Sound Poetry and the Musical Avant-Garde: A Musicologist's Perspective

Nancy Perloff

in The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226657424
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226657448 | DOI:
Sound Poetry and the Musical Avant-Garde: A Musicologist's Perspective

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The composition of sound poetry generally begins with a text and because of this critical writing on sound poetry has been the domain of poets and literary scholars, who study its semantic, syntactic, and linguistic attributes and the ways in which it redefines the function of language. In 1937, John Cage anticipated the importance of electrical instruments for musical composition when he spoke of the need to establish centers of experimental music, where composers could use “the new materials, oscillators, generators, means for amplifying small sounds, film phonographs” to make sounds. Both the Russian avant-garde poets and the Italian futurists explored the potential of language to produce nonreferential sounds. This chapter places sound poetry and avant-garde music within a shared history of sound and live performance.

Keywords: sound poetry; text; critical writing; semantic; syntactic; John Cage; avant-garde

Chapter.  6331 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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