Friday, February 26, 2010

Note: The Stylophone

[Note 2010-02-26-1] “I was carrying with me a little instrument from the ‘60s” – said Sanders in Experimenting with Sappho’s poetry. The device Sanders describes could well be a Dübreq Stylophone, an early portable electronic synthesizer. In ‘’1968: A History in Verse [p.209] he recalls buying just such an instrument in Montreal on Sept 15, 1968. He indicates this as the beginning of the Electronic Bard System effort.

Friday, February 19, 2010

EBSAddendum 1

Extra Extra: Ed Sanders’ Investigative Poetry available again - [EBSAddendum 1] - Edward Sanders’ Investigative Poetry has had a slowly percolating influence since its publication by City Lights in 1976. Over the years, Sanders has taught poetry, and this book was a mainstay of his method. It certainly influenced blues poet John Sinclair, as he began to versify on the lives of the blues saints in Fattening Frogs for Snakes [Surregional Press, 2002] – a versified history of blues.

Sanders work as a poet and teacher has continued to focus on using poetry to tell history, to tell of real events, to urge the poet to do the gumshoe investigators’ legwork to’ get that story.’ You may recognize that these traits put it outside the mainstream of currently dominant trends in poetry. Example is found everyday on Garrisson Keiller’s PBS poetry reading – it’s nice but there are always words about feelings but nothing ever happens.

Sanders might admit to that the investigative style is out of the mainstream, but he could also well finger important anabranches of the investigative strain – he could cite the work of Ezra Pound, who ‘first gave us melodic blizzards of data fragments”, Charles Olson, who devoured the public records of Gloucester, Massachusetts to populate The Maximus Poems with lyrical data, or Allen Ginsberg, who constantly reported on events as he versified on the globe. Sanders’ Investigative Poetry’s manfiest: “That poetry should again assume responsibility for the description of history.”

Now the news - Sanders' made this great - long out of print - piece known as Investigative Poetry avalable on his web site.

If there are pillars to be discerned in Sanders’ work, investigative poetry is one of them. Another is conscientious political progressivism. Another is avant-garde experimentation. Another – and the one I am researching now – is imaginative use of electronics means to accompany poetic performance: the Electronic Bard System he shaped over a number of years.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Experimenting with Sappho’s poetry

Sanders: I had broken up the first version of the Fugs in 1969 - I did a couple of solo records for Warners – Sanders Truckstop and Beer Cans on the Moon - then I decided I was going to fade from music - and didn’t really pay any attention to anything musical for five years.
I was at Naropa Institute in 1977 - and I was teaching a course in Investigative Poetry. I had been experimenting with Sappho’s poetry - I was carrying with me a little instrument from the ‘60s – a little electronic synthesizer that weighed about a couple of pounds. Just a small synthesizer with a stylus that you made the notes with - and I had it hooked up to the old Fugs’ warm-up amp - the VibraChamp amp - which is a beautiful 1966 Fender.
And Allen Ginsberg came into the room, and I sang him a version of Sappho’s Hymn to Aphrodite. And he said it was really nice and ‘why didn’t I do it like that at my reading that night?’


And I had never ever-ever thought of doing any kind of music again.


So I did it for the hell of it. And one thing led to another, and in the next years - ’78 and ’79 - I began making my little instruments - the first ones were the pulse lyres -which were keyboards mounted to garden gloves. I built a series of switches, using model airplane wood – very thin and very strong – and cut out slats for that - mounted to garden gloves, which I cut away, with Velcro - I used computer cables to attach keyboards in the hands - which I attached to synthesizer - which I constructed to fit into my pocket.


“Bards, ‘make reality’ … or … they ‘make freedom’ … or they create new modes of what we might term Eleutherarchy, or the dance of freedom” - writes Sanders in Investigative Poetry. In the late 1970s, ‘making musical instruments’ became an integral part of Sanders’ public poetry practice.


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