Cloud Crowd Found Sound - Call for words

I so much enjoyed collaborating with nine other voices to make New Muses for a Post Human Age that I have been musing (so to speak) over what else I could do that would be similar but not too similar... and I have finally hit on this.

So what is the idea?  Well...  in music there is the idea of Voice as Instrument which gets away from singing words with meanings and instead treats the voice more like an infinitely flexible clarinet.

A striking example of such an approach is Karl Jenkins' Adiemus.  People think this is Latin: it is not, it is nonsense words constructed for no purpose except to sound right in the music.  If you wish, this is not "a song", it is a musical piece that uses the human voice as solo and harmonising instruments.

So the concept I have been toying with is similar, but changing relation between voice and poetry, rather than voice and music.  I'm intending to get a load of voice samples, and use them as rhythmic and sonic compositional elements without regard for the meaning.

Possibly this is more voice as percussion rather than instrument, except nothing like beatboxing because that would be deeply embarrassing.  Or possibly this is poetry stripped of meaning, the same way that an instrumental could be thought of a song stripped of words, but remaining an artwork.

Another idea you might like to consider is of mixing desk as instrument, or maybe multitrack recording as composition tool...

So what do I want?

Please send me a recording of your own voice speaking 5 or 10 nonsense words.

Please also send them written down so I can write out the "lyrics" if required.

Please consider your tone of voice when recording.  Choose a mood for your words: if you think you have angry words, use an angry voice; if they are small and frightened, think like a scared child while recording.  The more your words stand out in style, the more they will stand out in the finished work


Q. Should the words form a "sentence"?

A. Yes please!  The reason being I won't be able to build convincing sentences from individual words (without sounding like a terrible sat-nav) but I can somewhat split a sentence into single words.  However do whichever best suits your words...

Q. Can I swear?

A. If you think your made-up words are swearing and can put that in your voice, sure!  Bring it on.  (But please don't everyone do this, I need variety...)

Q. Will you use all the words you get?

A. No idea!  Depends how many I get and how the composition pans out.  Unless I get hundreds and hundreds, I will try to use at least one word from everybody who contributes.

Q. So there will be no meaningful words in this?

A. Not as an initial objective.  If I feel it cries out for some sentences added in places then I'll add them.  Those won't be the main point of the work, however...

Q. I have a horror of being made to sound like a mouse on Helium, will you be manipulating the voices?

A. Again I don't know.  I might adjust speed and obviously timing and repetition will be important.  I may add echoes and reverb.  If I do more than that it will probably be more subtle, such as adding a slight chorus behind your original voice.

Q. So what's in it for me?

A. No money.  Strictly limited fame.  Possible notoriety.  I will credit everyone whose voice I use and link some suitable website that you give me.

Q. I'm in!  How do I record myself.

A. Just use whatever phone or computer app you have around.  Try to avoid background noise.  Try to use a medium sized non-echoey room.

Q. I'm also in!  What format do you want?

A. Whatever you can create.

Q. Count me in too!  How do I send it?

A. If you are privileged to know my email, then that's good.

A. You can message me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IanBadcoePoetry/

A. You can message me on Twitter: @IanBadcoe

A. You can record the message, forget about it, find it later, copy it to a USB key and then accidentally leave it in a bus shelter during a thunderstorm -- response time may be longer on this one...

A. If you use google drive or dropbox or something like that, then you can put the recording in there, share it,  and just send me the URL by one of these other methods.

Q. What will this piece be about?

A. Thraxty drevfel hemophrogous delanqui

A. Or possibly string.

Q. What does "FAQ" stand for?

A. Go back to the 90s and do them again.


Review: Pete Green's "Sheffield Almanac"

Review: Pete Green's "Sheffield Almanac"

is another poet that I know through Gorilla Poetry, like Amy they also use ungendered pronouns, although as I hope this review will demonstrate, they are distinctly different poets.

This book is a love poem/critique/poem-of-place set in, and concerning, Sheffield, which also happens to be where I live.

