Olson, tape, noise


“In response to a request to record his reading at Goddard College on April 12, 1959 (made available by the Slought Foundation and PennSound), Charles Olson quipped about the apparatus in front of him: ‘What happens if it just goes on and I don’t say anything?’ … The tape recorder, implies Olson, makes a demand that is contiguous with the audience at the reading. It calls for the reading to become a performance, like a ‘concert or something.’ This problem seems ironic coming from Olson, who described projective verse as a return to the possibilities of the voice and orality. I would like to take Olson’s question — and his anxiety — seriously in order to argue that it embeds both a threat to and an unacknowledged affinity with his poetics. The slow revolution of the reel-to-reel tape machine, along with the noise embedded in its functioning, indexes a complex of temporal processes. The tape registers bodily breath, voice, and movement, but it also historicizes and distorts those indexes of the speaking body. The tape records and plays back other sources and effects in the causal chain from vocal emission to recording to playback. The question — ‘What happens if it just goes on and I don’t say anything?’ — playfully draws attention to the possibility of withholding voice and also emphasizes the act of recording itself as a spectacle, ‘like a fire.’ Instead of voice, or a mimetic transcription of voice, what Olson foregrounds through this question are the noises that simultaneously underwrite and exceed voice. So, what does happen if the tape machine just goes on? …”
Jacket2 (Audio)
Los Angeles Review of Books – All Architectures I Am: The (Unintended) Legacy of Charles Olson’s Projective Verse
Turning ​Process into Poetry: Notes on Charles Olson and Whitehead
A Guide to The Maximus Poems of Charles Olson
1960s: Day of RageThe Maximus Poems (Sep. 2017)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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