Listening Sound Agency Soundworks
Listening Sound Agency Soundworks brings new and adapted audio productions from an international group of sound artists and scholars on the theme of how sound can be understood to work in relation to the agency of human subjects through acts of listening. The works were produced and contributed digitally by participants in the 2021 virtual SpokenWeb Symposium – “Listening, Sound, Agency” – and then became subject to a production process that remediated them from digital audio files to 7” (331/3 rpm) mono lathe cut vinyl records using a 1940s transcription lathe, a Presto 8N machine that has been refurbished and is now in use at Concordia University in Montreal. This remediation process enacts the changing formats through which sounds may be delivered with consequent changes to the audible techniques used to hear and engage with them, and to the degrees of agency exchanged between sounds and listening subjects.
In this digital presentation of the tracks we provide streaming versions of the original works that were submitted in digital format, in stereo, as well as digitizations of the mono lathe cut tracks. The opening piece – “Overture: Listening Sound Agency” – consists of a title track that combines sounds from all of the other works that were submitted and is presented as an opening collage that introduces the affects and atmospheres explored and sounded in the project. The rest of the pieces are explained in short statements by the artists.
Deanna Fong, Angus Tarnawsky, Jason Camlot – Overture: Listening Sound Agency – 4:30
This track is a tryptich of three discrete mashups at first composed individually by Fong, Tarnawsky, and Camlot, encompassing sounds from each of the thirteen individual compositions contributed to the Listening Sound Agency Soundworks project. The three miniature mashups were finally assembled, and mashed up a little bit more, by Tarnawsky, so that they could fit onto one side of a 7″ lathe cut record.
Renee Altergott – Snowchimes and Waterfall Static – 3:49
This piece brings together wind chimes and other incidental noises from two very different sound walks: my urban neighborhood in West Philly, and a cabin porch deep in the Vermont woods. I use flute harmonics and channels of “static” from different Vermont waterfalls to bridge the harmonic and geographical gap.
Renée Altergott recently defended her dissertation on the history of the phonograph in France and the French Colonial Empire at Princeton University. Her work explores the intersections between sound studies, imperialism, and Francophone literature. She is eager to draw on her training in musical composition to produce sound-based critique.
Oana Avasilichioaei – Fellow Statements – 4:48
A living score, a fellow call to speak, a speech act articulated through an English accented by English, French, Romanian, and breath.
Oana Avasilichioaei mixes poetry, sound, and translation to explore language, polyphonic structures, and borders of listening. Based in Montreal, she has published six poetry collections, including Eight Track (Talonbooks, 2019) and Limbinal (Talonbooks, 2015), created many soundworks, and written a libretto for a one-act opera (Cells of Wind, 2020–22).
Jason Camlot – How are we listening, now? – 1:35
This musical collage composition with staticky glitchy beat and simple and repetitive melody motif played on piano, was originally made as an opening sequence for the SpokenWeb podcast episode, “How are we listening, now?”, an episode co-produced with Katherine McLeod and released during the early months of the pandemic. It captures sounds of poetry readings, teaching, and social meetings held on Zoom during that early pandemic period, and may evoke a sonic atmosphere that evokes an eerie sort of early pandemic nostalgia.
Jason Camlot is a literary historian, musician and poet. Recent books include Phonopoetics: The Making of Early Literary Recordings (Stanford 2019) and his fifth poetry collection, Vlarf (McGill-Queen’s 2021). He directs SpokenWeb <www.spokenweb.ca>.
Klara Du Plessis – Post-mortem of the event – 4:42
“Post-mortem of the event” is the title poem of a manuscript-in-progress forthcoming with Palimpsest Press, Fall 2024. The speaker of this work is voiced as an undefined, refracted “event” that adopts different forms throughout. I read this poem at the Words & Music show during the 2021 Listening, Sound, Agency symposium, so digital noise and the sounds of paper rustling and turning embody its thematic and conceptual eventfulness.
Klara du Plessis is a FRQSC-funded PhD candidate at Concordia University affiliated with SpokenWeb. She researches the curatorial formation of literary events in a Canadian literary context. She is also the author of Ekke (winner, 2019 Pat Lowther Memorial Award) and Hell Light Flesh, both poetry collections released by Palimpsest Press.
Ian Ferrier and Louise Campbell – Rail Music (excerpt) – 3:30
Track excerpt from Rail Music, which appears in its entirety in Ian Ferrier and Louise Campbell’s Dark Sky Preserve: A literary and musical enquiry. Both a book and an LP, it will be released during the Perseid meteor shower. Voice, verse and guitar Ian Ferrier; clarinet and fx Louise Campbell; synth by Ian Ferrier and Drew Barnet; recorded by Drew Barnet; mastered by Harris Newman.
One of the founders of the spoken word genre in Canada, Montreal-based artist Ian Ferrier has created and performed in over 500 poetry and music shows in Canada, the United States and Europe. Louise Campbell is a Montreal-based musician whose professional hats range from conductor to cultural mediator, community arts facilitator to musicians’ health therapist.
Deanna Fong – George Bowering: Grandfathers – 5:11
Three archival documentary recordings of George Bowering introducing and reading his poem “Grandfathers” at different times, from different places, are set in dialogue with each other to both reinforce, intersect, and disrupt our understanding of the speaker’s role and place in time and place.
