Samuel Webster

February 24, 2010 Experiment: Phase Poetry Posted In: Writing

This is an idea I’ve had for a little while now and only today decided to experiment more concretely with the form.

PHASE: a state of synchronous operation.

The concept behind phase poetry is an audio installation which plots elements of a text against one another, creating loops which challenge the rhythm of the original work, converging and diverging mathematically. The text I used in the experiment is about the multiple avenues of meaning which occurs, branching out from one word, to a sentence, an idea, a novel which can be newly understood again and again by different contexts and cultures…

We began our lives as singular beings, individual words uttered together branching out into multiple meanings slightly divergent, splitting open for stories for poems for breaths (*exhale*) catching each other on the page. There is a poem tugging at my ears nibbling at my neck and struggling towards unity.

The audio is designed to reflect the text, starting in unity and ending split. The inclusion of the breath in the middle piece acts as an audio marker which indicates the distance between the playbacks at any one point. The concept would be to run something like this in a room with four different sound sources (instead of stereo audio), on an hour long loop. Over the course of an hour, phrases will appear to come together, and split.

LISTEN HERE (headphones required): Phase Poem Test 1

The best approach is to let the words wash over you, the phrases themselves are not recreated in the process, so once you have the original text understood, let the sound wash back and forth without trying to find sentence structure in the competing audio streams.The notion is to let go of the lucidity of the text, to mimic the nature of confusion which competing meanings would create.

Technical side:

Each audio stream is made up of one vocal track, and one piano track. These are panned at 100% left, 30% left, 30% right and 100% right, thus creating four different sound sources. Respective to their stereo panning, each track plays back at a different speed: 59beats per minute, 60bpm, 61bpm, 62bpm. At these tempos, it should technically take 1 minute for the slowest and fastest audio streams to be one line out from one another. By the end of that sample, the first and last are there approximately 15 lines apart. That is, the fastest audio stream has overtaken the slowest audio stream entirely.


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