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Philadelpho MENEZES (Brazil)

Philadelpho Menezes (1960 2000) poet, translator, essay writer, publisher. Professor at the Department of Semiotics and Communication of the Pontifical Catholic University (Sao Paulo). Author of several poetry books and of a number of theoretical editions on various aspects of experimental poetry. As a translator Ph. Menezes prepared for publishing and published in Portuguese productions by F. Pessoa, M. Praz, E. Gomringer and others. Organized international exhibitions of visual poetry and seminar-conferences on experimental poetry. Participated in conferences in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and the USA. For more information see the bio-bibliography of the participant. Taken from the poets manuscript. 2000 Philadelpho Menezes, Sao Paulo.

THREE HISTORICAL MOMENTS AND FOUR TRENDS TODAY IN SOUND POETRY

Sound Poetry is not an indisputable term. Its definition has to deal with many other areas related to experimental oral poetry in the 20th Century. To understand it in its depth and to situate its trends today, it is important beginning with a frame of the experimental poetry. Experimental poetry is a kind of poetry appeared in the beginning of 20th Century, which spread all over the world as a poetry linked to technical development of modern society. Due to the coming of new techniques of printed text and recording voice, poets have been trying new ways of combining word and image or word and sound in their poems. It provokes a rupture with the system of verse as a frame to define the poetic language.

The varied ways of combining word and image has produced what is internationally known as visual poetry. It takes over many forms: futurist, dada, surrealist, concretist, poesia visiva, etc. A study could be made to show the relation between the new techniques of communication and the forms that verbal sign has took over: a. the reincorporating of image into printed text has provoked futurist visual poetry in the beginning of this century; b. the techniques of advertising compression of verbal discourse could be related to concrete poetry; c. the verbal and visual fragmentation in television and reviews can be related to poesia visiva of 60s and so on.

Technical developments of our age can be also related to sound poetry: a. Phonographic recording and radio system of communication have to do with the first phase of experimental oral poetry; b. Laboratory of sound based on electric-electronic effects has to do with sound poetry of the 50s/60s; c. Digitalization of sound and multimedia possibilities is related to the ways of sound poetry today.

Dick Higgins.
Intermedia Chart, 1995

The first phase is marked by the coming of techniques of recording and voice in the turning of last century. For the first time, voice can be heard far from the man who speaks, can be listened in different places at the same time, can be recorded and sounded when someone wants. The technology of recording changed the approach we had with sounds and human voices. On the other hand, the radio has suggested an internationalization of cultures, a mixing of languages of different countries, a babelization of different worlds blended by new techniques of communication. Poets begun to experiment with non-sense verses, to respond to the new chaos of communication, afterwards coming to experiments with phonetic poems, where any language (and no language) is recognizable. That informed the utopia of an international language based-on poetry, the dream of a global poetic language. It gave form to the first phonetic experiments and each important movement of avant-garde created its own way to respond to it during the 10s and 20s:

Italian futurism (Marinetti, Depero, Balla and others) has based its phonetic poems in onomatopoeias, phonetic sounds that imitate non-verbal sounds (trains, machines, rain, etc.). Italian futurism was very matched with the urban daily life, new techniques of industry, new mass media.

Dada poems (by Ball, Hausmann, and Schwitters among others) explored mainly glossolaly, a supposed reunion of all languages. Glossolaly is developed in some religious rites as in Catholicism, based on the faith in the divine gift for language.

Russian futurism based its experiments on the language of children and fouls, a pre-logical speech, out of the linear development of written arguments.

French simultaneism produced phonetic poems based on simultaneous speech in many languages, under the impact of Babel communication system.

Surrealist poems had an important reference in the screaming techniques of Antonin Artaud, who specially used the radio diffusion, exploring the internal language (automatic writing) as a system before becoming a social and conventional language.

What rejoins them is the idea of a poetry out of written text, far from the logical arguments and conventions used to control the aesthetic sensation. It remained as a mark for all poetics of sound.

Steffen Mezger.
Duet for Anette, 1988

The laboratories of sound technology open a second period of sound poetry, overcoming the phonetic moment, in the postwar age. It allowed to produce and to hear human sounds as they had never been heard before. Technology offered possibilities to transform voices into sounds that natural voices could never produce without technical interference. Time, rhythm, strength, duration, pitch, inflexion, tonality, superimposition of a same voice, repetition, many elements are incorporated by poets in their sound poems due to new possibilities of laboratory technology. In the late 50s, Henry Chopin , as a master and inventor of that poetics, fixed the term sound poetry to define those poems, many of them composed together electronic musicians.

