Skip links

Jaap Blonk Screaming
Jaap Blonk in performance. Photo by Etang Chen.

Sound Poetry: The Wages of Syntax

The major event of our season will be Other Minds Festival 23 (performances at the ODC Theater in San Francisco, April 9-14, 2018), devoted to text-sound composition–work utilizing “speech” as a musical medium. The materials of sound poetry range from phonemesthe smallest units of language–to complete sentences. Sound poets manipulate syntax, spelling, expression and speech patterns to surprising effect. Much of this repertoire involves aspects of electronic manipulation in live performance.

Following on international poetry festivals of the 70s and 80s, the time seems ripe to revisit the sound poetry movement and explore how the field has evolved. We’re inviting back to San Francisco some of the surviving superstars—John Giorno, Clark Coolidge, Anne Waldman, Enzo Minarelli (Italy) and Jaap Blonk (Netherlands). We’ve also invited new voices Espen Sommer Eide from Norway, Sten Sandell from Sweden, and a host of younger sound poets. We’ll also pay tribute to departed masters, with rare performances of Bernard Heidsieck’s La Poinçonneuse, Lily Greenham’s Do You Wonder about This Society? and Åke Hodell’s presciently political classic Mr. Smith in Rhodesia.

Brilliant works by Amy X Neuburg, Pamela Z, Clark Coolidge, Anne Waldman, John Giorno, Brion Gysin, Sheila Davies, Susan Stone, Charles Amirkhanian, and Mark Applebaum will receive their OM debuts. We’ll also present Austrian-born American composer Ernst Toch’s complete Gesprochene Musik (1930) (including its two rediscovered “lost” movements which accompany the better known Geographical Fugue), Kurt Schwitter’s notorious Ursonate (“Primeval Sonata,” 1922-32), and Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein’s delightful Capital Capitals (1927).

The festival starts Monday evening April 9th, with a gala opening appearance by Anne Waldman; on Tuesday the 10th enjoy leading authority Enzo Minarelli’s afternoon talk on the history of 20th Century sound poetry (Futurism through the 1980s) with recorded examples, and Jaap Blonk’s evening workshop demonstrating a range of techniques if you’re game to perform sound poetry yourself. Events take place nightly through Saturday April 14th.

Check this page periodically for emerging details and ticket information on all events, as they become available.

Video: Seminal Sound Poetry

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Zang Tumb Tumb

Kurt Schwitters

Gertrude Stein
If I Had Told Him a Completed Portrait of Picasso

Video: Selected Performers

Jaap Blonk

Anne Waldman
Worrying Yr Logos: Conversant You Speak to the Dead

John Giorno
It Doesn’t Get Better

Pamela Z

Amy X Neuburg

Enzo Minarelli

Audio: The History of Sound Poetry

In the following audio clip, broadcast in the Bay Area on KPFA in 1976, Charles Amirkhanian traces developments in 20th Century text-sound composition. He includes recorded examples by such historical figures as Kurt Schwitters, Raoul Hausmann, Ernst Toch, Gertrude Stein, Mauricio Lemaitre, François Dufrene and Henri Chopin. More modern examples of American work follows.

Start typing and press Enter to search