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Some Statements on Sound Poetry
Bob Cobbing

From Sound Poetry: A Catalogue, edited by Steve McCaffery and bpNichol, Underwich Editions, Toronto, 1978

Bob Cobbing in UbuWeb Sound
Bob Cobbing -- Interview by W. Mark Sutherland
Bob Cobbing's Radio Program on UbuWeb's Radio Radio
Konkrete Kanticle on UbuWeb's Radio Radio

Leonardo da Vinci asked the poet to give him something he might see and touch and not just something he could hear. Sound poetry seems a to me to be achieving this aim. PARTLY it is a recapturing of a more primitive form of language, before communication by expressive sounds became stereotyped into words, when the voice was richer in vibrations, more mightily physical. The tape-recorder, by its ability to amplify and superimpose, and to slow down the vibrations, has enabled us to rediscover the possibilities of the human voice, until it becomes again something we can almost see and touch. Poetry has gone beyond the word, beyond the letter, both aurally and visually ... Sound poetry dances, tastes, has shape. MY USE of 'vocal-microparticles' as Henri Chopin calls the elements with which we now compose sound poetry, retains, indeed emphasises, the natural quality of the human voice, more perhapsthan does Chopin's poetry. But both he and I are attempting to use a new means of communication which I believe is an old method re-established, which is more natural more direct and more honest than, for example, the present day voice of politics and religion ... Gone is the word as the word, though the word may still be used as sound or shape. Poetry now resides in other elements. 1969

We Aspire to Bird Song:

We are aided in our search by sophisticated instruments, the microphone and the tape-recorder. Our human voices extend the range of the tape-recorder's abilities by their demands upon it. Conversely, the tape-recorder's treatment of the voice teaches the human new tricks of rhythm and tone, power and subtlety. We are in a position to claim a poetry which is musical and abstract; but however hard we try to do so can we escape our intellect? In the poetry of pure sound, yes.... Materials are the micro-particles of the human voice which amplified, possibly transposed in speed or pitch, superimposed one, two or many times, treated perhaps with a filter, echo or chopper, shaped maybe by editing, result in a piece no naked voice could achieve. 1969

Sophisticated / Primitive:

Two lines of development in concrete sound poetry seem to be complimentary. One, the attempt to come to terms with scientific and technological development in order to enable man to continue to be at home in his world, the humanisation of the machine, the marrying of human warmth to the coldness of much electronically generated sound. The other, the return to the primitive, to incantation and ritual, to the coming together again of music and poetry, the amalgamation with movement and dance, the growth of the voice to its full physical powers again as part of the body, the body as language. 1970

Music for Dancing:

COMMUNICATION is primarily a muscular activity It is potentially stronger than everyday speech, richer than those monotonous seeming printed words on the page.... Say 'soma haoma'. Dull. Say it dwelling on the quality of the sounds. Better. Let it say itself through you. Let it sing itself through you. The vowels have their pitch, the phrase has potential rhythms. You do it with the whole of you, muscular movement, voice, lungs, limbs. Poetry is a physical thing. The body is liberated. Bodies join in song and movement. A ritual ensues. 1972

Poetry in Performance:

The concept of one voice scarcely making use of the physical possibilities of body- almost disembodied - reading with attention only to intellect and syntax to an audience ranged in rows, gives way to a new concept of complex bodily movements and mobile vocal-body sounds in space, - moving in space and sensed in different intensities and from different directions by an audience who may, in the event, become participants, and who may also be scattered in space; just as, with electronic equipment (e.g. the four or eight channel systems employed in Sweden) sounds may be given substance and precisely placed to come from this direction or any direction, from five yards to fifty yards, with this or that quality, this or that intensity of vibrations, this or that physical and emotional (and, indeed, intellectual) effect on the bodyframes receiving them 1972