amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, June 07, 2008

for the love of sound

St. Brigid’s had a goodly sized crowd yesterday eve for the Max Middle Sound Project and Jaap Blonk. The MMSP, composed of audio-dynamic duo John Lavery and Max Middle performed some of our favourites, such as "Moon Potatoes," and also some new pieces. Was a joy to hear them as usual.

I have to say I have never heard anyone like Jaap Blonk before. I have very little experience with sound poetry and i don’t know why. it’s definitely an arena i need to explore.

I loved the way Jaap played with sound and also the way his whole body was part of the performance. See pics of all this here and here, thanks to shutterbugs, Charles and John.

Jaap gave us a variety of pieces, that are pretty much indescribable in words alas, but here i go...

repeated lines where vowels were systematically removed until the sentence transformed into consonants only and then the opposite with consonants removed;

he worked with familiar phrases like “well, what i’m saying is...”repeated over and over with various techno sound effects;

he did the first movement in Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate, completely memorised;

he read from an invented language based somewhat on Dutch called underlands with background music and the context of the music, his intonations, facial gestures and the choice of sounds provided the meaning; remember when you were a kid and your music teacher had you listen to Peter and the Wolf and asked you if you could detect the mood of the piece even though there were no words? that's what this was like for me.

his cheeks spoke their own wild language too.

he did a piece on the trills, taps and guttaral r sounds languages have; (around the rugged rocks, the ragged rascal ran.)

the audience went from laughter to surprise and in some cases, were completely startled out of their seats, at his polished performance and loud, unexpected shouts and sounds.

not only did Jaap make use of the international phonetic alphabet, which is comprised of discreet units of sound, intonations, lisps, clicks, guttarals, glides, implosives, diphthongs and more, but i believe Jaap mentioned that he added to that with invented sounds of his own and others. a pal of mine who knows much more about sound poetry than me said something about Hugo Ball, so i guess Jaap also performed pieces from his work.

a hearty bouquet of kudos to Max Middle for having the good sense and vision to invite Jaap to Ottawa. apparently Jaap was here at the Manx Pub fourteen years ago. glad he came back!

this was my first time at St. Brigid’s and it was such an incredible place to hear a performance. the Ottawa International Writers Festival staff and volunteers were amazing, looking after every detail with their usual nurturing attention to detail.

had a great conversation with folks after about sound and choral performance possibilities. right here in Ottawa, we have the sound expertise of jwcurry, whose recent group performance at the Ottawa International Writers Festival was Messagio Galore.

i found last night’s experience to be invigorating for a number of reasons. ever since i can remember i have loved language and sound. as a kid, i wanted to learn every language in the world and invented my own language. Jaap reminds me of what can be done with sound. there’s plenty of territory to explore.

a number of years ago, i heard jwcurry’s talk about the methods used for transcribing sound poetry, much like a musical score. and it was fascinating to me. now i can see how applicable it is when i hear Jaap Blonk or the Max Middle Sound Project. i’d love to see their transcriptions of the pieces they perform.

the whole experience reminded me a bit of that old movie, Fantastic Voyage, where people took a journey inside the human body. this was a journey inside the smallest unit of language, sound and it was fantastic.

as a kind of tribute Ottawa’s sound poets and to Jaap Blonk, i offer the following, one of my own experiments with sound and languages, invented and real, invented meanings and hijinx. some of you have heard me read this piece...

8 planets speaking in tongues

aLpan gua ista una planeta de most familari with earth.
whesta streets e i popoli crowded.
infestizionazze del smoke et automobile.
la Jente work long hours.
i children do not gioca con balls o toys.
i sparrows non singare.
there are no flores, no aqua
guisto pavement bianco nero
missing la scenta del mondo naturo
es una planeta artificial.

Zazim oh che glidara a zazim.
here cantare il sondo de camponelli jingle jingle.
aqui sono la felicidad love making e angeli clouds azurroblu
sunshine shinkle con la gioia di una new morning
i popoli want to stay per eternidad.

Opusiaro est tres soft.
the river coule and les petits stones girdondent
all is yellow echo daffodil et fronds.
une planete de la paix et la tranki li teh.
les boats danse et roque from side to wide
il existe no autos
i populi float above dans les lily white nuages.

Drumvetschmertz tastes good.
everything licks schmits betwixt i glicks und sound flicks.
hier ist alle silly.
mit coloren die children brighten die planete.
alle finger und toes und hands und feet mussen mooven.
hier can no one sit still.
all ist betwirlen in voll stimular kerfaffle noisen.

Gleeeeeeeeeeee ~ shines.
polished swee swee silver pitched.
no populi habiti sisi planeti.
gleet bright at mid day.
gleen inside jung und not so jung.
blequereen birds join the song.
i floreen silveri petals reen down in autri planeti.

Tagliacielo esta una grande planeta del green meadow et rustling wind.
i populi per qui la regenerazione is essential viene aqui.
lo zilensio ista most important.
lo gentle rocking of the waves
contra los tired bodies soothes et lache lache lache against aching bones.
o how l’oceano loves them.
curare i wounds, offra una blessing al damaged souls.

OzStrumwald ist grande waves und fire.
hier i populi find passione et exuberenza.
la droga et l’alcool is ingestiazare daily.
una colossol pipa belts out incenzia del sandalwood
und fragipanni flores line the streets.
o california o 1960s
o without la guerra
les orgies on the hills
tumultuasarias opera
orgasmos infinitiasimo.

Skrahtzi intrigues.
hier ist die bibliotecha,
i books stacked in molti cornori.
il wisdom del tutto di planeti is aqui.
les ancients et sages live on questa planeta.
con barbis long and white and reading glasses.
words imprimare on every surfacio.
typeface nero et large.
citations del celebrated heros of literatura.
each citadello di planeto tell estoria al children.
reading esta la pleasura ultima.
la poeta expanda les minds.


next a b series is Christopher Dewdney at the Urban Well in Sandy Hill on Thursday. Ottawa is a vibrant literary capital because of visionaries like Max Middle, innovators like jwcurry, great writers, promoters, publishers and activists like rob mclennan and the amazing Ottawa International Writers Festival, which rocks.

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