Cryo Is Not Meant to Last

Since creating Poetry and Other Sounds a couple years ago I’ve started two other blogs, both of which have been more successful at cracking open my imagination.

Poetry and Other Sounds is the noble idea, a place for people to connect and learn and, I’d hoped, communicate. It must go dormant until I’m in a different place in my life or until someone else with more time and a more journalistic personality revives it. I’m pretty much clueless as to what’s going on in the world, artistically or otherwise; a more engaged personality is needed.

The Naked Old Man is the ignoble idea. It was meant to be a place for me to rant. Considering how opinionated I am you’d think it would be a non-stop flow of words. Maybe it’s that the plan has been degraded by thought and conscience until I’m mentally stifled. I hope I overcome that weakness. Or adapt to it. I think over time there will be many more posts.

Prattle and Din is my most recent blog and it could be of interest to you, which is why I’m writing this now, and seems to be the thing I actually need to be working on. It’s a memoir of my experiences recording my poems and sounds.

As I work on Prattle and Din it begins to shape itself. The original intent of just telling a linear narrative leading from composition to composition broke down, maybe, even before I started. There are side stories and back stories. There are brief forays into technology as I would stumble into each new tool and, sort of, learn to use it, and I have to tell you about that. There are personal and social events intruding upon creativity and the process of production. The world collapses and sometimes I go down with it and fail to produce anything for years at a stretch (I’ve been making art for so many decades—never living off it—that to have a long fallow period does not alarm me in any way).

Prattle and Din is a story that solidifies in March, 1996 and covers the creation of over 80 audio compositions since then. It’ll take me awhile to jot it all down.

Telling the tale of my recordings is the one way in which I can continue the ideal of Poetry and Other Sounds.

May the frost be with you.

A Moment on Radio Wildfire

Just a quick post…

I’ve just heard today that my “interview” for Radio Wildfire, regarding the purpose of this blog, will be broadcast between 8 PM and 10 PM UK time, Monday June 2nd, 2014.

Of course, if you’re already here you know about the blog. Maybe my interview will clarify a few points.

It’s also been posted on soundcloud.com, where it should remain available for some time.

Legacy

What will survive us? What will we have to say to the future?

The internet seems so much a present moment hustle, whether everyone speaking at once or everyone trying to sell something now, this second, that it seems like it has nothing to say to the future. Also, there is the question of what will survive, what will still be online (and if not online, will it be anywhere).

Before the digital age it was harder to have a voice, though not necessarily any more difficult to be heard. And, once something was written down, such as a letter, or printed and maybe even bound there was a chance that the physical artifact would outlast the writer and be discovered by someone years later.

I present this blog not only to speak to you now (in which case I suppose I should be frustrated because that “you” is a very small number of people) but to lay down a legacy of what we were doing with poetry and sound, how technology both inspired and foiled us, and maybe how what we did leads to what some future artist is doing.

So what happens to our words? Will these posts be eradicated forever when WordPress folds? Will they be deleted even before then? Partly I maintain this as a free blog (free to me) so that it might outlast me. Once I am unable to pay, because I’m dead, I have to assume the site will vanish or be reduced to a small portion of what it was.

I (that is, this particular person writing this post) do not necessarily deserve to have a legacy. Maybe even the artists I’ve mentioned do not. But the idea of what we’re all working on—the recording and fusion of sound and poetry and our explorations of the process—certainly does.

Interesting questions are posed for all of us bloggers. What becomes of our words and ideas? Do we have a legacy? Is there any way to guarantee there will be something for a future audience or scholars to explore? Will there be any connection between generations? Will historians of art find a trace of us?

I’m sure most people don’t give a shit about past or future and what we’ve found of their lives and art is just an accident (or that their concern rarely extends beyond vanity). It doesn’t seem to be an essential component in the human makeup. I am one of those historically inclined oddities. I sort of want the future to know about me and I definitely want them to know about all of us collectively.

If nothing else, I want them to know that we tried to do something all other generations have done and that we had not yet become nothing more than passive consumers. And that they might still be like us, that the corporations have not totally destroyed the human spirit and the will to create.

Calling

This post responds to Michael Myshack’s post ‘What is this Called?’

