Friday, July 2, 2021

"Still Between Worlds": poem cycle written december 29, 2020

Painting by Thibault Delferiere

still between worlds
having become human
passing through the animal
as these words do
through your eyes
plant prism mineral,
seeking enlightenment (without bother)
I go and I stay
shifting from plane to plane...
nothing about us absolute
everything wild and tame, fearless
I don't really want to write anything.
just first become human,
then seek enlightenment
causes of firstness preceding
times and history
accumulate in the landscape
and inside the body.
I am layered, time crystal
brittle, soft, hard, smooth
my breasts stand out
rough in some regions
what more have you been holding back?
not writing to be final
just trying to live here
my failure for you is success
in another dimension
collapse is order in the making
ectoplasm on the run
ejectamenta of the sun
the hope you carried forth with that gleam in your smile
where ever it follows you forever without body
this volume borrowed, returned to nature's library, unread,
unfinished, waiting, filed, lunar
the envelope doesn't have any name on it
we have to teach you who you are
but we can't keep you tied to that
endless wave, endless summer,
endless winter, deeper
repopulation where I see you wander
and like the mallards
timing their exodus
through the uprights of the great oak & the gingko
shiva's horns, the Y, timed release
their simple airport pond
destiny: the next black-hole
where we will meet again
dropping out is what we do
every once in a blue asteroid
the book is only something to display the quality of a mind
datafications, info-materia, algorithms
implant fibulation, theophanic mobbing
they will manufacture new immunology
we will grow apart, flung
bones reconfigured, new bouquets, crowns
rippling from under permafrost
our fadeless particles
our perfect water
the way the world sounds be like
"I don't like myself very much
so I can't relate to you directly"
(writing in the dark, scratch piano)
the is a miniscule daub of angel
scurrying light, dolphin sylph
pollywog wiggling through these words
like a stuttering yod replicant
carries the grain- bug of the truth
that bothers me honestly
until the light goes out
and the dark comes on
the tree inside the moon
sending tentacles
the flowers somewhere and their buddy system
spring eternal, maybe not for me
but what does it depend on?
hare kare quite contrary
getting a beyond of the techno-crapitalist mindset
the king of things hung up like a sail
(mapped traditions, lore, decoded)
the mother of all wounds
(eating means to be eaten)
furbish the tree, praise
regard and upload fecundity
don't worry about form
happy endings are bad
bad endings are good beginnings
leave it incomplete
the world's weather
tethered together, not
it's knot a not
left the untangling


Writng & Literacy may not be the Measure of All Things: Africa Writes Back: The Libyc-Numidian Script


Africa writes back

European ideas of African illiteracy are persistent, prejudiced and, as the story of Libyc script shows, entirely wrong

 "But Bourdieu’s observational mistake – the idea that the Kabyle weren’t literate – is actually not his most consequential misapprehension. That would be the idea that literacy is a supreme cognitive and cultural achievement. It’s one of the means by which universities shore up the value of their intellectual work – they police grammar, philology, literacy – in short, they define and champion rigour and ‘standards’. For those of us brought up within that system – even brought up, as I was, in a former colony (Kenya) – those standards might appear to be value-neutral. But they’re value-neutral only because they annihilate even the possibility of other values, of other modes of thinking or being. When Bourdieu went from the elite École Normale Supérieure to a Kabyle settlement, he saw, ultimately, the absence of what made the university, and his own mind, what it was. That supposed absence is the product of intellectual arrogance, yes, but it’s also part of a European cultural heritage"

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Songs Out of the Head of Papusza



 the little song, the diamond, a poem-song 
adapted from the Polish Romany of Papusza
with the assistance of Karolina Ossowska.
 Papusza's often improvised lyrics were transcribed 
during the final moments of the experience of the 
tabor culture and her name in Romany means "doll" 
& she speaks not of poems but of 
"songs out of the head of Papusza"
the locution used is familiar, often, that is,
"a person" is called "a gypsy" -- as if to say,
"one of our human family". 

the forest girls are going into
the forest, the Gypsy girls
young & pretty 
as blackberries
going into the forest, 
the forest girls, singing
we would like to wear earrings
golden ones,
all the while their eyes go shining
like true gold
the teeth white like pearls
little Gypsy girls singing
pretty as blackberries
where are those earrings?
have those earrings flown
into the forest?
& will none of the city-smiths
here forge
earrings of gold?
will no one make
earrings for them?

they run, calling
 "great golden earrings!
great golden earrings!
where are you today"?
my black eyes are looking for them
in the darkness now
 & the fires almost gone
ah, wind don't blow
so fiercely... please, don't blow...
and still the songs grow
 ever more silent
while the forest
more silent
took their songs
off into the world
& brought them back again

