Digital Sound Poetry: Peripheral Platform for Posthuman Performativity

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

According to Steve McCaffery (1998), sound poetry’s primal goal concerns “the liberation and promotion of phonetic and sub-phonetic features to language to the state of a materia prima for creative, subversive endeavors.” (163). Accordingly, it thrives on an embodied conflict between expectation and interpretation as it allows communicative ‘uptake’ while problematizing the communicative ‘relation.’ Or, as Brandon LaBelle (2010) argued, “sound poetry yearns for language by rupturing the very coherence of it.” The ‘techniques’ thereby employed vary widely: mounting idiosyncratic language and notational systems, performing spontaneous and improvised poetical oralities, fooling with the performer’s body to rupture the ordered movements of vocality, or indeed by appropriating new technologies and digital devices in order to disassemble, reconfigure, and ‘cobble together’ personal or imported sounds and utterances. In the communicative ‘situation’ of a sound poetry-performance – whether live or recorded – sender and receiver alike interpret the “volumetric text at a visceral embodied level” (Johnston, 2016). Sound, as such, takes shape without becoming permanently materialized. It does not alter the experiencer’s physical integrity yet makes us physically conscious of the impact of technique – a posthuman ‘extension,’ indeed, but slippery all the same. From an analytical angle, pairing sound poetry and posthumanism thus would makes methodological sense, as this paper proposes to verify. For, according to Ralf Remshardt’s lucid formulation (2010), the principle of ‘posthumanism’ “designates an evolutionary or morphological step towards a synthesis of the organic and mechanical/digital.” Presented as such it evokes primarily a signifying potential by means of technological extension. Moreover, the appropriation and – literal – embodiment of techniques and technologies in digital sound poetry has recently yielded a new dynamic to the performativity of poetic composition itself. With today’s technical possibilities to sample and mediate minimal acoustic nuances in the here-and-now we are allowed a glimpse into the supplement of meaning generated by the precarious meeting of text/script and voice/sound. Such posthuman amplification of an intrinsically arch-human act accordingly finds its broader relevance broadside conventional aesthetic standards as a bona fide heuristic device to address some of the challenges of our contemporary culture that thus appear far less peripheral than anticipated

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Vian Rasheed