Firstly, yes, I agree with Michael’s calling my label ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ long-winded. That label is a kind of ‘anti-poetic’, technical-information-conveyor, and made purposefully so, because at the moment so many poets haven’t even heard any of this kind of stuff, and so I wanted a description that would describe to those wholly uninitiated what it is I’m trying to interest them in. It would be splendid if at some point in the future this (perhaps ugly) technical-information-download-of-a-label mouthful could become transmogrified: re-breathed out through a few smooth gasps into something poetically compressed and beautiful. But before that can happen it might be best to continue carrying the label purely as a functional tool.

But, I am ready to start suggesting some poetic names, perhaps names that could replace the ‘toolish’ label in the future. Before I do my own suggesting, though, I’ll mention others first.

I’m struck by two of Mythryn’s suggestions: ‘Auracular Poetry’ and ‘Audiocanvassed Poem’ (in comments below ‘What is this called?’) . I’ve looked up ‘auracular’ and have got to the word ‘auricular’; I think Mythryn’s spelling is unique, and that might be intended, and if not, then it might be a useful accident. But, ‘auricular’ means simply that something is audible, and so in the technical sense only describes spoken poetry. ‘Audiocanvassed’ is really good, conjures painting with sounds. The word ‘audio’, although in its first meaning again refers simply to what can be heard, by now it is almost always related to electronic/digital recording, and so I think works for us. But, you do have to be so careful with all the baggage that comes with naming and labels and how others can pick up baggage you didn’t even know you were carrying and then run away from you with it, for better or worse! So, the word ‘canvassed’: ‘The action or process of personally soliciting votes before an election.’ (Oxford Shorter). It’s a shame, cuz I really like the painterly image, but unfortunately the politically charged baggage is something I would not want the name of an art to carry.

(And talking of baggage, I’m afraid the acronym for ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ DPAP has in its last syllable unfortunate connotations of the dumbed-down, or depending on your bent, the more nourishing suggestion of ‘teat’ or ‘breast’!)

David MacCooey refers to his distinctive and excellent work as ‘poetry soundtracks’. (Although it is interesting and surprising to me that on SoundCloud he labels his poetry soundtracks as ‘Electronic’. ) I think the label ‘poetry soundtrack’ very much fits David’s work, and in good ways, connecting to cinematic aesthetics, as alluded to by Michael Myshack in his ‘What is this called?’ post. In correspondence with David (via SoundCloud) he wrote to me: ‘I guess my term, ‘poetry soundtracks’ (which took me some time to arrive at), is a subset of digitally produced audio poetry.’ And I agree with him on that, but as I will mention shortly, I think DPAP itself might actually be a subset!

David Stevens  sometimes collaborates with poet Heather A Taylor to produce astounding work. He calls this collaboration ‘Electrocoustic poesetics’. The ‘electrocoustic’ portion gets across ‘digitally produced’ and in a more elegant manner than my label; and the ‘poesetics’ portion obviously gets across ‘poetry’, but in an interesting, surprising and not wholly clear way. Which is perfect for poetics, although not so good for conveying direct technical info to the uninitiated. I’m pretty sure David has invented ‘poesetics’, and I find the word intriguing. The ‘poes’ part of the word, largely because of the letter ‘s’ conjures for me the word ‘poiesis’ (from the Greek for ‘creation’/’to make’; the route meaning of poetry). The ‘etic’ part connects with ‘aesthetic’, and ‘synthetic’. And get this: if one splits out from the word ‘POEseTIC’ the word ‘poetic’, we come to the word ‘se’. Now, I really don’t know if David intended this, but I do like the fact the Oxford Shorter defines the noun ‘se’ thus: ‘A Chinese twenty-five-stringed plucked musical instrument, being a form of zither.’ So, there’s a lot of poetic flux going on here that I find pleasurable, and poetically useful. But again, it’s not direct enough to transmit information to the uninitiated, and also, although not as technically ugly as my label, it is still rather a mouthful and not easily gasped-out smoothly.

Michael Myshack’s (Swampmessiah’s) title for this blog-website is rather brilliant and beautiful, in its simplicity. This could work as an excellent label. ‘Poetry and other sounds’ is essentially what we are talking about. Poetry is of course a sound once it is spoken, and vocalised poetry has to take its place in the world of sounds, alongside all the world’s other sounds, and I think that is what our new(ish) artform is very much about. It is not a great title for conveying to the uninitiated (but as I’ve said, we are now thinking about the future when the function-label can be dropped). Besides, I’m sure a sensitive and interested uninitiated person would probably get much of the artform from Michael’s phrase; it would simply require a little thought, and inquisitiveness about what ‘other sounds’ might be.