 & whenever the oak leaf falls
on the girls' knees
the Gypsy girls
 with eyes of true gold
fall upon the oak's leaves
on their knees & they run, crying:
we will make of golden
our earrings
shining like diamonds
and she makes the oaken leaves
their golden earrings
which they sing about
in turns

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Reifications//Minimal Animal//Reanimations

 just published a new album of experiences. field recordings of the melting, weavings of the voice in search of selves in leaves under the receding snow, reflections on the practice of phonography, meditations on reification, reanimation and poems by Ilaria Boffa who I invited to respond to these themes. listen here. there is an abundance of textual trace below

 Reifications/Minimal Animal/Reanimations

When I don my headphones and turn up the volume of my recorder I enter two new worlds, both parallel yet distinct from the one that seemed to exist alone unto itself only moments before. One new world in which the audibly distant appears closer because amplified while paradoxically the nearer sounds seem suddenly far away because magnified, suddenly gigantic, details alien, shuddering proximity. This new dimension so immediately a "copy" or transmission of the actual outside, life within the doppelganger. But yet another world comes into my awareness: the cavern of my listening body as it descends into itself or becomes stretched to the horizon of the audible, a body lost in sensation. Connection & isolation.

This album is a sound-scape, or a few sound-scapes rather, composed from the field recordings made in Wilson's Park around the Palmiarnia Poznanska during two days of thaw Feb 18, 19, the harbinger of a still somewhat dubious Spring 2021, struggling with self-actualization. In January the sudden cold spell bequeathed us a miniature ice age, that left ponds and paths frozen completely for the first time in a few years. This thaw represented an opportunity to capture the sounds of a transitional weather environment. While recording I contemplated the process of "keeping it real" versus "making it real" and the title "Reifications" was born. When I discovered I'd had some microphone failures on the first day, I went back into the field to retrace what was melting and discovered yet another world, the disappearance and awakening of life forms from their hibernation and the next title "Reanimations" came to mind. The reflections I had about being in the field as an immersed listener versus being a recordist are given voice in the second track "Minimal Animal" -- the full text is to found below.

When I began giving voice to my reflections about the process in the field the general outlines of the composition unfolded as a virtual brain-cast, a projection of words onto the auditory field of the listener, a glimpse of a thought process in motion mirrored in the listener's apprehension, just as the world of sound dawns in scattered assemblage. Then poems came to the written and re-voiced. Extending the horizon, I had imagined inviting my poet friend Ilaria Boffa to create some interventions here and like the light of a distant planet, she came through. Perhaps this all would have been finished a bit earlier had we not gone into another Covid-inspired lockdown. In any case, the ice is all gone by now, the trees do indeed bud, while it's still quite chilly, life and all that, seems to go on.

April 12, 2021
Jeff Gburek

by #Ilaria Boffa

Dereifying things and their
relation to agency.
From entities to systems.
Dereify and reify oneself
to co-exist and glow like
synchronous fireflies.
They disappeared from
the countryside, overbuilt
and polluted.

What is a land if not
a vow that comfort one’s void.
What is a woman if not
her voice, a myriad of echoes
resonance and lament.
Dereification of matter
and reification of the human.
Existing in the Real
without Reality.

Minimal Animal
by Jeff Gburek

When I went out yesterday "into the field," I didn't record and I didn't even take gear. But since I'd had that exchange with you, I found myself reflecting on the act of recording. On the one hand, I said, into my dictaphone, field recording is a media that, unlike all the others, leads you deeper into the moment, into the now, the present. But paradoxically, the recording is made, being made, and the replay is taking place in another moment where, in some sense, it doesn't belong. It is an abstraction. As a recordist, I treasure the moment of contemplation and immersion into listening. If the recordings turn out to be not so useful, at least you can feel you had the experience. But another more haunting thought came to mind: that we are constantly recording a place that no longer exists. The place is never in the recording. The law of nature keeps the place sacred and sovereign. We are taking away some trace of acoustic phenomenon but the place perhaps remains unaffected. when the place is violated by developers or destroyed by fires, the place is made different. if we had recorded a place just before an intervention or environmental upheaval, we perhaps preserved some layer of acoustic properties. but that only underlines the fact that the place we recorded doesn't exist and that it's very likely it can never be brought back to being what it once was. So what is the scope of this activity, in fact? Certainly one's actual experience is important and involved. I came to the conclusion that what matters most is to combine reflection upon the experience with the presentation of recording.  Just as Steve Simpson , the marine biologist who was trying to record fish realized that the boats were changing the life of the fish. He never recorded the boats because that anthropogenic noise is not what he's interested in capturing and presenting to us. It's the secret conversational life of fish that is interesting, not the rumble of engines which we know so well because we created the machines. Yet his observation that we need to narrate the absence of the space where the animal lives naturally is important. It's more or at least equally as important as the abstraction of the sounds made by hydrophones, the latter being held up as sparkling gems of pure audio but not giving us a full picture of marine realities.

