Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Far We Fall

Best plans, first plans. I had originally intended for this project to be called Radiophonic Paterson, but then when radios ended up not as involved as I had originally planned (see early diagram below with schematics for 24 hr broadcast of the falls, electromagnetic capture and musication of EZPass signals), I decided to not confuse people with the name, even though I still thought of the project as deeply “radiophonic.” I was confirmed in my expanded use of the term while talking with Danny Snelson in Tompkins Square, late at night, while eating hermit crab pop-ems, the Japanese version of zero-nutritional-value food, yet more exact than a Twinkie, since you hold in your mouth the whole grammar of their carapace—dyed red, sprinkled with sesame, shellacked with sugar. Danny is an editor at ubu.web and various different projects and had in his bike bag a copy of Ronald Johnson’s Radi os—Milton’s Paradise Lost sous-rature, and an early example of the radiophonic technique of “writing through.” Why is this Cagean technique of transforming and recycling source material radiophonic? Danny mentions it goes back to the idea of poetry as a kind of “tuning in” that Jack Spicer talks about in his Vancouver lectures (I have a discussion of this in chapter 3 of Ether); I would think it also has to do with the way in which the text radiates or transmits, animated less by reproduction and affiliation, but by the noise that comprises (and compromises) a wireless connection. Sometime, just the thought-object of the radio is enough to inspire the wireless tune-in . . . that is, how great is it that “radios” is embedded in “Paradise Lost”? It’s as if Lucifer found his way out of the pit by setting up a radio shack in one of the less shielded rings of hell. Or that we find our way out of the sin of representation, its fallen form—which Milton seems to perform in his tortured elegant lines, as if his art reenacted Lucifer’s rebellion—into something more luminous, less guilty. I remember reading Paradise Lost over winter vacation when I was 18, and for a variety of reasons, becoming a little freaked out, longing for the Mediterranean sunshine even in the most blood-soaked lines of Homer and Virgil. Johnson’s blank space swarms with the knowledge of Milton’s empurpled empyrean of disimparadised ensinewed titanbodies, plummeting through the Luciferous ether. The connection is not lost, but barely perceived, screams through the sky now a whisper, a humm of static, a tinkle.
Danny is curating a panel on Radio Poetics as part of the Radio Festival at Ontological, October 16-18.

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