Michael’s phrase led me on to thinking of this: ‘sound-enhanced poetry’. It does not have quite the same poetic grace as ‘poetry and other sounds’, but it does compress phrase into label. And it is quite clear about what it is, although it does not emphasise the digital. But I think that can only be a good thing, as ‘sound-enhanced poetry’ can actually range from simply spoken poetry (simply because once poetry is not being read silent in the mind, once it is lifted off the page and spoken into air to hear, it is being enhanced by sound, or being enhanced by its truest ‘self’) through to a live recording of a poet next to a waterfall accompanied by intermittent blackbird and electric-guitar three hundred yards away, through to the utterly digitally produced: that spoken into a computer and electrified through various digital devices and filters.

So, at this point I think ‘sound-enhanced poetry’ might do the job. (And I now rather think that ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ is actually a sub-genre of ‘sound-enhanced poetry’.) ‘Sound-enhanced poetry’ doesn’t ‘sound’ too cumbersome either, and it’s half way between poetic name and functional label. But …

… I’m still after something which can be more simply breathed out in one go, with no gaps (gasps) between words. And so I suppose I’m after a single word. A word as easily said as ‘poetry’. Yes, how splendid it would be, for there to be a time when there was a single word for this artform that many people would instantly recognise. Poets are such dreamers! But we can also be quite practical when it comes to constructing with words. So, here goes. I’ve got on my poetry-overalls and I’m about to open up that glorious tool-box so full of well-oiled & glistening syllables:

The main words: Poetry. Sound. Sonance. Poiesis. Sonus.

Very nice bunch of sounds! Lets play at placing them and bits of them side by side:

                  poemsound
                                 poesound
     poiesisound
                     poiesound
                                       poiesisonus
                      poiesonus
         poesonance
                                                 poesonus

All of the above have some appeal, and all of them work in their own ways (some better than others).

I’m going with ‘poesonus’, although ‘poesonance’ is following close. What I like about ‘poesonance’ is how closely it associates with the word ‘assonance’ (‘Resemblance or correspondence of sound between two syllables.’ –Shorter Oxford). Poetry is full of assonance and correspondences, and we are talking about the sound of poetry coming into relationship with the world of other sounds, of poetry and other sounds corresponding, so yes, I like what the word conjures. But, it is not nearly so easily breathed out as ‘poesonus’. For me, the ‘n’ close to the end of ‘poesonance’ snags a little bit too much. Not that consonantal snagging is bad, in fact the rub and grit of such snagging is what makes much of poetry, but for this word I want the noise to be much more breathy, much more of vowels and sibilance, to fit more the ‘air’ it describes. So, ‘poesonus’ flows smooth. I also like its purity. It takes the first bit of ‘poetry’ and connects it directly with the Latin word for sound, ‘sonus’. It’s pure in that it simply meshes ‘poetry’ and ‘sound’ into one. There is also an attractive faint chime with the gorgeous word ‘song’.

If poetry gives us poems, then perhaps ‘poesonus’ gives us ‘poesons’. We have ‘poetic’; is there something other than this, is there ‘poesonetic’?

I think I might start labelling some of my tracks thus: POESONUS (sound-enhanced poetry). Sometimes I might put inside the brackets ‘poetry & other sounds’. Perhaps one day the phrase in brackets will go. Perhaps one day the label will go, and there will be a name there instead. Perhaps us ‘poet-sound-makers’ will one day know our ‘calling’.

Some of my tracks to come will still clang out ‘digitally produced audio poetry’, well perhaps … but I suspect I might use POESONUS more and more … or perhaps better words will emerge … ? We shall see, or should I say: HEAR?

What is this called?

Let’s take the basic premise: poetry, in it’s broadest sense to include everything from a shopping list to Homer (Simpson or that other guy, your choice); whether written or improvised, ultimately verbalized (that is, spoken, intoned, said out loud); performed before an audience or in a studio, recorded in the process; combined with music (whether performed at the same time, in the studio or before an audience, or separately and combined later) or other sounds such as field recordings or an audio collage (which could be constructed separately without any relation to the words, expressly to illustrate or enhance the words, in tandem with the words as both develop)…have I covered it all? Probably not. Poetry with other sounds for the stimulation of your ears rather than your eyes.

