success of the class, according to Goldsmith, is that suppressing creativity is impossible. While undertaking seemingly mundane tasks such as copying pre-written text into their own documents, the students make creative choices about exactly what they select and why. Everything you could ever hope to read has already been written, the problem becomes how you go about finding it. Words are no longer confined to pages, they are plastic and fluid, they can be sorted, sifted, and poured into any container.
Language even lies beneath the rich media that we think exists beyond text. Narrative reflexes that have enabled us from the beginning of time to connect dots, fill in blanks, are now turning against us. We cannot stop noticing: no sequence too absurd, trivial, meaningless, insulting, we helplessly register, provide sense, squeeze meaning, and read intention out of the utterly senseless.
The only legitimate discourse is loss; we used to renew what was depleted, now we try to resurrect what is gone. Creation and discovery begin to blur. Literature, prophecy, and nonsense are all somewhere in the infinite archive, and finally the internet lets us invent tools with which to mine, process, and recombine the endless bits. Basile devised a way to recreate a searchable, stable, algorithmically generated version of the infinite library. Users can open texts at random, select a particular book and page, or search for exact passages of text.
The website uses a pseudo-random number generator to power an algorithm that writes the text. Searching for text on libraryofbabel. No matter what you enter, a page is returned with the exact text swimming somewhere among a sea of nonsense characters. The search results page also shows the searched text on an otherwise blank page and in the middle of a page containing only real, albeit random, English words.
After all, a single page is but one out of 29 3, pages. To this question, Basile writes ,. I would emphatically distinguish libraryofbabel. Babel is all expression in its most irrational, decontextualized form; I prefer to think of it as artificial unintelligence. It contains everything, but all its parts are locked into a rigid, nonsensical order. When near infinite archives can slice and recombine themselves, as computing allows, something resembling intelligence cannot only be found but can emerge.
Since , two brothers, Zach and Tarn Adams have been continually developing a very bizarre and complex computer game called Dwarf Fortress. The game is a little like Sim City and Warcraft real time strategy games, in that the player must design and manage a colony of dwarves in a procedurally generated environment. Rather than give the individual dwarves commands, the player queues tasks to be completed, and the dwarves eventually execute them, as long as they have sufficient food, alcohol, motivation, and materials.
Players are responsible for setting up incredibly complicated webs of interdependence between the colony and the surrounding environment. To make gameplay even more challenging, Dwarf Fortress does not depict its world using graphics the way most modern computer games do. It looks like a DOS screen after a critical error, or like the streaming, seemingly nonsensical green characters on computer terminals in The Matrix films. Successful management of an unwieldy dwarf colony is ultimately impossible. Seasoned players accept that their fortresses will eventually succumb to starvation, goblin invasion, volcanic eruption, or any number of unforeseen disasters; and find that chronicling the travails of a doomed colony is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game.
They call these narratives Dwarven Epitaphs. Zach and Tarn Adams have encoded every element of Dwarf Fortress —the dwarves, the animals, the weather, the history of the world—with complex narrative tropes and layers of logical causality. When all these semi-autonomous elements combine, they create a world that overflows with an epic, emergent narrative in which the player is invited to to play only a small role before being crushed by forces beyond her control.
When a player starts a new game in Dwarf Fortress, its algorithms generate an entirely new world from scratch. The player waits several minutes while eons of geologic and historic events are procedurally generated. LeMieux and Boluk note,. When confronted with these sprawling catalogs, stylistically reminiscent of only the barest of narrative forms—the calendar, the chronology, and the chronicle—the player is left to wonder how, for example, does a gathering cold front in the early autumn of the year impact her activities over a thousand years later?
To account for these histories, each unique to a single save game file, would be impossible. On December 6, , a user named Goldsie made a post on the official Dwarf Fortress community forums about the creation of a curious artifact in her game. Thinking it was a bug, she ignored the erratic behavior, until after a year of in-game time had passed when a notification popped up that the dwarf had crafted an object of stunning complexity.
The statue even contained 73 images of itself, meaning that its detail regressed into infinite fractals. When a dwarf crafts any type of object, the game produces a written description rather than an image—usually a concise way to describe a thing otherwise represented graphically only by a single ASCII character.