Working with sound has freed up creative possibilities for my writing and made for joyful collaborations that push me to experiment with how I curate and present material. The soundtext ‘Eating Trends’ embedded here is a manipulation of my own raw personal data.
The piece begins with my washing machine slowing down and some drowny/droney ambience from Sainsbury’s fridges, all underscored by oats I cooked that morning – that’s the faint crackling you hear. This is my immediate home life and proximity, transferred to you, the listener. The singing part is a four-second cut I found on my phone, stretched and harmonised with a copy from who knows when – whatever emotion, urge and tune slippage locked tight in an old voicenote. The guitar that starts halfway through is me, four years ago, not being able to play guitar but playing my brother’s anyway, which I’ve then cut, edited and glitched to make something complete-ish. The drums at the back end of the track are samples of me playing kit, hacked and chopped into a wonky beat – all of this simply recorded on my phone.
As you listen, you’re hearing what Anne Carson describes as the ‘sleep side’ of my story – a grouping of audio textures which, though they may appear to be entirely independent from one another on a surface level, carry a lot of personal meaning to me, which is what draws them together here. For example, I trapped some birdsong in the recording of the guitar part I made on a whim while my brother was out; that birdsong is now no longer a transient part of history and circumstance, but instead an object of permanence. You hear how the air in a room is cut and looped. I’ve brought my bedroom to you, the summer’s day on which it was recorded, a document of my unplaying, things you don’t know about me but which now have a tangible result.
The poem above it all, ‘Eating Trends’, is an angsty, limbo-esque poem, so the sounds have to correspond to that feeling or tone. That’s why everything is arrhythmic, more a pulse rather than complete music, even if some of the elements are in fact musical. I want you to hear my hesitant voice, imperfect and scorned by a cold, and I want you to feel the slight bleakness and ambivalence of the poem’s subject – and possibly how that might live differently among all of these elements.
Frank O’Hara asked us to make poems that sound a little more like talking on the phone. Let’s make poems that are actual phone calls that can reoccur, be played back, influenced by our sound environments. I want to make soundtexts with you, where we bring together disparate elements of our own raw data, in both sound and writing, and create a cohesive object of permanence. This will be collaborative, instinctual and experimental – we’re going to be listening hard to our personal environments and deep-diving into how we can manipulate our truthful texts into sound and our truthful sounds into texts.
I hear your hesitation. This proposal can feel a little out of reach, be it tech-wise, ability-wise – I always feel as though the fact that I can’t play an instrument or don’t have hi-tech audio equipment excludes me from making – but that’s exactly why this deep-ender weekender is the one for you. We’re going to be making sound art from our texts, raw voices, and phone mics; audio-mixing in accessible software; and refining how we listen to ourselves, each other, and the environments around us. We’re going to get messy. Things are going to go wrong. We’re going to have a document that testifies to all of that, that makes our collaboration permanent. Come write with me, listen with me, speak with me.
Book here for Antosh Wojcik’s course Soundtext Weekender, running as part of our Spring Term 2020.