“WHAT CAN A System DO?” Gilles Deleuze names this as the central query of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics, which spots the entire body at the middle of a philosophy of expression. The inquiry was enthusiastic in part by Spinoza’s determination to radical contingency—Deleuze goes on to advise that “We do not even know of what a physique is capable”—but it’s a concern that feels broadly in tune with the artistic type known as audio poetry, which harnesses human vocality to freshly expressive ends. Taken up all over a lot of the twentieth century, with precedents relationship as considerably again as humankind has been mouthing syllables, this free class of cultural manufacturing was the emphasis of “Chorus: A Seem Poetry Pageant,” a current two-working day party at New York’s Artists House, where poets, musicians, and other acousticians gathered to rejoice the open up-finished and indeterminate sonic opportunities of the body.
Arranged by Sean McCann, the composer, curator, and seem engineer powering the Los Angeles-centered record label Recital Plan, the party stands on the shoulders of a abundant lineage of international seem poetry festivals relationship back far more than fifty years. In April 1968, the Fylkingen Centre for Experimental Tunes and Art partnered with the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s Literary Unit to host the 1st event in the sequence, which took area at Stockholm’s Museum of Fashionable Artwork and highlighted poets from Sweden, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In the course of its history, the festival has relocated from Stockholm to London, Amsterdam, Toronto, and New York, where the sound artist Charlie Morrow co-arranged and performed in the 12th Yearly Worldwide Sound Poetry Pageant in 1980. Morrow’s involvement with the 2022 Artists Place occasion coincides with the launch of a new box established from Recital documenting the 1980 edition of the competition, which can help situate both of those initiatives in the tradition established by the Global Sound Poetry Festival.
The celebration was guided as a great deal by attempts to protect sound poetry’s record as to showcase present work. Both evenings commenced with an unreleased composition by the late French poet and musician Henri Chopin, which McCann uncovered in the vast archive that Morrow maintains as section of his New Wilderness Basis (which he co-started alongside the poet Jerome Rothenberg) and its experimental document label offshoot, New Wilderness Audiographics. Commencing in the late 1950s, Chopin designed otherworldly tape collages that recast the voice as a thing deeply mechanical, and his get the job done assisted bridge the hole involving Dada and Futurism-inflected strains of seem poetry and the alphabet-exploding Lettrism motion with which he was tenuously connected.
Time-dependent artwork is inherently ephemeral, and no matter whether mainly because of audio poetry’s sparse documentation—largely restricted to decaying magnetic tape and historic handwritten scores—or its eclipse by relevant but extra well known artistic actions like Surrealism and Fluxus, the kind has generally seemed to resist canonization. While Copin’s towering affect lingered more than substantially of the festival, several performances evinced a strained romantic relationship to the musician and his heritage, tough the security of an currently unfixed term with new ideas about what sound poetry is, or what it should be. Next the to start with night’s Chopin recording, the poet Julie Patton opened with bells, a shaker, and a melody from a plastic children’s toy ahead of singing in an operatic design that relished in the timbral features of just about every phrase. The performance was 1 of numerous that situated the artist’s voice within a broader instrumental practice: Sydney Spann and Kiera Mulhern the two put it amongst droning tones from percussive industry recordings, whilst Mike Pollard and Eric Schmid cued severe sounds from a sampler with little audible connection to Chopin. With each and every established, the style was stretched even more to accommodate a sprawling assortment of tactics with only a cursory regard for any historical throughline.
Operating much more immediately in discussion with sound poetry and its traditions, vocalist Thomas Buckner revived Robert Ahley’s “When Popular Final Terms Are unsuccessful You,” which he at first debuted along with Ashley at Carnegie Corridor as component of an American Composers Orchestra general performance in 1997. As with Ashley’s dreamlike operas, the composition applied the self-confident tone of regular broadcast media to new ends, obtaining a huge-eyed appeal in language delivered by Buckner’s slickest radio announcer elocution. Loren Connors and Suzanne Langille performed a piece for guitar and voice which spoke to the troubles of Connor’s a long time-extensive battle with Parkinson’s sickness, meditating on the fragile disorders that make a existence in the arts attainable. With their longstanding relationship to New York, Connors and Langilles shed mild on seem poetry’s deep roots in the city’s experimental music scene, even when it proliferated under other genre labels.
Towards the conclusion of the festival’s next evening, Joan La Barbara returned to her piece “Solitary Journeys of the Intellect.” Like a great deal of her perform because the 1970s, the composition pushed the human voice to its limitations, employing yelps, clicks, and whispers as impartial phonemes in service of a advanced and triumphant entire. La Barbara stays an immensely virtuosic improviser, and the guttural physicality of her set presented a striking counterbalance to the tightly-edited assemblage of Chopin.
Charlie Morrow closed out the competition with a suite of his earliest poems at the ask for of McCann. Heat and entire of existence, Morrow reflected fondly on his earliest days as a composer before singing open, ghost-like notes, whistling like a windstorm, and inevitably enlisting the audience to participate in a sequence of bellowing honks motivated by many underwater species recognized as toadfish. The piece was originally section of a series of studies in nonhuman communication that Morrow took up in the late 1960s, which was spelled out at the competition with utmost simplicity. “One of those people toadfish will begin [with a honk] and then the others will imitate,” he said, going on to explain how the fish contend with a single another to direct the group.
Gentle and charming like a great deal of Morrow’s output, this quick moment of audience participation led into a rendition of just one of the composer’s quantities parts right before the evening completed out with two dream chants. “Some persons discover that if you near your eyes, you will uncover on your own in a somewhat lucid aspiration point out and have some pictures,” he explained. “And so I’ll choose you with me.” Following comprehensively exploring what the physique can do as an instrument, it only built perception to request out-of-physique transcendence in the stop.
Chorus: A Audio Poetry Pageant took position at Artists Space in New York on November 10 and November 11, 2022.