To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Enzo Minarelli: Quality and virtue of the performing voice (with a note and a manifesto)

The performing voice is the sum of so many voices: it is authentic, archetypal, bewitching, it comes directly from the deep interiority of the body, and through the body from the beyond, metaphysical, ontological voice, a voice dialectic for ever, a critical voice in its social integrity, an electronic voice in its intermediality, natural and artificial, the murmur of the mouth to regenerate and to deform; a distorted voice, phonetic stream like a God’s word to be accepted without any opposition, royal voice, superior voice, in its oneness, voice of vitalism, maybe a voice of utopia.

Inside the practices called polypoetry and sound poetry, the voice builds up its supremacy over writing, an absolute, unmistakeable primacy, never debated, whether or not technology is used. The voice is the centre of its being operative, it is the pivot around which the whole wheel turns, the first motor that drives everything.

Such a primacy is not directly tied to the chosen medium. The primary medium is the mouth, slot with an intermittent opening, guided by cerebral energies, by the soul’s energies. The mouth discharges clouds of white smoke, untouchable, impregnable, only kissable.

Corporal voicing, unlike urine and excrement which isolate and reject, is capable of making a union, enchanting and provoking a shock.

One has to understand, starting from the incontrovertibility of such a statement, that the poet thinks of his work only for the purpose of an oral processing-performance-fruition. He or she is the producer-maker of the verbal message; he has planned it and he performs it live, only then, the receiver (the audience) is allowed to see, to listen.

All takes place inside the components of space and time, the poet acts in a context, say, a theatre stage, an art gallery, an auditorium, a square, and it is exactly in these places that the performing event of the poem happens.

The sound poem is therefore performed in real time, and this is the unique chance the audience has to enjoy it correctly. In a way, there is only this single event, as live intervention. Although the sound poem is always the same, it has some unrepeatable background (the local-humoral co-ordinates).

Undoubtedly, a good performance is the direct consequence of a perfect, symbiotic balance between audience and performer. It is the answer to their own dialogue, a dialogized inter-connection.

Where the voice of the poet runs as a fluid, sprinkling the faces of the spectators, the voice of the performer and the ears of the audience play really hyper-active roles to reach the desired climax of a total acoustic comprehension.

Such a crescendo-coupling which does not always happen, and we may not to take it for granted, is the opposite of Brecht’s so called denouement. On the contrary, this climax is a cybernetic process where three poles turn continuously, exchanging their roles: the audience re-sends its own signal into the circle of communication, as does the poet. The performance message, a poetic Ping-Pong ball, is thrown from one side to the other. The poet’s warm breath, which comes from his interiority, from his deep ego, a spiritual breath, re-makes the message, giving it that ethereal imprint which will be absorbed equally by the audience, who, in turn, do not re-transmit the message through an oral form, but through their silent auscultating state, re-send the corporal vibrations, magnetic waves due to the excitement of their being there to hear. The audience, willy-nilly, suffers changes of skin, of emotion. The audience alters during the performing intervention. There is a modified state due to the dynamic energy left in the air by the poet-performer, who receives feed-back as a further input to improve himself, to do better and better, to exhibit the muscles of his own spirit.

We wish we could consider that the voice of the poet is able to veil, to cover the contents as if with a soft layer of transparent dew, allowing everything to be seen, a psycho-visual enchantment, an epiphanic dew.

The audience members themselves are the first to catch the core of the message, to see it, and they are quick to take possession of it. But they are unable to keep it because during the performance, their pores are so enlarged that they are obliged to emit it anew. This means that the sound poet is successful, going straight to the conclusion of his poetical orgasm in unison with the audience, in his utopian belief of transubstantiation.


NOTE & MANIFESTO. Since the early 1970s Enzo Minarelli has been an important maker & shaker of sound poetry, video poetry, & performance art, bringing earlier modes of experimental writing & performance into a contemporary context. In his “Manifesto of Polypoetry” from the late 1980s, he sets out the following program:

1. Only the development of the new technologies will mark the progress of sound poetry: the electronic media and the computer are and will be the true protagonists.

2. The object "language" must be increasingly investigated in its smallest and largest parts: the word, basis of sound experimentation, takes the characters of multi-word, broken into its inner body, restitched at its exterior. The word must be able to free its own manifold sonorities.

3. The exploitation of sound has no limits. It must be carried beyond the border of pure noise, a signifying noise: linguistic and oral ambiguity has a sense only if it completely uses the instruments of the mouth.

4. The recovery of the sense of time (the minute, the second), apart from the laws of harmony and disharmony, because only through editing is the right parameter of synthesis and balance found.

5. Language is rhythm. Tone values are real vectors of meaning: first an act of rationality, then an act of emotion.

6. Polypoetry is devised and realized for the live show; it gives to sound poetry the role of prima donna or starting point to link relations with musicality (accompaniment or rhythmic line), mimicry, movement, and dance (acting or extension or integration of the sound text), image (television or slide projection, by association, explanation or alternative and redundancy), light, space, costumes, and objects.

[From "Manifesto of Polypoetry," published for the first time in the catalogue Trames d'Art (Valencia, Spain, 1987) and later in the catalogue A più voci (Florence, Italy: Festival of Sound Poetry, 1989). Translated from Italian by Harry Polkinhorn.]

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