This pamphlet is not difficult to read, it flows easily across the eyes and mind, and those privileged to have heard Pete's voice will hear it again in these pages (which always adds a lot to printed poetry.)  If you have not heard Pete, hear them reading "The Pull", an older poem but with some shared themes.

However this pamphlet is quite difficult to review, for the purely practical reason that it is all one poem.

Usually for a review I will read the whole book, once or twice, and then focus in on those poems that strike me most.  This is something I cannot do here.  Although the poem is split into four sections (representing the four seasons, as Pete explains in this blog post), each is substantial and (borrowing Pete's word) "discursive".  Each section takes a broad topic and explores all round it.

I shall cover all sections with a quick survey and then zoom in for a more detailed look at one later.

[i] is the Autumn section exploring the city as a University town, the changing local economy, steel mills replaced by student accommodation, the influx of bright and shining new minds every autumn, the pubs and clubs and political activism, the contrast of student life now with when Pete was a student in Birmingham.  It begins:

The steel has gone.  Now brass is made in learning.
    The city's an amalgam
Of wide-eyed youth, old grit, industrial yearning
    For the pounding of the forges through the night
Echoed in techno beats as dancefloors tip anthemic
    Hangovers loom and lengthen, recovery stalls
And time and Sheffield's calendar grow largely academic.

[i] - page 7

[ii] is Winter and as you might imagine the bleakest section.  This focuses on the trades we all make when we choose to live in cities, air quality for economic prosperity, personal freedom for a regular wage; and the difficulties of Sheffield itself: snow bringing its roads to halt, the lack of anywhere for a decent-sized airport, and the major theme of how progress is a double-edged sword:

                                ...Both sides are missing
    The other side's point.  Two old couples
Round a table in the Fat Cat balance reminiscing
    About the pubs and the Sheffield lost to us now
With a sense that change has two sides to its cutting
    Edge, that each lament for Castle Market's fall (and
Annexation by the artists) needs rebutting
    With memories of the birdshit dropping from its ceiling.

[ii] - page 17

[iii] is the Spring section and extends the themes of changing employment and building redevelopment to consider the changing face of the city itself, buildings repurposed and rebuilt and filled with "kids ... in creative trades their granddads ... wouldn't've bloody dreamed of".  The impact of national politics, a touch upon xenophobia and immigration, before accelerating into the most upbeat conclusion so far.  But I'll leave that for you to discover for yourselves, and instead quote:

                                        A crowd of hundreds
Surrounds the town hall: amid a fine kerfuffle
    Of hashtags, placards, and impassioned speakers
And twenty thousand names on a petition
    To save the indie shops on Devonshire Green,
Councillors wave through their demolition
    And succession by another row of flats
To join the M1 cooling towers
    And the Jessop hospital's Edwardian wing
On the roll call of a Sheffield lost, and only ours
    By living on in a Sheffield of the mind,
Retained by citizens still somehow proud and quirky
    Still these humble hedonists,
Recession-hardened, implausibly perky,
    Adroit jugglers of tradition and modernity.

[iii] - page 25

—because that is a sentiment that sits very well with me.  I also work in a profession that my Grandfather could not imagine.

[iv] - the Summer section starts with the floods of 2007, and how they barely made the national news, before moving into accounts of various heroic, festive and humorous responses to the catastrophe.  Pete then takes a turn towards the personal returning to the time just after their arrival in Sheffield (in 2004) and the time Nottingham just before they left:

                    ...We wearied of the confrontation
    Below the midlands' car-park accents,
Service-station banter, how every conversation
    Led to traps and tripwires; how every public space
Was up for sale, how the corporate steamroller
    Blazoned across Birmingham's town hall
A stupefying, vast advert for Coca-Cola
    Whereas, on a trip to Sheffield
We took free refuge in the Winter Garden,
    Watched a cloudburst runnel down the glass;

[iv] - page 33

And I shall leave the overview here, as it already has more detail than I intended (but I couldn't skip quoting a bit from each section) and I haven't even mentioned the epigraphs...

