Altså netop nu, is a ‘poetic podcast’ (in Danish) created together with Lars-Emil Woetmann. The eight eight-minute episodes (plus a little epilogue), appeared on each Friday of May and June, 2020.
Back in Time
I’ve always had a soft spot for experimental and concrete poetry, which can be traced back to my discovery of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate as a teenager.
Shortly after moving to Denmark in 2004, one of the first exhibitions I attended was around the works of Per Højholt at the Museum for Samtidskunst in Roskilde. Christian Yde Frostholm made multimedia versions of some of those poems, shown in installation form on a bunch of eMacs, and through that I discovered his afsnitp.dk website – an inspiring playground at the time.
As life would have it, one of the first apartments we lived in turned out to be above that of the poet Vagn Steen (there’s a story that goes along with that) – which led to a friendship, fuglens flugt, and the Lydfabet.
In 2015 Lene Henningsen, whom I’d gotten to know while working on Klaus Ib Jørgensen’s Moonpain project, invited me to take part in a performance with Lars-Emil Woetmann at Poesiens Hus, and through that I was introduced to his particular take on (sound) poetry.
A month after that performance, Lars-Emil suddenly collapsed in the street and had to be operated for a blood clot in the heart. He fortunately recovered and when we got together in early 2020 to discuss what we might do for the podcast, it was clear that he now found himself in a different place: The informal recordings we had made in preparation for the Poesiens Hus performance belonged to another time, and listening back to them we realised that they had a certain energy that couldn’t be reproduced. We decided to accept them as they were, hiccups and all, as a little portrait of that moment in time – and a counterpoint to fresh recordings of his newer poems.
It seemed like it might be useful to record a little conversation that we could throw into the mix. In the event that conversation ended up spontaneously filling an hour and a quarter, with some good twists and turns along the way, and we ended up using it as a stream in which the poems could surface – a look back at the past from our present moment (a week before the Danish Corona lockdown began).1
We settled on the form of an 8×8×8 (i.e. 8′32″) grid for each of the eight episodes – to be strictly adhered to (with the exception of 8′46″ for episode 6 – in memory of George Floyd). That meant pruning the conversation and finding the appropriate places for Lars-Emil’s poems – both the old and the new.
The dialogue editing was done in Ferrite on an iPad (Jason Snell has an article and video on how wonderfully effective that can be with the Apple Pencil) and Cubasis 3 provided a simple space in which to lay out the different bits, shape, and assemble them all. Sine tones and bursts of noise (referencing the noise graphic on Lars-Emil’s website) to open and close each episode (with the constrained time format there’s no place for lengthy intro music), along with some glass pings (as if an email had just landed in your inbox!) to help punctuate it all.
My approach to the sound treatment of the poems ended up being fairly gentle, more so than with the performance. The idea was to apply just enough to cast them in a different light as needed – no more, no less. (The largest part of the work ended up being the juxtaposition of the poems and conversation.) I also had a bit of fun experimenting with subtle effects such as giving the older recordings a little bit of (plug-in) cassette warble and saturation. Just enough to differentiate them slightly.
I created small piano transitions by transcribing the speech melodies from one of Lars-Emil’s poems and spreading them out as interludes across the episodes. You can hear a full version of them along with his reading of jeg har været der (I’ve been there) in episode 6.
One aspect of concrete poetry that sparked my own interest over the years, has been the highlighting of the musical and melodic aspects of speech – something that the transcribed speech melodies and electronic treatments strengthen further. Lars-Emil speaks though (in episode 6) of pulling back from those overtly ‘musical’ aspects with his more recent poems, aiming for a space where the nuances of everyday speech can come to the fore.
I’ve enjoyed playing with the back and forth between the different elements of sound, speech, and meaning – and the kind of ‘composing’ that goes with that. Lars-Emil has his own summary (in Danish) of the what the process of creating the podcast has meant for him – sent out as one of the Poetisk Podcast newsletters.
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Altså netop nu can be found on the Poetisk Podcast website, or via Apple Podcasts.
In retrospect I’ve kicked myself many times for not having taken care to have better microphones in place for that conversation – I simply plonked down my field recorder. With time though, I’ve come to accept that the room sound and casual character contribute a charm of their own. ↩
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