The new sounds of voice transformed the landscape of our sensibility. The first effect was that poetry left definitely the ways that linked it to the history of text and took over some trends of contemporary music, touching the works of composers like Luciano Berio, who, by his way, had incorporated many elements of the first phonetic poetry.

Oskar Pastior.
Sestinen Monaden, 1992

The second effect is that since them technology is inside the conception of sound poems anywhere. Radio affected phonetic poetry, but in the most part of the cases, radio was not accessible to phonetic poets. With the development of technology after 50s, the dissemination of its possibilities has been reaching poets each time more. Since then technology helps poetry to realize their works.

The third effect was that the ensemble of technological sound of voices seduced even the poets who didnt have directly contact with technology. Some of them, who had special abilities with their voices, produced many poems with pure voice, which seems technological effects of laboratory of sounds (like Dufrene and Stratos). The technological features invaded the acoustic poems, which leads us to the conclusion that technological effects were present even out of technological laboratories.

Werner Laubscher.
Invention 5, 1995

Nevertheless, after 60s the sound effects of voice were affected by two questions: a. the coming and dissemination of technology of image; b. the exhaustion of sound effects as a unique basis for poem, what linked sound poem more to music than to poetry. It opens a third period of sound poetry.

New technology of image (video in 60s/70s, computer graphics in 80s/90s) offered to poets the possibilities of putting in relief visual features associated with image during presentations alive. With them, body, performance, light and any other visual feature entered the scene of sound poetry. Due to that fact, it is problematic to give a same name to the experimental poetry today as before. Many theorists have been trying to establish a new name to define a multimedia poetry. Kostelanetz prefers Text Sound Composition to define a pure spoken poem (but experimental anyway). In the 80s, Enzo Minarelli coined the term Polipoetry to delimit the new poetics, but he states the prevalence of sound aspects over the others. I prefer to make up the term Intersign poetry, also created in the 80s, to fix the limits of a poetry that has to deal with many interfaced languages. This term permits us to look at this poetry not only as a complex of signs living together in a multimedia space, but a web of signifieds produced by the interface of those signs, requiring a deciphering attention by the spectator. Experimental poetry establishes an intermedia space, overcoming the already old concept of multimedia. It deals with the second point above: the exhaustion of sound effects has lead poets to recover the semantic web of poem, pulling poetics to the historical trends of poetry again, keeping distance from the pure sensorial field of music.

Andrzej Partum.
Phonetical alphabet, 1976

But neither Intersign can resume the complex manifestations of sound poetry or intends to serve for all kind of experimental poetry today. The landscape of sound poetry shows a varied sort of trends, sometimes recovering past ways. We could descry four great tendencies that rejoin sound poetics today:

Speech poems: getting closer to the non-experimental declamation of texts (which has had also its rebirth due to the dissemination of CD technology), speech poems can be defined as a recovering of possibilities of the reading text aloud to transform or even destroy it. Beatnik generation in United States is the most recent basis for this sound poetry, whose routes, considering sound aspects, are the surrealists and the screaming poems of Artaud. Today it can be observed predominantly in the works of North American poets like Jake Berry, Michael Basinski and Harry Polkinhorn or in Europe in the work of the Spanish poet Xavier Sabater . In South America, is remarkable the sophisticated work of the argentine Carlos Estevez , touching the edge of phonetic poetry, quoted below.



Josef Anton Riedl.
Acoustic sound poem.

 

Phonetic poems: revisiting the possibilities of pure voice and the presence of the body that produces the sounds, it is an up-to-date version of the first phonetic poetry of Dada and Futurism. On the one side, phonetic poems today reveals the impact of technological effects of laboratory of sounds, but carried out only by acoustic human voice. On the other hand, due to the efforts of the body to produce unnatural sounds, this tendency gets closer to performatic trend, described below. Outstanding is the work of the Dutch performer Jaap Blonk , and an interesting example in South America is the Elke Riedels presentations, from Brazil.

