The Audacity of Digital Produced Audio Poetry

Firstly I’d like to thank Swamp Messiah for inviting me to add my thoughts to this blog.  I’m an artist, writer and stone carver based (currently) in Edinburgh. I began using the digital medium in 2006 to add rhythm and backing noise to ‘songs’ I was creating with friends. Back then we used a mix of guitars and synths to lay down basic tracks (we called ourselves The Exploding Goats, a loose collective that almost formed a band… but not quite!). I then decided to look into how to evolve the tracks  we’d recorded (on a dodgy Tascam 4-track) . The best system seemed involve recording the tapes to my PC and then locating some program we could subsequently edit them in.  Basically all we had in mind was using some kind of computer software as a digital extension of the analog recording equipment we already possessed. Until diving into the software I never fully realised the potential of the digital medium.

I discovered Audacity through a 3D website and found its simplicity instantly appealing. As a recording and composing platform it is utterly user friendly. A blind baboon could use it.  There is something about Audacity that I still favor over programs like Garageband. For one, Garageband’s preset FX’s become a little tedious after a while (I know you can edit these, and I recommend that if you do, save the outcome!). I find that Audacity possesses an organic quality that I like.  Even when I bought my Mac last year I downloaded Audacity for it (a couple of glitches but it more or less works fine).

My first solo tunes were simply transfers of existing analog tapes with a little editing done here and there. Two years later, while living in Greece, I began to experiment more. I wanted to push Audacity a little and experiment with it. I really don’t like using existing samples, there’s something very ‘automatic’ and ‘thoughtless’ in such a process.  If I need samples and if I feel I can’t sustain a riff for too long (I suffer greatly from tendonitis – so even though I’m an amateur guitar player I can’t play for long these days)  I will record short bursts and then sew these together in Audacity.  However I do like using sequencers from time to time, mainly due to their ease and well… any baboon could come up with a dance-like beat on one!

I like to record sounds from nature, anything from whacking telephone wires, to recording cement mixers, storms, birdsong – all of which can be further distorted, and twisted via the digital medium of your choice. These provide enigmatic sounds which can be added as volume, atmosphere, etc.  I also like fading rhythms in and out of each other, and I believe each digital recording ‘studio’ offers the artist great tools with which to develop unique working practices. I’m sure  each artist discovers their own distinctive way of tackling a tune within the constraints of each piece of software.

Perhaps that’s why the digital medium is so exciting: All these various platforms are available in which to generate sound. I sometimes  find myself cross pollinating between platforms. This way nothing need become restrictive, there is so much scope for the creative process that the imagination can only run wild.

I think a program like Audacity lends itself to creating soundscapes that compliment poetry or spoken word.  It’s basic, there aren’t so many easy to apply FXs as Garageband, you have to experiment, you have to dabble and that, to me, is an integral part of creating a soundscape to compliment a poem or reading. The important thing is to remain open. I still feel like a novice and when I dive into Soundcloud I find myself astounded as to the talent and ideas that proliferate the Digital medium.

Dave Migman, Edinburgh

Audacity HERE

Dave Migman on Soundcloud –  HERE

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2 thoughts on “The Audacity of Digital Produced Audio Poetry

  1. Great title! I’m going to tweet this with a view to attracting other poets/artists to making DPAP / sound-enhanced poetry / poesonus. This wee piece is very enticing and informative.

  2. Thank you, Dave. This was excellent. Just a couple days before you posted this my partner was forced into learning to process audio, for a work project on a tight deadline, and her IT guy downloaded Audacity onto her laptop. I had to show her what normalization and compression are; after that she did it all by herself. It’s free and easy to use. I hope this makes it easier for poets and other recording artists to take their first steps.

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