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ID: 83939
Date Added: 2004-02-11
Date Modified: 2004-02-11
Sound Waves Sound Wavers ? average | Votes: 0
by Penn Kemp 
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Sound Waves Sound Wavers
by Penn Kemp

For years I have been exploring the outer limits of sound poetry, using variations on the body's primal sound patterns to release an original voice. The chants that result from this process are not metaphoric; the wall of sound creates a bodily synaesthesia, where one sense is experienced in terms of another. My notion of sounding started with the labour of childbirth: an amazement at the inhuman howls emitted from a mouth that insisted on its own expression. Grounded in that direct experience of the female body, my experiment with sounding continued in hearing and echoing babies' exploration from babble into language.

Drawn in with the breath, sound provokes memories of tonal awareness, before language, before thought. Conceptual frames block direct perception. Trouble is, all of what we take to be reality, is subsumed into concepts. But came first is the birth cry. Sounding recreates first perception. Its wail allows for any eventuality. Sub-verbal, it explores languages in widening waves of individual expression. Sounding can be a last resort for creative expression when words fail the enormity of the emotions. It is exciting to use the sound of the voices to portray the inner space of the body and its the environment. Such communication can resolve the tension between inner and outer worlds through play. Sounding allows for multilinear narrative and a profusion of voices in an exploration of subjective experience. Each in its quixotic way, sound poems can act out different characters in a revisioning of polyphony.

Sound poetry has been my medium of expression and communication, but its source is subliminal and so surprising, even or especially to me. Inspiration comes literally from the breath and the way the breath forms sounds, shapes its own meaning as waves carve out niches in a sea cave. Sounding explores the realm of the senses along the edge of skin. A fascination with the margins of consciousness has occupied much of my work. Internal necessity is driven by a poetic vision of interlocking sequences of phonemes that demand their scribe. The immediacy of experience- the effect of computers on the psyche, for instance, or hormones on the body- merges with past and possible futures in the resonant encapsulation of sound. This process demands my entire attention.

Sounds overlap memory and words in sine waves of possibility, along the morning shore behind closed eyes: the immediacy of present day experience. Soundscape explores the primal areas of the human psyche that are beyond the reach of words and ideas at this juncture of the threshold, on the surface of skin, looking in and out.

My work is play grounded in a spacious awareness of word-hoards and an acute attention to syllabics. One of the things that my sound poetry does is break language down into component sounds, and probably some sounds that are usually made only by cats in heat or me in labour. Sound is how we discover language; learn to communicate with our world. Being deaf is said to be more difficult, lonelier than being blind. Sounds enter the sense like scent, filling the space. The muffled sound of a cathedral replicates what a child hears in through the permeable walls of the womb. Recent tests indicate that a baby chooses specific songs it has heard in the womb (Quirks & Quarks, July 2001).

Sounding is a process by which private space can explode into performance. Utter, utterly. Sound and poetry are close allies. Sound leads to language. Sound leads the poet on to the next stanza. I wait for the next assonance rather than the visual image as the breath line hinges on its cyclical return

Inspiration and expiration are interdependent. As we let go of breath, there is the interval between the worlds, when anything is possible in the silence between the notes. Life is no longer circular. We are suspended, between serial events. Change happens every time a breath is taken; a new cycle begins at the entry into the body. Sound and language are only possible through breath. In the gap before meaning, first language emerges.

In this culture, visual learning is dominant. But what happens to other forms of learning? Sounding encourages the auditory representational system that transgresses the dominant pattern of authority, the grammar of hierarchy, laterally perturbing the syntax. Here's to the proliferation of sound!


Lemon grass gleams in my window,
transmuting sun to green splendour,
to the sharp aroma spicing my stew
against the crow's raucous protest out
Plant speaks
its being, says nothing but properly.

Not property. This, this. All presence.
All properties present. The exotic
domestic reclaims its own.

Senses do not dissolve when not
foregrounded but you can still
hear the way. You can listen
to the babble beyond talk.

Diffused attention funnels what appears
as pure perception.

Let your senses be fully aware of the immediacy of the moment, the sounds, the sighs. Place your awareness at the third eye point. Imagine that the past is a cloud of peripheral vision to the left, and that the future is a cloud on your right, just beyond sight. Using the energy of the third eye as a stiletto knife to cut through the cloud- a knife that is present to your left and right, allowing them to roll back. As the eternal moment is revealed behind them, as they roll back the clarity of the eternal network moment, like the sudden revelation of the blue sky. This eternal moment contains all potential, all possibilities, in fullness and glory. On the film of your mind's eye, project a list of the things you have to do, in as much detail as you can. Then visualise them being done, with absolute precision, beauty and grace, in all their perfection. Allow your concentration to return to the third eye, allow your awareness, to return to the senses, to the contained moment that still in itself contains all the possibilities. The work has now been accomplished. All you have to do is enact it.

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