I shall just focus briefly on my (current) favourite section, which is the first.  I think the themes here resonate more strongly for my personal prejudices.  Lets take an excerpt from one of the more personal sections (which I haven't really covered above).  This follows on from an earlier image of each year's new undergraduates arriving in Citroens:

                                        ...Love, you uprooted
    Twice, turned north to intertwine with me, and now
Out plotline may be knotted, convoluted,
    Worn down to an epilogue's lingering thread
But wean yourself away just for a minute,
    Witness this scene, these hopefuls with
Ironic lava lamps and possibilities, and tell me if within it
    You don't see us in 1992.
Today an anxious flicker on the grainy
    Screen of an sonographer, last week a mooch
Round Oslo, buying handmade baubles on a rainy
    Afternoon, a take-off into snow.  Flick back
Further through those chapters, through the scenes scattered
    Haphazard down the valley side like relinquished
Clothing on your bedroom floor, the weave more tattered
    Further back we go.

[i] - page 8

And I don't want to stop quoting, even there, but there is only so much I can practically copy out.  I really appreciate the sharing of little personal moments here; but also there's the craft, the strongly rhythmic phrasing such as "possibilities, and tell me if within it // You don't see us in 1992."  As I already mentioned, if you can hear that in Pete's own voice, it is even better.

Similarly the overt rhyme, pulling us forwards, but wound around with other sonic embellishments: "knotted" leading to "convoluted", and then "epilogue's", "hopefuls", "possibilities" and finally landing on "don't".

There is a great deal wonderful about this pamphlet.  At the outermost layer I love the nonpartisan approach.  Pete neither eulogises, nor condemns the city; but neither do they withhold judgement where required.  This is an important characteristic for approaching both poetry and life: nothing is 100% good, nothing is 100% bad, and only in recognising that can we get close to reality.

There is also the careful and skilled approach to form.  As Pete explains in the post linked above, variable length couplets allow a flexibility of flow, while the fixed rhyme scheme pulls us through strophes (only one per section) that could be daunting if less skillfully handled.

This is an excellent and rich work.  I barely touch on some of its themes here, and in reading and rereading for this review I found more every time I returned.  If you live in Sheffield then this may show you things you are missing.  If you do not live in Sheffield, read this and wonder why not.

Sheffield Almanac is available for £5 + pp from Longbarrow Press.


New Muses: forever inwords

I'd been meaning to post the words to these for some time, then I forgot...

...but now somebody asked, so here they are!

New Muses for a Post-Human Age


Call me Calliope. My steampunk look
left over from the fairground organ vibe...
It was a strange new way to be alive
encoded on punched cards, but I took that
and ran with it. I formally enlarged
my sphere of influence: from epic verse
—the quests of heroes... battles... kings and curses—
to something even worse, I'm NP-hard

computation. I am the patron saint
of any project where the work of brain
exceeds the work of muscle by a hundred
fold. I urge you on, through records numbered
in the billions. Always epic at heart,
the oldest muse, but now... state of the art.


Is Vanderella going to leave Stu?
I've the hot gossip, all the celeb sleaze
for you. It's me who helps sustain belief
that heroes have the hots for you; the muse
of fan-boys shipping couples whom the authors
did not dream were close. I love red carpet spite
and all the tiny dresses that the big nights
bring out to play. I love to see the other

starlets' partners start to drool. I am quite mean
(necessarily) with all your fanfic scene,
your flash/slash stories and most of your art
but also note I hold your private heart
up for the other otaku's gaze. Their praise
I offer you: we'll fan your secret blaze.


