Sound Poetry is slice of the anti-art / anti "there is absolute truth" campaign of Dadaism. Tearing down the focus on significance (of words), Sound Poetry emphasizes meter, rhythm and, most importantly, how the syllables sound coming out of a body. Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Zang Tumb Tuum (produced circa 1912) is a collage of words and characters that sometimes resemble ransom notes, other times Bauhaus era sculptures, with each passage printed in a commanding way. Hugo Ball's Karawayne (1916) is contoured and reads in a linear manner, but the font on the written page drastically revises from line to line. Blago bung / bosso fataka / ü üü ü, son.
Having explored, torn down and endeavored for decades to mine new veins in this ambiguous maelstrom, Jaap Blonk continues his approach of syllabic breakdown and remix merged with vocal manipulation and swathes-to-blips-to-blasts synthesis. First a composer, second a vocalist — with a CV too long to list — Blonk is more Blago / snort / bung / wHOOOSHSHSHSSHSHS / blorp / spin / fizzle / bosso fataka / snork / gasp / purr / ü üü ü than his predecessors.
"Yeah Poo Wop" begins the set in a Tom Waits meets Hell Boy growling slur of vowels and feedback (some guitar clawing through underneath) a la Black Metal skits...if Black Metal folks did skits. "Boring Conversation" seems performed by a turntablist's kid who snuck downstairs to play with his dad's toys; gurgles, scratches and almost-words swirl around in a pitch-altering, hyperactive, boiling stew. Though starting off with a bent, Theremin-like drone loop, "Circular Deprivation" soon retires into a bellows of snores, heavy breathing and backward growls that pumps under sporadic six-string noodles. Blonk approximates a human choir (think a parlor version of Ligeti's Lux aeterna) on "Dirges (For Hugo Ball)," though the angelic tenors are gradually swallowed by sinister, ritualistic chant and whatever demon the latter conjured; the first group escapes the belly of the beast, though remains a bit shakier, worse for wear.
The title track takes a jazz lounge act, replaces piano with shimmering, digitized bells, the drums with a woodpecker and jackhammer, and locks the singer in a box, hence the woody knocking. "Raadgevingen voor de jonge maker" ("Advice for the Young Creator") is a lecture delivered by a skipping CD on a deck whose batteries need replacing. "Interesting Conversation" sounds as a punctuating, pointillistic discussion between squeaking couch cushions that have mastered sympathy, tête-à-tête banter and correct grammatical cadence points (sort of the way R2-D2 shows sadness or elation depending on the descent or ascent of tone).
The interesting macro aesthetic supposed throughout Blonk's music here and in his other works is the strive to divorce emotion from the most intimate instrument, the mouth (and throat, sinuses etc.), and then use it to humanize electronic analogs. This tenuous balance should normalize the music in a Communistic "everything is equally valued," but the result is an inverted Frankenstein. Use your imagination to qualify that statement.
Despite an alignment to Dada's "The meaning resides in its meaninglessness," Jaap Blonk is no rube, and his careful, sensitive realization of his work didn't just fall out of the sky. He is the model of experimentation, and, like any great experimentalist, has most assuredly failed enough to figure out things that engage both himself and an audience. For veterans such as he, "First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak" (Epictetus) is a better mantra for these Irrelevant Comments.
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