nictograph for piano and cello

by craigepplin

I just received a very gratifying email. An excerpt from a long poem I translated a while back, Arturo Carrera’s written with a nictograph, has been set to music:

I love that the music seems to fade when the words “The numbness vibrates / the numbness tolerates the night” appear. And also that it grows violent with the crossed out verse “The poem unfolds.” I love, above all, that the composer, Yoshiaki Onishi, chose to remediate this haunting poem into a new, even more haunting version.

I’ve lately been reading a book that has something to say about this sort of action, Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing. Its underlying premise is that McLuhan and the rest were wrong about one important feature of contemporary media culture: rather than a primarily audiovisual landscape, we now inhabit a world of writing. Certainly we are surrounded by images and sounds on all sides, but digital technology underpins all of this. And digital technology is based on writing: lines and lines of code. Hence the uncreative poetic projects that he champions–using source code as found verse, for example. And hence the possibility of stitching together, quickly and cleanly, a poem published on a webpage and a composition stored on a computer.

That’s not to say this project is uncreative, in either the normal sense of the word or in Goldsmith’s more specialized idiom. Far from it. Only that artifacts like this one exemplify some of the great sharing potentials of the web.