Performatic poems: based on gestualization and on a conception of theatre inside poetry, performatic trend has to do with the artistic performances and happenings of the 50s and 60s added by cried reading of isolated words, which reveals an influence of the concrete poetrys play upon words. Through the non-verbal signs, this tendency approaches intersign poetics, next described, and it can be clearly seen in presentations of the French poet Julien Blaine or, in South America, in Alex Hamburgers performances, from Brazil, and Clemente Padins presentation, from Uruguay.

Intersign poems: definitely incorporating visual elements (light, space, colors) and technological images (video, computer) with a semantic function, intersign poems can mix any other trend above. Enzo Minarellis work, from Italy, and Fabio Doctorovichs poems, from Argentine, have to do with the idea of overcoming multimedia event to reach intermedia stage. Meanwhile I understand my work as a mind state linked to hypermedia and hypertext structures, even if accomplished out of computer ambience.

 

Horst Sagert.
Untitled, 1989

 

Those four trends reveal the vitality of experimental poetry today, a richness which blends the past with the present, outlining the importance of crossing new technology with the presence of the body and its voice, and a conception of poetry which nourishes any sort of experiment.

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Dmitry BULATOV
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Henri CHOPIN
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Dean SUZUKI
Arrigo LORA-TOTINO
Klaus Peter DENCKER
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Carla BERTOLA
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Rea NIKONOVA
Philadelpho MENEZES
Fabio DOCTOROVICH
Ide HINTZE
Jacques DONGUY
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Nicholas ZURBRUGG
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Practice

Practice

Fernando AGUIAR
Charles AMIRKHANIAN
Pierre-André ARCAND
Vittore BARONI
Eric BELGIUM
Carla BERTOLA
Isabella BEUMER
Sergei BIRJUKOW
Julien BLAINE
Guy BLEUS
Jaap BLONK
Jean-Pierre BOBILLOT & Jean-Luis HOUCHARD
Lars-Gunnar BODIN
Christian BÖK
Jean-François BORY
Dmitry BULATOV
Warren BURT
Philippe CASTELLIN
Cris CHEEK
Henri CHOPIN
Carlfriedrich CLAUS
Wayne CLEMENTS
Bob COBBING
Philip CORNER
Fabio DOCTOROVICH
Jacques DONGUY
Jas DUKE
Paul DUTTON
Carlos ESTEVENZ
FLOOM
Bartolome FERRANDO
Peter FINCH
FLATUS VOCIS TRIO
Giovanni FONTANA
Jean-Claude GAGNON
Hartmut GEERKEN
Alexander GORNON
Rosa GRAU
Mark GREY
Alex HAMBURGER
Jarl HAMMARBERG
Bernard HEIDSIECK
Ide HINTZE
Lászlo HORTOBÁGYI
Jol HUBAUT
Brenda HUTCHINSON
Elise KERMANI
KESKEN
Richard KOSTELANETZ
Nobuo KUBOTA
Ilmar LAABAN
Werner LAUBSCHER
Jean-Jacques LEBEL
Michael LENTZ
Arrigo LORA-TOTINO
Jackson MacLOW & Anne TARDOS
Claude MAILLARD
Chris MANN
Richard MARTEL
Steve McCAFFERY
Philadelpho MENEZES
Enzo MINARELLI
Phil MINTON
Massimo MORI
Charlie MORROW
Sainkho NAMTCHYLAK
Rea NIKONOVA
Alistair NOON
Maggie ΒSULLIVAN
Tibor PAPP
Oskar PASTIOR
Serge PEY & Joachim MONTESSUIS
Dmitry PRIGOV
Sergei PROVOROV
Miroslaw RAIKOWSKI
Josef Anton RIEDL
Américo RODRIGUES
Gian Paolo ROFFI
Jerome ROTHENBERG
Günter & Colette RUCH
Gerhard RUEHM
Xavier SABATER
Valeri SCHERSTJANOI
Elke SCHIPPER
Serge SEGAY
Gary SINGH
Hazel SMITH
Steven Ross SMITH
RE: SOUNDING
Enno STAHL
Amanda STEWART
Rod SUMMERS
Alaric SUMNER
Mark SUTHERLAND
Endre SZKÁROSI
Pierre THOMA
Gabór TÓTH
Liesl UJVARY
Lawrence UPTON
VERBOMOTORHEAD
Alberto VITACCHIO
Ania WALWICZ
Michael J. WELLER
Larry WENDT
Trevor WISHART
Pamela Z
Ellen ZWEIG