Saturday, May 17, 2008

There is No Verse That is Free

Listening to Williams talk about beat and metrical rhythm, he draws some very fine distinctions, hard to live up to. On the one hand, he has disdain for what gets called “free verse,” even though he praises Whitman for breaking from the iambics of the English. On the other hand, he finds the rhythms of the Beats, and their jazz inspirations, dulling to the poetic imagination (even though his excitement about Bunk Johnson seems to contradict his contempt for jazz as expressed). His notion of the variable foot—always to me a little vague—is starting to seem not as much an exact pattern, but rather a middle ground between a totally free demotic voice, and the regular, obsessive patterning of the jazz and meditational droning in Beat poetics.
I seem to be thinking about the same issues when trying to organize my documentary material for this project in a “musical” way; and in fact, whenever I make any piece which uses samples of vocal material, I’m always wary that an interesting repetition can easily devolve into a kind of anxious circling. Somehow, the danger is greater when dealing with words than with traditional instrumental rhythm. Experiments of this type that are successful—notably the text-based phase-music of Steve Reich, the scratch-cinema of Martin Arnold,

(better together!: although bottom video is being difficult, but you can still click here and it exists) or documentary-musical hybrids like Pamela Z’s Geekspeak and Adam Goddard’s The Change in Farming—are able to make the repetition meaningful (sometimes, in fact, thematizing obsession rather than just fetishizing the technological ability to repeat a recorded sample.) So perhaps it is a bit perverse that preliminary mixes for my intro (for the hopefully forthcoming large-scale audio piece) remix Williams in a clunky, obviously mechanical, techno beat. I wondered whether I should put it out yet, but since the process is the thing, I will post it here now. And I might as well include this fragment as well, which I find interesting, but perhaps unusable.

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