A festival at the borderlands of music and language

Chorus: A Sound Poetry Festival, November 11, 2022, Artists Space, New York. Joan La Barbara. Photo: Joshua Wildman, courtesy of Artists Space.

“WHAT CAN A Physique DO?” Gilles Deleuze names this as the central dilemma of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics, which locations the overall body at the center of a philosophy of expression. The inquiry was determined in portion by Spinoza’s motivation to radical contingency—Deleuze goes on to counsel that “We do not even know of what a entire body is capable”—but it’s a problem that feels broadly in tune with the inventive variety recognized as seem poetry, which harnesses human vocality to freshly expressive ends. Taken up all through much of the twentieth century, with precedents courting as significantly again as humankind has been mouthing syllables, this free class of cultural generation was the focus of “Chorus: A Sound Poetry Competition,” a latest two-day celebration at New York’s Artists Place, the place poets, musicians, and other acousticians collected to celebrate the open-ended and indeterminate sonic choices of the physique.

Arranged by Sean McCann, the composer, curator, and sound engineer behind the Los Angeles-dependent record label Recital Application, the celebration stands on the shoulders of a loaded lineage of intercontinental audio poetry festivals courting again a lot more than fifty decades. In April 1968, the Fylkingen Centre for Experimental Tunes and Art partnered with the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s Literary Unit to host the very first function in the sequence, which took spot at Stockholm’s Museum of Modern day Art and highlighted poets from Sweden, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Throughout its record, the pageant has relocated from Stockholm to London, Amsterdam, Toronto, and New York, the place the audio artist Charlie Morrow co-organized and done in the 12th Yearly Intercontinental Audio Poetry Pageant in 1980. Morrow’s involvement with the 2022 Artists House celebration coincides with the release of a new box established from Recital documenting the 1980 edition of the pageant, which aids situate the two efforts within just the tradition recognized by the International Sound Poetry Festival.

Chorus: A Sound Poetry Festival, November 10, 2022, Artists Space, New York. Sean McCann.

The celebration was guided as a great deal by initiatives to protect audio poetry’s history as to showcase latest operate. Both equally nights began with an unreleased composition by the late French poet and musician Henri Chopin, which McCann uncovered in the large archive that Morrow maintains as part of his New Wilderness Basis (which he co-founded alongside the poet Jerome Rothenberg) and its experimental file label offshoot, New Wilderness Audiographics. Beginning in the late 1950s, Chopin produced otherworldly tape collages that recast the voice as a little something deeply mechanical, and his function helped bridge the hole amongst Dada and Futurism-inflected strains of sound poetry and the alphabet-exploding Lettrism movement with which he was tenuously involved.

Time-centered artwork is inherently ephemeral, and whether for the reason that of audio poetry’s sparse documentation—largely restricted to decaying magnetic tape and historic handwritten scores—or its eclipse by connected but extra well known creative actions like Surrealism and Fluxus, the kind has normally seemed to resist canonization. While Copin’s towering influence lingered more than much of the festival, many performances evinced a strained marriage to the musician and his historical past, challenging the security of an previously unfixed expression with new ideas about what audio poetry is, or what it need to 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 right before singing in an operatic type that relished in the timbral qualities of just about every term. The overall performance was a person of quite a few that located the artist’s voice within a broader instrumental apply: Sydney Spann and Kiera Mulhern both equally put it amongst droning tones from percussive discipline recordings, while Mike Pollard and Eric Schmid cued severe sounds from a sampler with minimal audible link to Chopin. With each individual set, the style was stretched further to accommodate a sprawling assortment of practices with only a cursory regard for any historic throughline.

Chorus: A Sound Poetry Festival, November 10, 2022, Artists Space, New York. Julie Patton.

Doing the job a lot more instantly in dialogue with seem poetry and its traditions, vocalist Thomas Buckner revived Robert Ahley’s “When Popular Final Phrases Are unsuccessful You,” which he originally debuted together with Ashley at Carnegie Hall as element of an American Composers Orchestra overall performance in 1997. As with Ashley’s dreamlike operas, the composition employed the self-certain tone of standard broadcast media to new finishes, acquiring a wide-eyed attraction 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 many years-long battle with Parkinson’s illness, meditating on the delicate problems that make a lifetime in the arts probable. With their longstanding connection to New York, Connors and Langilles drop mild on seem poetry’s deep roots inside the city’s experimental new music scene, even when it proliferated under other style labels.

Chorus: A Sound Poetry Festival, November 11, 2022, Artists Space, New York. Suzanne Langille and Loren Connors.

Towards the finish of the festival’s 2nd night time, Joan La Barbara returned to her piece “Solitary Journeys of the Mind.” Like a great deal of her function considering the fact that the 1970s, the composition pushed the human voice to its restrictions, using yelps, clicks, and whispers as unbiased phonemes in service of a complicated and triumphant full. La Barbara remains an immensely virtuosic improviser, and the guttural physicality of her set supplied a placing counterbalance to the tightly-edited assemblage of Chopin.

Chorus: A Sound Poetry Festival, November 11, 2022, Artists Space, New York. Charlie Morrow. Photo: Joshua Wildman, courtesy of Artists Space.

Charlie Morrow closed out the festival with a suite of his earliest poems at the ask for of McCann. Heat and total of existence, Morrow mirrored fondly on his earliest times as a composer before singing open up, ghost-like notes, whistling like a windstorm, and at some point enlisting the audience to take part in a sequence of bellowing honks influenced by several underwater species known as toadfish. The piece was in the beginning portion of a series of experiments in nonhuman conversation that Morrow took up in the late 1960s, which was discussed at the pageant with utmost simplicity. “One of people toadfish will start [with a honk] and then the other folks will imitate,” he said, heading on to describe how the fish compete with one another to lead the team.

Mild and charming like a great deal of Morrow’s output, this brief minute of viewers participation led into a rendition of just one of the composer’s quantities pieces in advance of the evening concluded out with two aspiration chants. “Some people uncover that if you close your eyes, you will locate by yourself in a a little bit lucid dream condition and have some photos,” he mentioned. “And so I’ll acquire you with me.” After totally checking out what the entire body can do as an instrument, it only produced perception to search for out-of-entire body transcendence in the end.

Refrain: A Seem Poetry Competition took position at Artists Place in New York on November 10 and November 11, 2022.