Matter, mater, madre
by Ilaria Boffa

Matter, mater, madre
the origin of things
and their substance.
The manner in which
molecules interact with
one another, bind to one another
break inhibitions and conceive
anew while ignoring
other choices.

Things and their substance
our substance.
To the eye the task and the peril
of matching what appears with
what it’s familiar, dispensing with
experience. The loss of the univocal
and unambiguous certainty
of proximity.

Your substance that I borrow
from the stream
when it steers its current and
enlaces my forearm
abandoned to its will.
My substance detrital and lithified
at the estuary.
Matter carrying matter.

Things and their substance
The unambiguous certainty of proximity
Le cose e la loro sostanza
L’inequivocabile certezza della prossimità

Cover art by Jeff Gburek. Images of Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker lifted from Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics. "Economists need a metaphorical career change: from engineer to gardener".



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Toin, Spurl & Peducment.


new album link ist dar

  I decided that I had to do something about these miscellaneous acoustic guitar pieces that have gathered in the cracks between other albums, sessions, or which where recorded on a whim and lost for sometime. Not exactly homeless but locked safely in one among several pandora's boxes scattered about here. 
 Toin, Spurl & Puducment takes it's title from an obscure British television program about a man who invents a device to listen to unheard voices. Toin, Spurl & Peducment are the speculative words of trees he himself imagines they utter. The tracks were recorded sometime between 2019 and the present moment, the more recent ones being towards the end, including 3 recorded last week/month. I am accompanied by the great instrumentalist Eryk Nowacki on saz,tracks 2 & 3 (look our for an album from us sometime soon). The rhythm section (1, 2) was programmed by myself in Audiomulch. On tracks 7 & 8, I play the acoustic guitar and the zither, all improvised in real time. The cover art on the bandcamp album may be changing as soon as I get a better shot of the Five Stringer with the newly outfitted beaver thigh-bone bridge. But that never happened and insomma non fa niente al proposito al suono si trova li
-- Jeff Gburek, February 26, 2021

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Meet The System: Orphan Sound System. Archives of Williamsburg--based band, Volume One. With a commentary by John Elmanahi.

the music of the trio. free for download, name your price.

 Welcome to Meet The System by Orphan Sound System aka OSS. We are making a map from where we started out. Our sonogeography is diverse and this album recorded in the garage in Williamsburg just one of many artefacts from a very dense 2 years of creative activity. We pass the microphone to John El-Manahi, who recalls our formation in 1994 (years are often contested) in Firenze, Italia.

 "It’s my recollection that OSS was formed the moment John Palumbo knocked on the door of the flat I was sharing with Jeff Gburek, Florence Italy, 1993, and said “I heard the Monk and had to see where it was coming from.” From that moment we had music as the foundation of our interaction. Gburek and I had met the year before in similar fashion when I’d heard the sounds of an acoustic guitar in some alt tuning echoing in the stairway of a temporary student lodging...I eventually found him and said something dumb about Paco Del Lucia or John McLaughlin. Eventually that awkwardness gave way to cautious, suspicious friendship that solidified over travels, sharing music, philosophical discussions, art and poetics.

By the time Palumbo had come to Italy, we’d already been flatmates binging on Scelsi, Xenakis, Bartok, Ligeti, NanCarrow, Messian, Henze, Boulez, Stockhausen, Beethoven etc....Mingus, Monk, Miles, Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Throbbing Gristle, Neubauten, Can, Sun City Girls...Umm Kalthoum, Gnawa Music, Nass El Ghiwane Turkish Pop, Balinese and Javanese Gamelan, Sundanese Pop, Tibetan Monks, African Music of Pygmy, Bantu, and Tanzanian Peoples, Nigerian name a few. The point is that we were immersing ourselves into a sonic universe that was completely interconnected. We listened with the intent of tying music to our current state of being as a means of expressing all our creative and spiritual energy. Along with all the sound were books, poetry, mythology, film, art, philosophy and world religions. Everything was included in our understanding of sound as a means of expression and transformation. Palumbo came in from a primarily Jazz, punk background...but shared the improvisational sensibility that our listening was unconsciously developing. We were aligned with the sensibilities of Sun Ra, Cage, Kurt Schwitters, and other transcendental Jazz musicians. 

After Italy we met up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1995. We were a cobbled together unit that had some pretty ramshackle instruments and amps...I believe we were very lucky to have landed in such musical poverty because it forced us to be inventive with what we had. Create instruments and sounds from tuning, preparing, found objects, and invention. I did not own or use a single pedal during my entire time with OSS. I simulated echo, and pitch shifts by adjusting my playing style to mimic the sound I wanted to make. I added shortwave radio and a hand held tape recorder that I would play through the guitar pickups.

