Bök & Notley came to Georgetown last night. It was probably the best-attended event in the Lannan series after the Baraka-Smith reading last fall. Christian started the seminar talking about his various past projects and future plans. He described wanting to become a sound poet (one of the only ones in Canada) and deciding to start by tackling the most challenging and ambitious of sound poems, Kurt Schwitter's Ursonate, a work that takes about 40 minutes to perform in full. He also described his fondness of Jaap Blonk, a Dutch sound poet whose work can be sampled at UBU.

Christian is currently at work on "The Cyborg Opera," a "linguistic landscape" that uses real words arranged according to sonic values rather semantic meaning. He says it is an "opera" in the sense of a "technical operation." He wants to create a "undreamt poetics of electronic musicality." Basically the project is an attempt to embody electronic music in much the same way that Kerouac imitated jazz. Christian adds that jazz is larely outdated, so he wants a poetics akin to the most popular music today, namely computer-generated dance music. He calls his new work a "spoken techno." (And just to zoom forward, the techno section of his evening reading was totally uncanny. I am still in awe. Its tempo was breathless, its noises were closer to a turntable or keyboard than recognizable human speech, and its range of sounds was as complex as anything that I've heard streaming on the Drum'nBass stations.)

Another current inspiration is video game music, for which Christian claims to have done much research. "Mushroom Cloud" is a poem that uses Super Mario music to create a poem about what life is like under the threat of nuclear war. "It's like being in a pinball machine," says Christian. His interest in video games is based on their popularity. Halo 2 made 250$ million its first weekend, an astounding figure that is more than any other cultural activity in human history. Christian reasons that video games deserve even the attention of poets. He is researching the sounds, especially the "engines, dynamos, and syllables." (I thought here of Henry Adams saying that he could understand 20C multiplicity through the dynamo at the World's Fair. I wonder what Christian would call his 13c unity, his personal version of Mont-Saint Michel and Chartres?) Later Notley added that the music of Zelda used to drive her crazy because her kids would play it for hours on end.

Christian is further researching the music of "Beat Boxers," including some of the tracks on Bjork's Medúlla. (I missed a few names he mentioned here.) "The Cyborg Opera" is an overture to this kind of music. It is full of "resonant plosives" put together to form an "alien alphabet." Why? Because this music has greater potential to make people turn over cars than most of what passes for poetry these days. (!)

More on Notley later today...

Comments on ""


Blogger Jessica Smith said ... (12:56 PM) : 

Christian always does the SAME thing. Christian!


Blogger tmorange said ... (1:25 PM) : 

by far the best-attended lannan series reading was the very first one i atended: adrienne rich, october 1999. mcneir hall's 125-seat capacity was exceeded by fire-hazard proportions. ICC auditorium hold 300 so i'd expect a near-repeat performance when rich returns to GU later this spring...



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