The second dance

Saturday night, 23 May, 2015

One of the things discussed on Thursday was the use of the dockyards at Medway. I wondered if the text should be more site specific, referential like the poem that I just finished in response to Rimbaud’s “Aube”. In the French poem, Rimbaud chases the dawn across the surface of buildings, steeples and domes, the marble quays, until he reaches the woods. The possibility of mixing languages was a question.

But we decided to return to the small poems that make up “Passing Moments”. Perhaps because we are feeling our way in the project it just seems easier to deal with very small poetic units. Eventually the poetic units will add up and Anna’s layering of music and words and Nikki’s steps will work to tie the series into a unified performative whole.

We chose two more poems to set, and worked in the hallway, a small space but enough for marking, devising two more combinations. Working in the hallway, we seem to shift our focus to the spatial elements of the poetry. Nikki seems more affected by the content of the words. The poem with the phrase “the horizon’s tilt/ sheds vertical song” affects her sense of movement. This doesn’t seem to be a problem the next day when we are working in a much larger space.

 

Country Lanes

Talking with Anna J

Thursday, 21 May, 2015

Nikki, Anna and I meet at the British Library. It’s been a while since the three of us have met face to face. It’s been almost a year and a half since we met Anna. We discuss how each of us envisions her own role in this project.

Anna says that she is interested in how the computer would function in creating music for the project. She believes that in order for Nikki to dance, she will need a continuous pulse or beat, and she believes she can take the timbre/pitch of the spoken poetry and turn that into a pulsing sound through digital manipulation.

Nikki talks a bit about her conversation with British poet and jazz pianist Roy Fisher, in which they talked about elements that were relevant to the paper she delivered in Belgium in April. Fisher was amused by the idea of mixing poetry and jazz. He talked about the 1950s practice of mixing the two, which he says never worked, really. That the two forms – poetry and jazz music – never jelled in performance. Nikki thought part of the problem with combining jazz and poetry might be the inability of the reading voice to sustain sound, a vowel or a consonant. That is, I suppose, the greatest difference between speaking, or reciting, and singing. Singing is about sustaining pitches and varying the length of that sustained sound, even when the sound is decorated as in bel canto singing.

I remember seeing films of Jack Kerouac reading to Steve Allen improvising on the piano (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LLpNKo09Xk). I also remember a record that my brother had when I was a kid that mixed jazz music and poetry. I do remember it as being odd, but fascinating at the same time.

Nikki also talks a bit about prose poetry versus poetry. Prose poetry she remarks always refers to a larger story, though it is not always necessary to have all of the story available to the reader/ listener. There are other devices that make the entire story clear as a background without it being concretised. She also talks about rhythmic repetition, like that found in the Bible. Phrases such as “He went out into the garden/ Out into the garden he went etc. (She discusses this in detail in her book Such Rare Citings.)

Anna points out that silence becomes the “phrase boundary”. She envisions the layering of phrases with sounds and words coming in and out of audibility.

One of the issues of performing together, especially improvisationally, will be cues: how for example would Nikki signal that she is happy or unhappy with the direction of the music or the spoken voice in performance. Anna suggests the possibility of a haptic device, such as a doorway. On one side of the doorway, she would be inside the action of the performance, grooving with the voice and the music, and on the other side of the doorway, she would be outside the action. I imagine this as a real doorway, or the frame of a doorway, on a stage. What is inside; what is outside, Nikki adds, and the question, How lawless am I going to be?

Anna comments that musicians use the smallest of peripheral cues to stay in sync. And that usually it is the horn player who can cue the other instrumentalists because his hands are free. Guitarists use the nod of a head.

We also talk a bit about the visualization of the computer’s coding. Rather than doing live coding, a parody of coding could be developed that is more accessible and humorous while using all the techniques of live coding. This idea brings up the question: Does the computer need to be obedient?