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Messagio Galore V

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Apr. 15th, 2008 | 03:45 pm

The century of sound poetry (with one from circa 560-600) presented at the OIW festival was spatial, interaction, and some of it improv. Which is not to say unpracticed. For jwcurry to curate and for the troupe to synchronize their timing and reading of each other that well takes a load of practice and intensity.

It is people playing off each other and off of reactions to text, or in some cases visual remnants of what once was text, or off of visual or concrete poetry. (As an aside, most of Alexander's Dark band, Nicholas Powers, Rob Read, jwcurry all have books and chapbooks at the Writers Fest book tables, including Book Thug's O Spam Poams and hand made chappies of various designs and flavors.)

Even with camera in hand I had a sinking feeling that visual is the wrong medium, at least for me, for this. I couldn't have the skill to capture the pure impish joy and flow of Maria Erskine even if lighting and camera could capture that, or what abstracted text they were interpreting, although JohnW could.

The group was 1-4 people, or 6 depending on the piece. (6 when the Auxiliary of John Lavery and Carmel Purkis joined in.) Each person worked like a letter, that in isolation had a different meaning than with the troupe.

One was sombre semantic fragment, one was linguistic, base beat of a word or a number acting as a metronome, one non-linguistic sound jazzing into it. Each person performed part of the sound that converged and passed back and forth; it was as if each were a different tv channel and one watches all at the same time.

The asymmetry is part of the meaning in a way a recording doesn't pick up. It's dinner theatre in the sense of action happening of people walking around, coming into the scene.

I was overly hasty with the camera, deciding that the pictures I took wouldn't do, and erased a few. If I erase words, I can reconstruct easier than images. But as is, I'll have to use words to reconstruct what my ears and eyes caught. Hard to say which would represent sound poetry better. One vantage point doesn't capture and yet one image that is a multiple that I didn't erase seems appropriate in being not exactly literal. When the word is fragmented into constituent phonemes, why not also the image?

messagio galore v

It is a mysterious thing, sound as having simultaneously no explicit literal narrative meaning and at the same time causing visceral reactions, senses of play or dismay. In the piece, She was a Visitor (by Robert Ashley, 1967) the choral voices rising together and apart and converging emulated a sort of mourning wail that crested and subsided and the emotional tone and negotiation changing. It is like listening to music in a foreign language and catching some universality.

Other pieces were similar in effect, where if you spoke German or French, you could catch more of the meaning but it wasn't necessary to have the language in common. It is play of sound, volume, tone, where the sound in made in the mouth, how far the sound projects. In some pieces there was a meditation on a word, meditating on each portion of it the way one savors each bite of a really good meal. In some there was monk-like chant interspersed with clapper-like shouts.

Some pieces were by Claude Gauvreau, some Frank Zappa, some Steve McCaffery, some Kurt Schwitters and bpNichol. One was by Jaap Blonk, who everyone local knows by rote is a sound poetry superstar coming to Ottawa, June 6 to Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities.

Nearly 4 hours of performance makes for a distinct disjuncture from normal head space.

You know the sensation when staring at a black dot then moving your eyes to a white wall and seeing the after image? Or seeing a list of words made of real words and rhymes of non-words? You read it long enough and nothing looks spelled right or like English anymore...A similar sort of effect of hearing non-semantic vocalizing then regular English gets jostled unrecognizable.

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