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Issue 12 :: February 2012

Editors' Note

We read Lyn Hejinian’s “Rejection of Closure” as a way to contextualize our thinking about this issue. Her essay outlines the way a text can be closed or open depending on the way it’s formed; the structure makes an opening (or not) for the reader to enter. Hejinian’s essay makes us think about how form and structure translate to audio. There’s space in the audio--sound as open-ended meaning, layering as form, layering of sound as an open-ended form because we can’t hear everything at once. We can return again and again to the same moment in a track and the speech recedes. Petra Kuppers’ “Saturn/Spherical” has this quality of intangible speech. We reach out for it, but we end up running our fingers through air. There’s a simultaneity of stimulus which keeps us coming back and layering ourselves across the wave forms coming out of the speakers.

We think about space in the listening when we hear Colin Post’s “werrtheaudio.” He’s moving about in a room, changing his spatial relationship to the microphone, playing with architectural acoustics in a way that delivers the room to our ears. We enter into spatial structure, structure that replicates place, like when he’s yelling at the freeway about the billboards in front of him. He’s shouting, competing against the sound of traffic, and with the wind coming by, it’s like he’s addressing the billboards.

We think about Hejinian’s essay in relation to the form of the magazine: the site being on the Internet. There’s the form of the site then there’s the form of the Internet, which in many ways seems to have no form or appears to be infinite. In Hejinian’s essay the way to navigate chaos is by making distinctions, and making a website is a way to enter into cultural production and reproduction: to select and highlight, to think and rethink this one part.

Talking about form brings up the structure of our website and how closed it feels to us as editors--a meta-issue that we think about and talk about a lot in our meetings. It has taken us a year to put together issue 12. A part of this has to do with our other commitments, but a part of it has to do with how we interact with textsound’s website. We don’t have the technological skills we’d like to have in order to make the backstage work easy. We are really lucky to have had the site designed and created for us. Yet its design involves html coding and ftp protocols which seem foreign. The work demands meticulous and time-intensive coding of text, uploading and proofreading track names and time signatures, often troubleshooting and researching fixes. As a small example, we are simply not able to publish track titles with the characters “ / - ? or . Instead, we have to ask our contributors to modify the titles of their work, which seems like a poor patch, but we’ve not been able to find ways around it.

What would compel us to become more fluent in computer languages? We’re not opposed to learning language. Between us, we know French, Spanish, Old English, a little German, poet-speak, teacher-speak, some academese. Our website has its own language, but we don't speak it. We don’t even know what to call it: php? Html? The disorientation of foreign language wasn't a problem for us with, for example, the Danish poets in issue 1, or with new(s)peak’s multi-lingual riffing in issue 7, but we can't let the html just wash over us and enjoy the alienating feeling. So, as an aesthetic value or affect, some alienation is good and some alienation is bad?

Sometimes we feel alienated by the Internet because we grew up without it. Textsound’s beginning is linked to radio and mixtapes, the idea of putting together something intuitively--curating the whole. We’re dealing with this technology understood to be the most modern: we’ve got digital music files and the world wide web, yet our references for this form are analog technologies. This Internet technology doesn’t leave behind others, but keeps referencing them, and the forms that we’re familiar with keep interacting with the cutting edge. This is the form with radical openness that Hejinian refers to--the “flowering focus on a distinct infinity.”

We are thinking of this issue as a two-sided album (with Colin Post’s “billboards” as the first on “side B”). The album, as such, produces a context for the audio pieces that exposes them to one another and, ideally, starts a conversation between them. It also helps us to keep asking what’s similar and what’s different. Jennifer Scappettone’s works, "X Locus: Cryptoporticus (Abluvion)" and “X Locus: Cortile,” serve, then, as wonderfully absorbing beginnings. They juxtapose and overlay field recordings, interviews, poetry and music in order to memorialize physical structures at the American Academy in Rome.

The issue is really different within itself or different from its pieces. Although there’s something established and historic about Anne Waldman’s voice and performance, the more we listen to her voice, the more the other, less familiar voices gather their own character and distinction. We develop stories in our mind about the work people send us before we make the issue, and then sometimes an artist will send a bio that explains and recasts the track entirely. This is also a fascinating part of the process. We come into contact with different contexts for work. As writers thinking about language and expression, familiar distance and pleasurable dissonance, we appreciate the works that are not writing based. For example, erin fortier’s “tough bounce,” which she made in the shower with two wine glasses, calls up the sounds of outer space. stephanie sherriff sent in a track, and during the long incubation of issue 12, she revised it and re-sent it. The result is “treikscht,” a haunting and eerily soothing work. The wind-sound makes the work a kind of ghost-story. We are lucky to listen to and think closely about works such as these because they relate to writing, regardless of their relationship to language. If we weren’t doing textsound, we wouldn’t think about sound or art or music in quite the same way.

We hope you enjoy this issue. Keep an ear to the door of textsound, because we’re coming close to the time when our issues will be readily downloadable. And we’re continuing to labor towards shaping sonic forms from the work you send us.