Transcribing Dubstep – Rap meets Russian Futurism

Ben and Mindsparks shows us what a transcription of Dubstep might look like: Click here.

Can this be compared to the Russian Futurist concept of “Zaum” – in the 1920s, after the Russian Revolution, various poets, notably Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh, began exploring concepts in sound symbolism. The ideas were collected under the title: заум or zaum.

As you can see, the word “Zaum” is built phonetically from the Russian prefix “за” – which translates basically to “trans” or to go “beyond”. The second part of the word is “ум” – a noun, meaning “reason” or “sense”. So, “заум” means beyond reason or trans-reason. Can we not say заум is the practice of using language to go beyond reason…?

Most importantly, we must remember that movements like this one were in many ways prompted by the same questions we raised in class last night. To speak plainly, just how language might actually convey meaning or sense may be much more complex than we first realise. In Zaum, we see the more typical, conventional relationship between language and ideas being fitfully overturned. Rather than words, phrases or terms being employed in a standard way as modes of reference, Zaum imagines the communication of ideas to occur much more like a kind of ongoing downloading process – like imagine if a particular sound could instantly trigger or construct a concept in the brain. I say “BAQESwwwsssht” and suddenly the person who hears it understands the theory of relativity.

PETE’S READING SERIES: Reading 20 January: Josef Kaplan, Brian Ang, Laura Elrick



Josef Kaplan, Brian Ang, Laura Elrick

709 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211



Being Social

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Being Social is the opening exhibition at Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park in North London. Furtherfield has established an international reputation as London’s first gallery for networked media art since 2004. With this exciting move to a more public space Furtherfield invites artists and techies – amateurs, professionals, celebrated stars and private enthusiasts – to engage with local and global, everyday and epic themes in a process of imaginative exchange.

Any Idea upon which We Can Ride.

Outlining a “pragmaticist” orientation towards truth, William James implies the importance of narrative devices in the construction of knowledge, where ideas are valuable in so much as they continue to lead us back to our experience; truths appear intermittently as “any idea upon which we can ride . . . any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying, saving labor” (Pragmatism, 26-27) .

Pragmaticist “truth”, of course, must emphasize its instrumental aspects, leaving the essence of things to experience. All good scientists likely agree – then, in James’s time, as much as in the present day. Suffice to say here that a lack of essence in the narratives we build (or simply use) to explain and convey emergent ideas does not render such tools valueless. In fact, they remain – these narratives, these simplifications, these satisfying links – all that keeps us from silence. Essence can’t be measured, a pramaticist will tell us; truth can’t really be talked about in any meaningful way. But narrative can.

This is some of the intellectual context behind my recent presentation at the 4th International Conference on Writing Research on a panel organised by Norbert Elliot of NJIT and featuring Les Perelman (MIT), Chaitanya Ramineni and Paul Deane of Educational Testing Services. The issue at hand concerns the ongoing technological and pedagogical development of automated grading software, but more broadly speaks to our own increasingly complex relationship as writers to digital semantic technologies. I continue to use them more and more in both my class instruction and my critical work – to say nothing of their growing importance in helping me navigate the text that is my everyday life. Oddly enough, as with many writers using programmable writing tools, the allure was initially a creative one. Text generators and animated writing software appeared first as exciting tools to use to write new forms of poetry.

An article reviewing the panel can be found here in Inside Higher Education. It was reprinted in USA Today the following day.

Bill Tucker adds his comments in his article “Can Computers Assess Writing?”

North of Invention: A Festival of Canadian Poetry

The Kelly Writer’s House at U Penn in Philadelphia hosted a two day conference on contemporary Canadian poetry, featuring talks and debates by some Canada’s most interesting, experimental writers. After the conference, the writers were ushered 99 miles east to NYC for a weekend series of “conversations” and readings at Poets House, right here on the Hudson. Happily, for me, many of the guests hailed from Vancouver, giving me a chance to see many good (and missed) friends in a single room. 

It was certainly refreshing to see positions, aesthetics and craft played out among many New York writers and readers. My attendance was unfortunately limited to the Sunday chapter of the festival. If Sunday was any indication of the energy and intellectual clout permeating the entire event, I would definitely recommend accessing the footage and records available at the Kelly Writers House archive.

Robertson and Derksen began their talk, focusing on the concept of what Jeff termed a “radical temporality” in both their poetics. The term directs us to their respective poetic forms, as much as it is refers to ideology. Temporality can serve as a critique here against the more typical conservative idealisation of the past: what Derksen sees as a particularly pernicious example of surplus value in society. Here, the Right’s revolutionary gaze begins with an imagined moment of displaced origins, a kind of primordial explosion that has severed society from its superior, more holistic, morally accountable past. The Left, of course, can only respond by shifting this very same explosion into the future, re-conceiving it as an event yet to be experienced.  Henceforth, any subsequent social displacement emerges as a state to be desired, yielding a progressive response to today’s social displacement. Both positions agree, however, on the problem of the present, and it is exactly here at this stage in the argument that Robertson and Derksen “radically” engage their poetics. Temporality occurs throughout their respective works as a kind of ideological obscenity. This point is more evident in the very language of Robertson’s work. She began the conversation that Sunday, asking “If place is always retrospective, how do we begin?” before deadpanning what is for her the only response possible: “With blatant flaws.”

For me, her use of the conditional voice seems key – upon first reading (or hearing), I am always tempted to accept the voice as normative, as if to ask, how can place be anything but retrospective. To consider place, whether sensually or topographically, seems always to to call up a mode of reflection. I immediately feel the timidity of the uncertain tourist at home. The alienated “I”, dislocated from all surrounding space  thanks, in part, to the disaster of uncontained, unregulated urban development. But again the structure of her work continues to demand something else, leading us to consider the voice in a more rhetorical fashion. IF place is always retrospective, flaws abound.

The question of how best to consider the past (as information, however flawed, as public relations discourse, as research, as mythology, as code) emerges thus as one of the more interesting points of discussion between the two writers.

Here’s a video of Robertson reading the first lines of the much longer “”First Spontaneous Horizontal Restaurant” from Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip (Coach House, 2009).  

I was also amazed as usual by Jordan Scott’s ongoing collision with the corporeal, this time navigated via the discourse of the “interrogation” and various probings around the inherent disharmony between speech and language.  That Sunday he was in conversation with a. rawlings and Maja Jantar.

Here’s another video shot during the reading portion of the event. The inimitable Christian Bok performs an aria that certainly deserves more airplay.

I’ll try and put up more footage as I render it somewhat viewable.

Bill Wasik Talking At MoMA 18 May 2010

Recently the MoMA hosted a panel and set of performances on the changing role of the audience in both popular and experimental culture. Wasik, a senior editor at Harper’s, spoke briefly on the origins of the Flash Mob from the position of one of the first (if not THE first) mob event creators. The main point in his discussion was to explain his ongoing interest in collecting people together for no external purpose other than to amass.

Community Spaces

Community Space: A discussion on how different examples of urban space conveys and amplifies specific psycho-social relations necessary for building a community.