That’s what it is. But what do we call it? I’ve been listening to this sort of thing for at least thirty-five years (longer if we consider The Doors’ “Celebration of the Lizard”) and producing it for over sixteen, but I’ve never known what to call it.

Recorded poetry? That’s great to describe what we can find of, say, Sylvia Plath or T.S. Eliot. An extension of the written word or perhaps an archive of an improvisation, but it leaves out the music or ambience.

Audio poetry or audio composition? Again, both are incomplete. Audio poetry composition? Clumsy and verbose.

I’ve considered tone poem but it’s already been attached to another art form and has too many associations, though it would be a good description.

How about sonic poem thing? Only after 2 AM.

Poetry soundscape? That might work. Has it been used before? Does it have other associations?

Sounded poetry? This is not only incomplete but is in use to describe an existing genre (see McCooey’s article).

Poetry soundtrack? Poet David McCooey has suggested this title in his essay Fear of Music: Sounded Poetry and the “Poetry Soundtrack” (I’ll be getting back to his essay many times, since it sums up a lot of want I want to get at with this blog). At one point I was thinking of calling my own work sound-tracks with a heavy pun and self-mockery in the word “sound”, considering that some of my stuff could come across as pretty cracked. Also, there’s a cinematic reference, both favorable and unfavorable, and much of what I’ve heard does come across as a soundtrack with voiceover.

Mark Goodwin has been calling it Digitally Produced Audio Poetry, or DPAP for short. Even if we leave off the digital portion (though at least 99% of what’s current is digital), to call it produced audio poetry, while getting to the point both thoroughly and succinctly, is still a bit longwinded.

I’ve heard that in English clubs there’s a current fashion called Poetronica. I like the brevity and catchiness of it. I don’t think it’ll work, though, because it will carry too much baggage from the club scene and implies that the musical element, one, be musical and, two, that it be electronic and, three, that it have a strong rhythmic content. This excludes field recordings and ambience. It excludes banjos and accordions and collaborations with your friendly neighborhood choir (if only there were such a thing, eh). It excludes non-musical clanks, buzzes and zooms. Already I’m feeling shut out.

Poetry compositions? Poetry constructions? Poetry productions? Produced poetry?

Anyone in the mood for a contest?

My Apologies

My apologies to anyone kind enough to check out this blog. Thank you for your patience. I’m in way over my head in so many ways.

If you’ve made a comment, I don’t really know how to find it or read it. I’ve approved some but don’t know where they show up on the blog. Or do they? (By the way, as nice as it is to hear a kind word, the comments I’d prefer to receive are directions away from me. For instance, you might add to the post or point toward some other websites, blogs, or even physical resources. This blog is intended to be about the art.)

If I haven’t reciprocated and started following your blog, also, my apologies. If you have anything that pertains to the topic of recorded poetry I’d love to link to you, maybe to follow you, and possibly write something about what you’re doing. Please contact me. (Can I say that more forcefully: if you have anything to add, please contact me.) At the moment I don’t even know how to run a search of blogs (that is, a productive search) to find you or anyone we’d both be interested in.…I’m not here to be part of a social network though there’s some inevitability of that. Nor am I here to create a successful blog, whatever that is. As far as I’m concerned it’s all about the art (didn’t I just say that?).

If you have anything to add, please contact me. (That sounds familiar.)

Again, sorry if I’m not a proper citizen of blogland. No offense has been intended.

A Rather Strange Art

It was my intention to write about what other people are doing and to direct anyone reading this toward hundreds of great tracks of recorded poetry of all kinds: a variety of poetic styles and deliveries as well as a comparable miscellany of soundtracks composed of anything from sophisticated music written and performed by professional composers to cacophonies of audio assemblage (or collage, if you prefer).

I hope that piece will be written soon. I really want you to hear what’s out there. That’s the whole point of this blog.

Instead, I find that I must first expose something of myself. How else can you trust me? Even though a blog is all about writing, wouldn’t it be quicker, perhaps more pleasurable, and a lot more direct just to let you hear something I’ve done?…Of course, now I come to a pause resembling stage fright. I’ve been recording my poems, doing other weird things to them, making noises and something that sort of resembles music since 1996. And I’ve been posting some of these tracks on soundcloud.com for over a year. Yet now I hesitate to let anyone hear them. Nothing seems good enough.

