WEST COAST INTERNATIONAL SOUND POETRY FESTIVAL: PART 2 by Stephen Ruppenthal
Saturday's activities for the festival began in the afternoon with an informal discussion/workshop which included the following participants and members of the audience: Dominic Alleluia, Charles Amirkhanian, Laurie Anderson, Geoffrey Cook, Toby Lurie, Steve McCaffery, bp nichol, Pauline Oliveros, Valerie Samson, Jerome Rothenberg, Marion Robinson, Stephen Ruppenthal, Ron Sillimann, Paul William Simons, Julius Ward, and Larry Wendt.
After the high-energy excitement, enthusiasm, and surprises of Friday evening, Saturday was to achieve even greater success in terms of audience reaction and participation and dynamic performance. The evening's program had begun long before most of the audience arrived with a composition by San Francisco audio/visual poet Stefan Weisser titled Spatial Poetics. Spatial Poetics, a work involving prerecorded audio cassette tape loops, is an environmental work along the lines of his Oomoonoom: Dancing on the Brink of the Word. Weisser, an "explorer of acoustical phenomenon", presented the piece through a large loudspeaker that was mounted on a fire escape outside the third floor window of La Mamelle. With the volume sufficiently loud enough for the piece to be heard on Folsom Street (several blocks away), the work became part of the southeast market Street environment, the recorded material on the loops originating from that area.
The initial live performance on the evening's concert was by Tael Thomas, sound poet and story teller, assisted by Parakleitos on the duncek drum.
In quite a different 'space', G.P. Skratz came on after Tael Thomas and presented in definitive style, the Edselist Art Revue.
...And then the Horsemen. Steve McCaffery, bp nichol, Rafael Berreto-Rivera, and Paul Dutoon are Canada's most well known and high-energy sound poetry group which have been performing together for the past seven years.
Boyd Rice, now notorious for his media destruction piece of the previous evening, gave a short interlude work consisting of a half a dozen music boxes playing simultaneously. This, while the audience waited in vain for a can of sterno to bring a tea-pot to its whistling finale. Unfortunately - no climax, but everything is DADA.
Toby Lurie, possibly the busiest performing poet in the country, drew from the audience and the Horsemen for his first piece. Each person was given a word to form the chorus "what I am saying now is what I am now saying"", a fragment from the Horsemen's last composition. As Toby directed the order, rate and manner of speaking of each work, the resources for the piece began to appear in different and changing characters, each word taking on a personality of its own. Toby has worked with this type of impromptu audience participation (or orchestration) for many years and he is a master at it. After the previous performance this was a superb choice as the audience needed a catharsis for itself.
Toby's set continued to draw from the audience for performers. Sound-Color Sonata, sound poem for two voices was performed by Lurie and the present author, capturing many of the same colors of the voice that had been heard earlier, and indeed throughout the festival. Following this was a reading of I Refuse by Toby and his son Drew. I Refuse is a precisely scored work in terms of rhythmic structures, where the poet has used traditional music notation to achieve the desired counterpoint.
The next two compositions were from a new series of 'conversational poems' for two or more voices. ...and he walked down the street, performed with great style by Jerome Rothenberg and Toby in 'honor of Jimmy Carter's inaugural walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. As the simultaneous 'fugue' or 'canon' continued the performers heavily stressed the satirical import of the text and the reading took on a 'down-home' quality. The performance of the next 'conversation' titled A Play Within was again well matched with Toby and the poet Robert Duncan reading the Gertrude Stein section of the conversation, from their play Counting the Dresses. Quite a thrill to see artists such as these perform in spontaneous situations.
"I am on the Threshold", performed by Anne and Toby was a very sensitive work regarding the chronology of life and the moments of living it. The last small ensemble work by the poet was titled A Sometimes Fugue and performed by Toby, Drew, and the present author. Again, this work used a rhythmically scored out text to achieve the complicated syncopations inherent in the composition.
The last work of the evening was a 'tour de force' poeme simultan involving the entire audience in an orchestration, including two smaller reading groups, and a larger ensemble of about ten; the rest of the audience was cued in for a chant "there is nothing new under the sun". During the piece, Dadaland and company performed a sound poem, the large ensemble had separate random phrases from a foreign language, and the audience was cued for their chant, and two others performed a work by Lurie titled I Don't Understand. Again Lurie's expertness at this type of composition and orchestration has to be experienced. Judging from the reactions of performers and non-performers alike, it was a masterful conclusion to the second night of the festival. p.10