At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the final installment in a three part series. We hope you enjoy!
David James Miller
How might poetry of attuned attention function—connecting the deliberate act of listening inwardly to the self with listening outwardly to the environment? As in some experimental music, listening is somatic in such poetry, where one becomes open and receptive to dialogue between the self and the larger environment. Pauline Oliveros describes this as: “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one's own thoughts as well as musical sounds.” Her improvised, collective compositions (with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis) perform such attuned attention deep in an empty, underground military reservoir 70 miles north of Seattle. Likewise, the music by Taku Sugimoto and other so-called ‘Onkyo’ musicians, performing at the Tokyo performance space Off-Site at the turn of the millennium, enact a similar listening experience. Emphasizing a “conscious recognition of the reverberation of sound (oto no hibiki)” (Plourde), their performances are often almost completely-silent, resulting in music of an interactive dynamic, highly attuned to tensions between the material, sonic performance and the unplanned sonic experiences from the immediate environment. This recalls, for me, John Cage's statement that “the sound experience I prefer to all others is the experience of silence... and the silence almost everywhere in the world now is traffic.” This also recalls writing by Leslie Scalapino and John Taggart—poets whose writing connects (the body of) the self and sound, with the body of the many social, political, spiritual, and psychological environments we inhabit.