The whole band only had one or 2 pedals that Gburek cooped to make the “Lancelot”. It was a microphone jammed into the horn of a discarded bugle, run through a pitch shifter, that had a looping setting. In addition to it being a feedback wand it was a listening instrument that took all the sounds we made and transformed them. The feedback sounds were completely unique. At times the Lancelot would just run on auto pilot while Jeff played another instrument. It’s in these moments that OSS produced more sound than seemed possible for 3 people.
*** see Jeff's note below 

 Palumbo was always an inventor. He tried to make a “drum machine” that would allow him to play far more drums than he would be able to by hand. It was a massive wood and cable contraption that was far too big to move and kinda dangerous if you got too close to it. As it was he had saw blades, metal pipes and plates, shards of cymbals, and assorted other pieces that could be used as percussion. They were hanging all around his drum kit within reach of Jeff and I. Our extensive metallic percussion was another facet of OSS’s texture. I’d found an old metal fireplace and attached a metal comb to it. That became the “4th Orphan” instrument that could sound like anything from a timpani to a toy piano. We would play any of these at will so we could shift textures seamlessly.

This is all to explain how the music of OSS began to form and evolve in the moment due to the sounds we had available. Playing bass or guitar or drums was a given, but we wanted to compose pieces, or create an ecstatic event like the folkloric music of indigenous people. We didn’t care if we were virtuosic on an instrument. It was more the sound and timing of it that made any difference. Palumbo using clarinet, or trombone on the moments he was inspired to, provided far more impact than an overly cerebral academic choice. Everything was drawn out of the ether and we were just along for the ride.

 We’d made attempts to be more purposeful even as an improvisation group. There’s a certain amount of snottiness and elitist mentality in the circles of avant-garde and experimental music. We were fully confronted by this, even though we had studied music composition in college and we had all been very experienced players. It didn’t matter. In those circles your pedigree has to pass the sniff test, like dogs smelling each other’s asses. In response we created improvisation maps and notation for scoring so we could be more deliberate in the process. We developed things like “non playing” where we would frenetically mimic playing as close to our instruments and hit by chance. What resulted was heavily textured quiet moments with percussive exclamations, which would emerge with greater frequency. Also, we would create shapes that had wave like forms with markings like crescendo, decrescendo, accelerando, ritardando, staccato, legato etc. and we could map out a flow based on visual information. We all had visual art backgrounds so we used these maps and waveforms to create loose scores that allowed us to adhere to a “composition”. Ultimately we internalized all these methods and used them in a seamless non verbal communication based solely on aligned intuition. Basically we stopped seeking approval from academics and followed our creative instincts. What we were producing was like nothing we’d ever heard so we felt we were on the right path.

The gigs were a mixed bag. The climate was accepting enough for noise and improvisation bands in NY at that time. Though there was still the arms folded audiences who were too uptight to go anywhere. The exception were loft parties and squats that had a more informal vibe. These people we’re looking for freakish acts that would give their events a legit art vibe. So we had some very good performances that were well received.

 The resurfacing of these recordings are a time capsule from that pre-internet period of experimentation and free thinking. Alternative methods of production and disseminating ideas. The tapes that have survived are almost entirely live and created in the moment. If one were to play them in order they would see a clear evolution of technique and complexity of idea."

 Note on The Lancelot by Jeff Gburek

The Lancelot was named so because once the microphone was inserted into the bell of the bugle it resembled a medieval lance. The canalization of the soundwaves lead to a peculiar effect: it would create a feedback pitch entirely dependent on what area of the speaker of the amplifier it was aimed at and the physics of this made it predictable and playable. It seems to be the fore-runner of microphone/saxophone feedback arrangements I would later see used by John Butcher & others. The Lancelot was also therefore a wind instrument, a kind of electro-acoustic kazoo and with the pitch-modulator and delay pedal it was capable of becoming a cybernetic system interactive with the entire sonic environment. Once I started working with Djalma Primordial Science, I started to call it the Orphan's Ear. The Lancelot was a device that both listened/received and transmitted/generated sounds.The search for automatons as John indicated would not stop there. As we continue to re-master and upload the surprises will continue.

Friday, February 26, 2021

the case of edward mordake (poem)



the case of edward mordake


impossible the people behind to see

who think i see the smile they smile

while i weep on ahead

into rush of slime wind

or when i laugh they rush

up behind offering kleenex

so concerned is the world

but i myself adjust to living

with the mirrors both out of date

to the image formed in lieu

in this age of terribly frustrated vanity

where all plastic surgery perjures

opposite effort & what said

uncobbles the mouth


unseen brother/sister mug

a moon-side facing forever away

from the front of me in flash-flood of consciousness

all would perhaps be well

were i not talking out the other side of my skull

out of ear shot, meeting people

the other half of me never know


Jeff Gburek

Dublin, 2017