Michael Nardone is an FRQSC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of French Literature at the University of Montréal, and an affiliated faculty member at the Centre for Expanded Poetics, Concordia University. He is managing editor of a modern, open access scholarly journal focusing on poetics, media and culture. Nardone is the author of two books of poetry, The Ritualites (2018) and Transaction Record (2014). His writings, dialogues and editorial projects have been published extensively and are archived at: http://soundobject.net.
My initial engagement with and understanding of the expanded practices of Conceptual writing is situated within a particular geography — Denendeh, or the Northwest Territories of Canada — during the proposed Mackenzie Valley Gas Project hearings held throughout the territory. The purpose of the proposed pipeline was to pump natural gas from Arctic Ocean reserves south across the entire territory to Alberta, where it would fuel the production of tar sands oil. Many considered the project to be “basin-opening,” meaning that it would serve as a main artery for dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller pipelines that would tap into it, accelerating the infectious spread of Alberta’s boom-and-bust petro-economics throughout the North. [...]
In this article the author theorizes how the idea of a sonic avant-garde resounds today. Focused on technics of noise and site specificity, the author describes the sounds and sites of the Idle No More round dance interventions of the winter of 2012–2013 and hears these protests via the dissonant transmission of the sonic practices and geographical-racial theories of the historical avant-garde.
It is from within these protean constructions of sound and sense that I want to begin this listening of Mac Low’s 1971 performance at Sir George Williams University (SGWU) in Montreal. The earliest recording of a performance presently available by the American poet, composer, and multimedia performance artist, the 1971 phonotext presents an entirely undocumented mode of Mac Lowian composition. No other recording of Mac Low captures the breadth of his compositions from the mid-1950s through to the early 1970s, and no other presents his extensive use of phonotextual materials in performance. In this essay, I trace out these undocumented aspects of Mac Low’s phonopoetics through a close listening of the performance that always keeps in mind the wider contexts in and through which these compositions make noise. Here, I pursue the ways in which Mac Low’s sonic architectures resonate aspects of his moment’s soundscape – of the Vietnam War, counter-cultures, mass protests and mass media – as he performs a “critical remixing” of his own personal archive of sounds.
Poetic forms emerge out of public contexts of language, as response, as confrontation. The emergent contexts of forms more traditionally situated within poetic practice have been explored and described widely—for example, the metrical devices of Ancient Greek verse as mnemonic aids for the oral circulation of information across space, and the sestina’s repetitive structure that allowed one to showcase both craft and improvisation during feasts or gatherings.