There's drugs and sex and then there's me, I've ditched
my flute and taken up the Stratocaster.
There's sex and drugs and ever faster, faster
on motorbikes. I am nobody's bitch
but I will ride you in a motel room
with both our earbuds plugged into the noise.
I offer leather jackets and other toys,
like pills and needles of straw-coloured doom—

my cultists are the twenty-seven club
and I tell you there is no greater love
and never any form of sadness sweeter
than for the young musician turned to meat
before their time. I'm loud, not sweet, not modest.
I am the one, the only, true rock goddess.


Erato here, you think there's nothing new
beneath the sun. You say you've fucked in all
the ways, by pairs and threes. You say you fall
for boys and girls and toys and ropes and screw
your parents and their weird ideas... but I'll
tell you that sex is of the mind, and gender's
in your pretty head. My gift to you is tender
feelings of all types, no need to justify

if they're for someone cute or for a self
made for yourself—personas off the shelf
or custom-built. I am the mirror for
your work-in-progress life of love and more.
You follow me with every stroke of brush
on image: perfect yourself; there is no rush.


My mask is no less tragic now I've swapped
the costume for the soberest of suits
and left the boarded stage so they can shoot
me here, behind the fancy desk. I've chopped
your world down into sound bite size. I prize
all moments of sick carnage I report
and human interest sobs. One time I thought
this a temporary gig, but no: I rise!

There's no end to your appetite for slaughter
or how you idolize the war reporter
who pulls his face into a sad expression
and flat-voiced says that on sober reflection
a civil war may not be altogether
the best thing for this place. And now the weather...


You want to switch your gender? I'm fine
to help with that. You want to swap your limbs?
That's cool. Steel can be sexier than skin—
if you do it right. You can take me as the sign
the universe don't need you in the form
that you were born in. Take it from me: human's
defined by what the human does and "super"
is an epithet you add yourself. So warm

the cockles of your cybernetic pump...
or maybe you need less? Perhaps just jumping
higher than the other guy, despite your lack
of legs. We can do this! Just put your back
and prosthetics into it. You'll get the cheers
and if not, you can always be reengineered.


Say what you will: I know the truth of you
and how you spin yourselves just makes me laugh
you say you are a moral man, pay half
your tax, are faithful to your wife—you screw
around only if out of town. I know
all those sharp edges on your soul, and grime
long ground into the fabric. All the time,
you skirt the crime tape round the portico;

the columns all look straight when you are just
a little off from centre and you must
therefore believe this is the place to stand;
believe you worked this out yourself. "Random"
is my critique of your fondest self beliefs,
but I love your lies, they are my light relief.


Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two...
and so on. This is my new song: music, spheres,
steel gantries pointing through the atmosphere
at the nearer of the spinning rocks. I see
more futures in the heavens now. The signs
of yesteryear and claiming to see clearly
through crystals or in fight of birds, they weary
me. Come worship, when orbits all align,

with rocket stacks of high explosive fuel.
Sweat in your launch capsule. Try to keep cool,
as mission control applies the match. Or probe
from a safe distance. Fire robots from your globe
up into my domain. While far stars shine,
new worshipers approach more distant shrines.


Loading data. I’m loading all your data
for I am Polyhymnia and all
your songs sound well to me. We'll have no walls
between the disciplines or their creators.
Come here. I'm what you see when you look across
the quad and through some other department's window.
I'm what you find if you stare from what you know
towards what you do not. My tracks crisscross

your landscape of epiphanies and wide-
eyed wonder-strikes. The days you stepped aside,
and saw the world was not the thing you knew,
were down to me. I love things, once untrue,
now obvious. The whole damn thing's my faith,
I say: embrace your inner polymath...


Immortal though the gods have always been,
they mostly now are gone. Eternity
went on and on and most lost heart. We now see
we always were the best. We were the queens
of continual creation, not just pulling
a universe out of a hat and taking
the afternoon off. Not blustering and faking
a lightning smite, but eternally fulfilling

a quota of electric inspiration
for every soul. We don’t control or ration,
we simply open floodgates of ideas
and drop you in the flow; but do not fear
we’ll hold your collective hand, live in your minds,
we are with you until the end of time.