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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