I’ll start with a very old poem, something written about 30 years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, but actually a recent audio composition, composed March 17, 2012: “Winter Flowers”. There’s not much to it: a field recording of pellets of snow falling on dried leaves, processed several times in a program called Spektral Delay; a few random synth pads on freeware instruments; and my voice.

Leaves in absence and love declined,
moonlight lost in a seraglio of lint.
However these lips parted, invitation
has faded, chilled and deserted
between night and crazy sunlight.
Sex is the clear madness of sunshine
misplaced, misnamed and soon vaporous.
So, what of love on the winter tread?
Lint and lust are collecting moonlight
and snow discloses the latent steps.
Snow falls and fills the wavering biddance.

This next composition, “Pool of Darkness”, was cobbled together out of a couple synth patches in November, 2011, the poem being written as I worked on the sounds.

I find a pool of darkness
a pool of darkness
and I step in
I step in
step in
I step in

There is no bottom
and I step in
though there is no bottom
I step in
step in
I step in

This is my love
surrounding me
this is my love engulfing
and I step in
follow me
step in

Do you fear the darkness
bottomless darkness
surrounding you
do you fear submersion
do you fear my love
step in
follow me
follow me
follow me
and step in
step in

This is my love
engulfing darkness
this is my love
bottomless
bottomless
follow me
follow me
follow me
follow me

This is my love
step in

I think I’ll put up two more compositions. First, we have something I began planning in 1995 and executed in the spring of 1996 when I finally bought a 4-track cassette portable studio. This is draft 8, completed in February, 2011. It begins with a drone using a ceramic mortar and pestle. Subsequent drones are with a brass singing bowl, recorded three times and pitch-shifted, once higher and once lower (I think there’s also a synth pad near the end). The thump is a sample I made in ’96 as I hit a futon with a padded drum stick (a very dull and clichéd beating of fate). My voice was distorted and pitched down, using software plug-ins. This is “Evil 1” (the second version is even more pompous and very preachy, while the third version is self-mockery and nonsense).

Evil is a person,
or a people,
reduced to a black hole:
the balance and dynamic
of a star,
the symmetry
of a solar system,
the gift
of its radiance
collapsed
into an uncontrollable
greed.

Evil is a fragment,
one little piece of a person,
or a people,
that grows
beyond recognition of its source,
that grows
to dominate the while,
that grows
until it is the person,
or people.

Evil is self interest,
consuming, conquering,
with no concept of any other self,
no sympathy, no compassion,
no friendship.

Evil is the judgment
in the name of the father,
in the name of the mother,
the children, the ancestors,
in the name of society
and propriety,
in all the names
that mask the inner truth,
in all the names
that hide bigotry,
avarice and voracity,
the rejection or punishment
in honor’s name
that’s really in my name.
Or your name.

Evil consumes.
It does not give
or take
or ask any questions.
It mutters not truth
that can give peace—
only words
that ripen fear,
putrefying doubts,
turning difference
into not wine
but a flavorless poison
masked by a heady aroma.

Evil cannot be entered
except
the way a mouth is entered,
a stomach is entered,
an intestine is entered.

This last recording is called “Shadows”. It was composed in July, 2011, primarily consisting of samples of an old, glass light fixture we once had hanging in our dining room and some noise made on a metallic, industrial furnace filter, some messing around on a Stratocaster with a Kerr lid (you know, for canning), and voice—everything heavily processed in Guitar Rig (a software guitar amp simulation). The words were written while I worked on the sounds (you won’t hear them until almost the end).

all this light
all this light and cross examination
everything is so plain to see
seen clearly and exactly explained
not a single stain left for the imagination
nothing to do but talk
say what you will
nothing but talk
and more talk
more talk
more talk
just talk
it keeps going around
bright lights
the steady look
then the words
talk talk talk talk talk…
that rapturous rapacious romantic thrill is gone
who do I love
who do I fear
why won’t they touch me anymore
where are my enemies
what happened to suspicion and passion and tall the layers of duplicity
this meeting has turned into an autopsy
everything is so clear
now I’m sane and lifeless
sane
god am I sane
please, turn out the light