Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Week 2, Day 4: Sound Poems

Day 3's adolescent daydreams ain't up yet but will be tonight--still obsessing over a line or two. In the meantime, Day 4, the sound poem, is complete and so here is that for you now. But before I deliver, allow for some backstory.

Jayson G and Jeffrey Beaumont, sound recorders who enjoy fire

I got the idea for a sound poem from a wonderful man named Todd, who sent me a thoughtful email after a friend forwarded him the Hyperliving Manifesto. He wrote:

"Ben, what about making a sound poem? perhaps you know about this kind of poetry already. for this, do not use any words that are part of a language you know. instead construct a poem of sounds. this can be written, though probably best represented through an mp3. a good example is the work of kurt schwitters."
This seemed like such an awesome idea that I couldn't possibly pass it up. To see and hear what Todd is talking about, do the ole "Ctrl/Apple+T" on the link above where there's some further explanations into Schwitters ideas as well as a few mp3s of his readings. Make sure to also check out a "score" here of one of his pieces as well. A sample of his work is here:

- Kurt Schwitters, "Einleitung und Erster Teil: Rondo"

For my own sound poem I wanted to do things a bit differently, as it is essential to me that Hyperliving be not a solo journey of Jeffrey Beaumont, but rather a collaborative group exploration into new activity. Therefore, to do this experience I enlisted the help of my friends Jayson Greene and Imanant to help write and record. Jay is a man of the Modern Music Renaissance [pron: "ren-NAY-sonce"]: as a violinist, music writer, blogger, and former editor at Symphony Magazine---as well as all around brainmaster---he knows a few things about the music world and then some.

Jay Greene

Imanant graciously added support by providing equipment and knowledge, which included two microphones (ductaped to the ceiling), a mixer, and a brief tutorial in recording via the marvelously simplistic Garage Band program.

The creative process involved me sounding out a poem in my head and transcribing it, and then reading it outloud to Jay while recording it. From there I explained to him the sort of accompaniment I thought I wanted and the ways in which I hoped the music could impact and interact with the poem. After listening to the recording again, he batted back some thoughts to me and asked some questions of mood, rhythm, tempo, and loudness. Once it seemed we were on the same page, we then sat down and ran through it six or seven times before finally getting a few versions that sounded right.


As a musician who’s been in a number of bands and orchestras, Jay was already familiar with the give-and-take process of writing and recording sound, but it was a brand new experience for me and took a few run-throughs before I started to get a handle on the importance of “listening” as a form of interaction. Trying to make it all come together made me think a lot about how important and difficult it is to make sure, even if you are a band leader, that you and your group are listening and communicating with each other, and how that isn’t necessarily as easy as it might seem. [This will be good advice to keep in mind, by the way, for a later week of Hyperliving where I and my band The Heart Beats. (members TBD) will write and record three garage-punks songs over a week.]

And so, finally, after an hour or two of thinking, talking, reading, recording and listening to playback, we decided on the one we thought was best. Here it is:

“Pi” by Jeffrey Beaumont (click to download mp3)

As an added bonus I also spontaneously decided to record a reading of a poem given to me that day by a friend of mine in Prague, the poetess Mabel de Silentio. She told me she wrote this poem at a crazed point when life was particularly jagged. She had never shared it with anyone and had kept it buried it away in the depths of her archives to be, if not forgotten, then at least “put aside” with a good amount of permanence.

But, of course, well… it’s a really great poem. And as soon as I read it I felt like I just couldn’t stop myself from doing something to raise it from the crypt. So, really, my decision to record it last night was only spontaneous in the sense I hadn’t planned on it until the previous day—but I knew I wanted to try as soon as she gave it to me. And so, here it is:

“Untitled” by Mabel de Silentio (click to download mp3)

A few last bits of errata:

- The poem has no title but Mabel described it to me as a "'runaway sonnet'—a cross between a sonnet and a villanelle.”

- As I announce in the recording, I had mistakenly assumed Mabel was Czech, but after sending her the recording last night she wrote back to me,

hey, thanks. sounds like npr, kinder.

how strange to hear it read by a

one thing though – i’m not Czech, but i am part Danish. great niece
of johannes de silentio.



And now come the hardest parts of the week: ghazal, pantoum, and then the most feared of all, the sestina. Wish me luck.

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Anonymous said...

Dear Jeffrey,
First impressions of the sound poem...I see a crowded Jewish funeral, bearded rabbi saying a prayer in Hebrew (natch)for the dead but backwards and very Goyishly. A Jew funeral in rewind, thats just ya know, me. Is that sick? You did a nice job. So did Jason. Congrats.
Moist Throat

hotdoorknobs said...

Chalk this one up in the "ultimate victory" column.

E-BAD said...

MUST STOP PROCRASTINATING, CANT CONTROL BRAINNNNNNNN********** But anyway. Good job. It sounds like you are counting in another language (i.e. yi1, er4, san1, si4, wu3, liu4, ect). You also said "wee wee" at one point. Just looking out for you bud.

ezruh sellof said...

What production!! Someone can really twiddle those knobs!

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