Deanna Fong is a Postdoctoral Fellow in English and History at Concordia University, where her work focuses on the ethics of listening in the context of literary audio. With Karis Shearer, she is the co-editor of Wanting Everything: The Collected Works of Gladys Hindmarch (Talonbooks, 2020). She directs the fredwah.ca, a digital bibliography and textual repository for Canadian poet Fred Wah. She is currently working on a new book that collects poetry, art, and oral histories with seven Vancouver avant-garde women, which is scheduled for release with Talonbooks in the fall of 2023.
Moynan King – Queer Time – 4:50
Queer Time is part of an ongoing series of queer sonic meditations by Moynan King. It was recorded at The Untitled Carolyn Taylor Project residency at the BatHouse in Bath, ON.
Moynan King is a theatre and performance artist and scholar who enjoys experimenting with sound and theory.
Kevin McNeilly and Geoff Mitchell – Commons – 3:51
“Commons” is a version of a poem that was written just prior to the 2021 “Listening, Sound, Agency” virtual symposium about the taking-down of the tent city of the homeless in Strathcona Park on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This was one of several audio projects Kevin McNeilly developed with with Geoff Mitchell which are gathered under the title Variants of Concern. In this piece, Geoff used audio samples of Kevin’s voice to create a rhythm loop behind the reading.
Kevin McNeilly is a scholar, critic and artist. His recent work associated with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation has centred on investigating the intersections of music, text and media. Geoff Mitchell is a recordist, sound engineer, musician and soundscape artist.
Mara Mills and Jonathan Sterne – VOCOM 1: “A Revolution in Speed Listening” – 4:04
PKM Corporation of St. Paul Minnesota released the VOCOM-1 in 1972, claiming it was “the only machine of its kind that compresses using SELECTIVE deletion”—meaning, the pattern of compression could be controlled to shorten pauses or vowels. This track is taken from what is likely the lone demo tape for this little-known device. It offers an example of time expansion, “to the slowest snail’s pace.”
Mara Mills (maramills.org) teaches in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU. She co-founded and co-directs the NYU Center for Disability Studies. She is a founding editorial board member of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.
Jonathan Sterne (https://sterneworks.org) teaches at McGill University. He is author of Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment (Duke, 2021); The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003) and many other texts. With Mara Mills, he’s writing Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed.
Julieanna Preston – wwwwww (excerpt) – 4:59
Read a metal fence, top to bottom, every knot a sound that recalls its making, repair, holding in, keeping out, of immigrants, small pox, herds, birds, predators, foreign vessels, and storm clouds.
Julieanna Preston performs site-situated durational performances accompanied by performance writing essays as part of an artist research practice that wonders about the agency and contingency of the virtual, spatial and temporal worlds of material bodies.
Jon Saklofske – Creeley Deep Fake – 0:58
This forged resurrection of Robert Creeley’s voice is unsettling. Existing recordings from Spokenweb and Pennsound were fed into deepfake software, which then generated an audio reading of part of a letter written by Creeley to Larry Eigner. When overworked, digital Creeley stutters, sighs, and fades into whispered incoherence and silence.
Jon Saklofske (Acadia University) is insatiably curious about intersections between media forms and cultural perceptions. In addition to experimenting with games as tools for academic research, communication and pedagogy, Jon’s other research interests include values-based game design, alternative platforms for open social scholarship, media hacking, and innovative research creation methods.
Eric Schmaltz – Snare, Kick, Else Remix – 3:47
“Snare, Kick, Else Remix” was created with samples from two audio recordings, “Snare, Kick, Rack, and Floor” (SOCAN) and “Else,” by poet, novelist, essayist, and oral sound artist Paul Dutton. This composition was first created on the occasion of a tribute night for Dutton held at Supermarket Bar and Restaurant in Toronto’s Kensington Market on March 4, 2014. Reproduced with the permission of Paul Dutton.
Eric Schmaltz is a poet, scholar, and editor. He is the author of Surfaces (Invisible Publishing) and several shorter works, including Language in Hues (Timglaset) and co-editor of I Want to Tell You Love by Milton Acorn and bill bissett (University of Calgary Press). He is Writer-on-the-Grounds at York University’s Glendon College.
Angus Tarnawsky – Bottle (Minimal) – 2:30
This composition was produced from sounds generated by tapping a metal water bottle with a soft mallet. A series of improvisations were recorded and edited, then pitch shifted, time stretched, and sequenced to generate rhythms and melodies.
Angus Tarnawsky is an artist, musician, educator, and researcher who is currently working towards a PhD in Communication Studies at Concordia University. Building on a background as a composer, improviser and performer, his doctoral research examines the social and political dimensions of everyday listening practices.
This SpokenWeb Sounds production was made with the support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Audio Production: Angus Tarnawsky, Deanna Fong, Jason Camlot.
The digital files you hear were cut to vinyl records on a Presto 8N disc cutting lathe by Angus Tarnawsky and issued in a limited set.
Album cover art and design by Leila Gillespie.
All rights remain with the artists.
11 May 2022