A Quick Mention

I want to treat this installment as a news flash. Mark Goodwin has an upcoming event and Dave Migman has two new releases of music and poetry.

First, I’ll pass on the basics of the exhibit Mark Goodwin is putting together in Leicester, quoting from an email announcement he sent me: “Poems, places & soundscapes  An international exhibition of digitally produced sound-&-poetry focusing on place, and soundscape. Poet Mark Goodwin and Brian Lewis (of Longbarrow Press) bring together and present a range of vivid, immersive sound-enhanced poetry made through various poet, musician and sound-designer collaborations, as well as by individual poet-sound-artists. The exhibition also includes a small selection of ‘place-entranced’ film-poems. This exhibition is part of Mark Goodwin’s Sound-Enhanced Poetry project, which was awarded an Arts Council of England Grant for the arts in 2013.  An open and informal panel discussion about sound-enhanced poetry and film-poem will launch the exhibition on April 10th 2014, 6.30 pm, The Cube Gallery, The Phoenix, Leicester.”

I hope you get to see and hear it in person.

I’m also hoping there will be more to post about the event and exhibition.

Something a little easier for most of us to experience are two more collections of recordings by Dave Migman, both released on March 5, 2014. We have a collection of his solo works, In the Kingdom of the Blind, released on Spleen’s label Splitting Sounds Records, which includes possibly my favorite recording of his, The Drift.

The other collection is another collaboration with Spleen, Where All Tracks Lead. As much as I liked their last album, Sheol, I think I find this one even more satisfying, perhaps because the music is more rhythmic (the old rocker in me is hard to put down).

In the future I’d like to do an article about Radio Wildfire, from the UK, who feature recordings of poetry and sound (I noticed both Dave Migman and Mark Goodwin on a current playlist), as well as hosting and presenting live events. I’m trying to get ahold of them. (A brief aside: the background on their site kills my eyes and leaves me with a fuchsia afterimage that prevents me from seeing much of anything for about 30 seconds. I hope your eyes are more adaptable than mine. It looks like an great site.)

I intend to get more information about recorded poetry from Longbarrow Press (notice that they have a tab for recordings), who publish Mark Goodwin and are involved in the exhibition. My ambition is to fill the world with multimedia publications, so if I ask enough people and write about it I will eventually get my wish? I think with or without me it’s happening.

I have also been digging into what Bandcamp allows you to upload into a release package. This includes PDF and video. So there’s no reason a poet and noisemaker couldn’t include a standard PDF with text and images as well as an interactive PDF with the recordings included, as well as video. Time and technology and skills permitting, of course. I’ve been thinking of releasing something of my own just to test the possibilities but more so I encourage others to try. I would like to hear and see what you can do.

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Music for Words, with Words

There’s someone in Sheffield who thinks he’s The Only Michael. He might be the only one who matters, and I certainly won’t contest that claim, though there are probably a billion of us who would say he’s not the only Michael—talk about overused names.

I discovered his postings on soundcloud.com, probably via Mark Goodwin‘s group Air to Hear, about a year ago, when I first began to write for this blog, and have had it in mind to spread the word. (Now that I look back on his page, Music for Words, I find that I’ve favorited almost all his tracks. Beautiful work.) These are collaborations with poets.…I think I had it in mind to do a large article on poet/musician collaborations.

That was then, and I may or may not be able to follow up on those impulses.

He’s now doing something I find much more exciting: a radio program of music and poetry and interviews all on the subject of combining music and literature: Music for Words on Basic.FM.

I awoke to this:

(August 10, 2013. I’ve just noticed that Michael is not keeping his broadcasts on soundcloud.com for long. Sorry. You’ll just need to check in with the other links. Again, here’s his page link.)

These are Michael’s stated goals:

“Music For Words with The Only Michael, is a monthly exploration of the recorded word and past and present collaborations between poets, story writers, musicians and composers.

“From the familiar to the strange, the missing link to the cutting edge, Music For Words showcases the many ways that speech and music can enhance and inspire each other to make something new, entertaining and compelling.”

I’m hoping he’s not inflexible in needing to present collaborations. There are some of us who are doing all of it, sound and word. (Actually, it’s possible he’s already strayed from that premise: I think Mark Goodwin’s piece is entirely self-produced.)

I also hope this first program isn’t too indicative of the tone of work he’ll be showcasing. It’s excellent. But it puts to mind why rock and roll sounded so exciting all those decades ago. I would like to hear something a little more open wound, a bit rougher around the edges. What I’ve been hearing, just on soundcloud.com, runs from the pompous to the genteel to the timid to the mythical to the gutter or the totally common and familiar, as happens with both poetry and our own lives. I would like to hear a wider range of poetic voices introduced to this broadcast.

That having been said, all the work I’ve found on Music for Words at soundcloud.com and everything in this broadcast keeps the poet’s voice at the forefront so you’re not struggling to hear what was said. Michael Harding himself has an excellent sense of combining his music with the writer’s words, complimenting and drawing out the emotive content.

