The 23rd Other Minds Festival runs from Monday until Saturday the 14th, with the title Sound Poetry: The Wages of Syntax. The focus will be on works that are composed using spoken word, and sounds of speech, including new and historical pieces. Wednesday’s program, called ‘The History Channel,’ will feature the US premiere of a work by Ernst Toch, two thirds of which was lost for decades.
There’s more information and a complete rundown at the Other Minds Festival website.
Administrative director Randall Wong says the festival will include specialists in the field of sound poetry, with guests like Anne Waldman, Enzo Minarelli, and Jaap Blonk, along with curators and performers including Amy X Neuburg, Pamela Z, and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian. Wednesday’s program includes several works from the early to mid part of the 20th Century, with Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate performed by Blonk. Wong describes it this way: “sort of a graphically laid-out poem in syllables, that’s actually structured very much like a classical sonata allegro form.” It was written in 1932. Two years before that, Ernst Toch had composed Gesprochene Musik, or ‘Spoken Music,’ which was originally planned to be recorded and played back. “It was ‘Grammophon musik,’” says Wong, “So it was actually meant as an experiment. He wrote the three pieces, and they were meant to be sped up really fast, so they actually ended up sounding like chipmunks.” He and Paul Hindemith recorded works for a concert, but that recording was lost – as were the scores for two of the movements. The one that remained uses place names spoken in intricate rhythms, originally in German. “John Cage prevailed upon Henry Cowell to redo it and put it in New Music, his magazine, and so it’s because of that that Geographical Fugue in English survived, and also in German.” Sketches for the remaining two movements, O-a, and Ta-Tam were discovered in an archive, and are having their US premiere in their final form as a set this week. That show also includes Catherine Berberian’s Stripsody, which has a score made up of cartoons and written words on an oversized musical staff, and the collaboration between Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein called Capital Capitals for piano and small vocal ensemble. “It shows how Gertrude Stein played with sounds, because again the text is kind of non-sensical. But she…you know, she’d use a lot of word repetition, sound repetition to build sound pieces.”