Notes on Michael Magee's talk
Ralph Ellison: Pragmatism, Jazz, and the American Vernacular
Poetry Project, 10/22/04

Emerson -- "How easily we capitulate to badges and names."

The maintenance of idealism in the face of the myth of democracy.

How to avoid the patterns of getting locked into the traditions that precede you.

Social flexibility vs. stagnant institutional power as a discipline -- that is -- what a process of democratization would actually mean.

Magee paraphrase of Emerson: "part of self reliance is to protect other people from yourself."

History is a text that can be revised.

Symbolic action -- creating new idioms, new dialogue, new ways of speaking -- hence new thoughts reflecting new realities, and: new actions.

"All literary power is social power."

Burke's take on Hitler and his popularity w/ Germans at the time: enforced repetition of thought until it becomes tradition.

Complicity of power and language, which can cut both ways -- the opportunity available to use the social power of language for change.

Burke's take on why America won't ever go fascist -- we can't agree on who to hate.

The polyvocal aspects of jazz -- the including of dissonance -- different needs and voices in the social sense, as enriching and inherently progressive socially.

American culture is "jazz-shaped."

Making players out of audiences: this point made me think of a recent performance of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning I participated in recently (there was no other way to experience it, really) where the entire audience emptied out from the bleachers and joined the musicians on stage -- players and audience were one, voila!)

Ellison on interdependent form and content -- heavy overlap with Creeley.

The Bill of Rights as improvisation.


I added a link (left),for the Poetics Orchestra, including some mp3s from the Free Radicals concert.

Next gig: Bowery Poetry Club: Nov 5th


Butch Morris with the Free Zone / Sound Infusion Orchestra
Bowery Poetry Club, 10/17/04
Conduction No. 141: EMYOUESEYESE

Met Steve Dickison early at the BPC due to some conflicting time listings, so we got to see Morris warm his band up before the concert. His comments to the players were barely audible, but fascinating -- I think I overheard "why is there so much doubt…?" during a cue where he was trying to get fully extended duration from a full orchestra pedal chord. Certainly a valid question. I couldn't help wondering how much of an orchestration could be done by simply asking the orchestra questions?

Musicians kept filtering in up to the last second - there were at lest 16 on stage by the time they started. The piece began with Adam Lane on bass, rhythmically ping-ponging between the low and high end of the instrument while keeping a continuous melodic stream of variation going. The bass was an anchor and an engine for much of the piece. He was slowly joined by violin and cello -- an extended string texture over which Morris began to signal with flourishes and punctuations. Much of the piece used this method- some players creating static or repetitive structure over which dynamic layers would be superimposed.

The overlapping tonalities were dense, and hovered in a thick mid-low ball of dark gray energy that would transform into beautiful and somewhat nightmarish shapes, creating a constant counter-pointing feeling. It was beautiful and energetic, with a certain amount of anxiety shot through. Not unlike life in NYC.

When I followed the cues it was clear that Morris was tightly controlling the orchestra movement the entire time, though the overall feeling of structure also came across as pointedly dream-like in its logic, with a consistent sense of interacting elements of carefully interwoven particles and sheets: balanced volatility, mass and organization.


Kit Robinson, 9:45, The Post-Apollo Press, 2003

Honed, focused attention, cognitive torque, and dry humor.

Robinson plays off of numbers as particular instances and pivots of thought and memory. The numbers also function as nodal points of subject matter -- often records of money and time as poetic opening devices-- with the dimensions of life and thought opened by these particulars recombining.

The numbers measure mundane given conditions and stamp them with a particular signature, and the fact of their perception -- rent due in a particular apartment (first last and security) / at a certain time in life (age "29")/ the number of messages on an answering machine("30"). These things become inseparable from branched interconnections of poetic meaning and chains of thought through linked classes of subject matter.

Elements and details are broken down, but not as fragments-- not as reflections of a damaged whole -- they are dissolved parts brought to a point where they gain recombining associative potential -- Zen immediacy --"daily mind" -- set on puree.

Memories, meditations, and questions.

It's impressive how much context and thought Robinson can compress into so few words.