The other suggestion I would make is that there be more notes to each broadcast when it’s posted on soundcloud.com, such as clearly stating who the artists are and any links or purchasing information.

Michael, I await your next broadcast.

Sheol, by Spleen and Migman

I’m sure it sounds like the end of the world when Dave Migman orders a cup of coffee. I don’t know him in the real world, only via the internet and soundcloud.com, so it’s possible that he sometimes sounds like a mild mannered human being. I have doubts, though. I think doom is always impending in Scotland, just an offshoot of the cuisine or climate.

Migman has been working in collaboration with Spleen Erebus to create a beautifully disturbing album called Sheol. Here we have a sampling of the album Dave and Spleen have put together:

Dave’s writing always has that blood and sinew quality of Dylan Thomas or, say, Ted Hughes’ Crow (Hugh MacDiarmid also comes to mind, though it’s been twenty years since I’ve read any of his work and my impression could be faulty)—deep and mythic, mysterious, lit as much by firelight as sunlight. There are forces of nature at work and humanity is as much victim as power within this world.

Spleen Erebus is from Vojvodina, Serbia. I’ve heard little of his work beyond his collaborations with Dave. His world is also lit by a different light source, casting richly moving shadows. In his own words, “Spleen is musick coming from the most secret and dark part of our soul that cannot be seen with the eyes – our primal nature!”

As much as I like Sheol for itself, and I find it deeply moving, I also appreciate it as an indication of the type of art I so desperately want to hear more of: poetry and sound combined as serious art. It isn’t dance music or pop. That is, it isn’t hip hop. This work is a descendent of European art music, such as the tone poem, and cinema and epic poetry.

It isn’t necessary to read along while listening but when you buy the album a PDF with the text is included. I hope to have the words in front of me during at least one of my many future playings of this magnificent recording.

You might find it odd that something this seemingly gloomy gives me so much pleasure. It does. I am ecstatic.

Diana Harmon Garnand and the Art of Collaboration

It’s too easy to think of the artist—at least certain types of artist, such as poets and painters—as isolated beings. And we, the artists, too often buy into that stereotype. Prior to the era of Earth being blanketed in communication networks we’d all have to hang out at a bar or café, if we wanted to connect with other artists, drinking and arguing rather than creating. Of course we can still do that, and it has its rewards. But you can avoid the hangover and actually use those networks to make art.

Diana Harmon Garnand is doing just that. At the beginning of 2012 she began posting her readings of poems, her own and those of some favorite poets (notably Rumi and Neruda), on soundcloud.com. “I have only been on SC since January and have only been recording since then, so my tracks are no older than that, and I have even deleted most of my voice only recordings which I started out with, to gain space.” (All quotes are from email exchanges.)

It didn’t take long for musicians to notice her. “Many times I recorded and posted a vocal of a poem and then unbeknownst to me an artist (or several) have downloaded it and meshed it with their tracks, then sent it to me to see what I think. In most cases, they have worked beautifully.” “I happen to know that in many cases their music tracks were created…long ago and just recently blended with the vocal track…and in other cases, some of the tracks were created specifically for my vocal tracks.” “In a few occasions, an artist has sent me their music track and asked me to write or find something to recite with it.”

Of everything I’ve heard her do, the following is my favorite. To me, the poem, her voice, the music all fit perfectly.

The most ambitious project she’s been involved with is reading for Zebrabook‘s project, The Dead Company (he is known elsewhere as Jon Bushaway). Tales of loss, despair, heartache, these are not exactly what Diana is usually drawn toward, but she brings to them a very painful vulnerability that keeps them believable.  “The Dead Co project was quite something to be part of and I’m quite grateful to Jon (Zebra) for allowing me to be a voice for that. Real life but often uneasy topics.” “…the process begins with being moved by a piece of poetry; I try to connect deeply with all the pieces I recite, although in honesty, it is challenging to connect emotionally with some of them. With the ones about love and romance, no problem.”  “Many of The Dead Co pieces I could connect with rather quickly, others not so much. My goal is that this emotional reaction, connection, interpretation comes through in the reading.”

I find it encouraging for other poets and actors, the simplicity of her recording “studio”. “My equip is very novice at this point: my laptop and built-in mic…It’s what I have for now and as I didn’t set out to do this initially, it’s what I am able to utilize for now, so it works. I have dreamt about a studio however… and a real mic too, lol. All the stuff. Someday perhaps. My ‘studio’ is my closet, lol. I laugh but it’s really something I love doing.” “And yes, in most cases the collab partner is doing the mixing and effects. I have also done some myself though 🙂 If the music to vocal mix sounds out of balance to me, I tell the partner…”

You really don’t need much to record yourself these days and it’s very easy, at least in theory, to find artists with whom you can collaborate (this is a topic I expect to return to many times, until every poet who wants to record is doing it and every musician looking for a poet has found one).

Because of financial and space constrictions, Diana has begun a second page at soundcloud.com: and speaking of love…

I have to leave you with one more recorded collaboration before we part ways. This is a reading of a poem by London’s Taymaz Valley, music by another soundclouder Brian Routh.