Subatomic poetry

Who knows?


Telecommunications Systems Design Consultant and Poet



Google has found this blog. I think it might be because I put a link to it from Low Probability of Racoons a while ago. Anyway, in the unlikely event that someone enters the search phrase subatomic poetry, Google returns this site as the second result. The first result is a page with an abstract of a presentation I gave at the trAce Incubation conference in July.

Well, there you go. No posts here for ages, and then three come along at once.

Heads Up at King's

POETS/IMPROVISORS:UPFUSSED WORDNOISE NELL'AMBIENTE ** Friday 3 September 8.00pm Keynes Hall, Kings College, Cambridge ** Keston Sutherland/Pleasure-Drenching Improvers Beck-Lunch Improvors **

I went along to this, shouldering past the "The College is Closed to Visitors" and "No Entry" signs that adorn the front of King's College, and demanding directions from a slightly stunned porter. Keynes Hall was almost empty and a friendly antipodean enjoined me to "sit wherever you like". Someone I Recognised was one of the few foolish enough to arrive before the advertised starting time, so I sat near to him. Someone Else I Recognised arrived a few minutes later.

Poetry events never start on time, but this pushed the boundaries. At a quarter past, someone started carefully unwrapping masonry on the stage. At twenty past, an impressively large contingent of Those Clearly In The Know tripped in, swelling what might have been an embarrassingly small audience to a respectable 40 or so.

Sutherland read some of his grammatically fractured, dense texts, to an accompaniment of squarks and clonks provided by Drenching, Sonic Pleasure, and the aforesaid masonry. Pleasure wore silk gloves. It was a bit difficult to see what they were doing, because they were sitting on the floor. The noises were quite nice, though they sometimes made it rather hard to hear the words. I suspect it would have worked rather better had the poetry been more driven by phonics than by semantics.

Eventually, Sutherland stopped and announced an alcohol break. This was rather optimistic of him: there was a bar, but it remained resolutely closed. Some of the more enterprising students had brought bottles with them; the rest of us remained dry and disgruntled.

In the second half, Beck encouraged noises from a bassoon that its makers had probably never dreamed of. Watson accompanied him (I think that's the right way round) with readings slightly more logically coherent than Sutherland's and declaimed from various parts of the auditorium. There were two babies in the audience, who wailed intermittently. My companions and I debated whether they were intended to provide an aleatory contribution to the performance, and decided that they probably were. Watson addressed a section of his text directly to one of the babies, who appeared to be soothed by this.

Towards the end, Beck discarded his bassoon in favour of a balloon (geddit?) which he inflated and then encouraged noises from that its makers had almost certainly dreamed of. There are only two possible ways of ending a performance that involves a balloon; Beck opted for the less explosive one.

On my way out, I mentioned to those of the performers I could reach that I had enjoyed the evening. They seemed a little nonplussed by the information.

We repaired to The Cow for a half (I was driving) of Hoegaarden, with a slice of lime. Weird, but not that weird.

J6 and No Sound

I managed to show of the Virtualizer to the rest of Joy of Six the other evening, though it was a close-run thing. They enjoyed playing with the echo effects and the Cathedral reverb. I think they might be interested in trying out something that we could weave into a performance, but there'll need to be a lot of experimentation first, I suspect.

I've been playing around with a new technique (new to me, anyway - I'm sure somebody must have done it before). I set the delay to around 0.3 seconds and then turned up the mic gain to just below the point where acoustic feedback starts to howl. Then open your mouth in front of the microphone and you can generate tones without actually making any noise yourself. Your mouth cavity acts as a Helmholtz resonator, and you can change the tone by altering the shape of your mouth. It's quite difficult to control though, and I'm not sure there's a lot of artistic point. Though I suppose there's philosophical mileage to be made out of the fact that the sound is being produced under your control but without you generating it in any of the usual ways.

The delay helps by building up the feedback slowly, so you don't get an uncontrollable screech. It seems to be better if you have a bit of electronic feedback, but not too much. Too much is when any sound produced continues for longer than you want it to.