Unfinished Business: My Intellectual Non-History (1990)
[NOTE from 2004: When this text was prepared for its initial printing, tildes (~ & ~), always in pairs, became signals for an enhanced typeface, here boldface, usually to signify titles, subheads, and dates of my authorship. This text is available in a velobound volume from Archae Editions.]
After I die, I hope that my executors will publish a book of my proposals, to reveal what could (and perhaps should) have been done.--R. K., "Person of Letters in the Contemporary World" (1989).
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF CRITICAL ESSAYS ON "MASTERS OF MODERN LITERATURE"~
An appropriate supplement (or precursor) to my ~On Contemporary Literature~, which will appear next year, this anthology will contain extended critical essays on each of the dozen foremost writers of our time. The purpose of this collection is twofold: on one hand, to introduce the writers and, on the other, to provide those who have read their work with the finest short critical essay available. The writers I chose to include are Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Albert Camus, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Nikos Kazantsakis, Thomas Mann, Alberto Moravia, Boris Pasternak and Jean-Paul Sartre. The final volume, as I envision it, will have twelve chapters of critical essays and a brief introduction. At the end of each essay I plan to include a selected bibliography of other important critical works; as a footnote to the first page of each essay I will put a short intellectual biography of the critic. The essays are between thirty and thirty-five pages apiece (at approximately four hundred words per page), so the final volume should be roughly four hundred pages. I would plan to pay up to two hundred dollars apiece for the reprint rights, though several essays, I am sure, would cost much less. Experience tells me there is usually no trouble in purchasing reprint rights for literary criticism; still, if for some reason one or another essay should be unobtainable, I have alternate choices. As all essays are currently available in English, there are no translation problems. I see the typical purchaser of this book as the college or high school student; very likely this book will become assigned reading in courses on modern writing.
To fulfill the double purpose of this book, each essay selected should perform two tasks. To a reader unfamiliar with the writer's work, it should convey some idea of his style, his themes, his major preoccupations, his virtues and defects and his place in contemporary literature. To those who have already read his major works, the essay should lead to a better understanding of that literature. From my survey of critical writing, I find that two kinds of essays best satisfy these needs. The first is a survey of all the writer's works in which the critic comments upon each one, developing themes through individual discussions. This type of essay succeeds, I have found, when it eschews the demands of a rigorously unifying thesis on one hand and minute textual analysis on the other. In the second type, the critic develops several themes through a discussion of a writer's technique and his vision of the world. The critic will refer to his individual works, but the critical comments do not focus upon the particular achievements of each book. For major writers who tended to repeat themselves, such an essay can work better than a survey (see Erich Heller on Franz Kafka or Eric Bentley on Bertolt Brecht). On the other hand, I have avoided as critically useless those newspaper book reviews that are not designed to enrich anyone's appreciation of the work and then plot summaries that simplify the surface in lieu of probing the depths, as well as those narrow-focused, generally difficult academic pieces that do not present a broad view of an author's work. Likewise, since this is an anthology of literary criticism, biographical essays, such as pieces on Faulkner's mysterious life or Brecht's political activities, are not included.
In the brief introduction I discuss the criteria I used in selecting the twelve writers: (1) Must have published his major works after the end of World War I. (2) Must have produced a large body of work, usually in more than one of the basic literary genres--fiction, drama, poetry and the essay. (3) Must have produced at least one book worthy of the epithet "classic." (4) Must have influenced his successors. (5) Must have shown originality in his use of techniques or presentation of themes. In discussing each of these criteria, I account for why writers such as D. H. Lawrence, Andre Gide, Isaac Babel, Ernest Hemingway, Ignazio Silone, George Orwell and Marcel Proust are omitted. In this introduction I will characterize the works of the twelve in terms of their views of modern life, their technical achievements and their ideological commitments. This introduction, in its final form, should be no more than eight pages in length.
The task of choosing the most appropriate essays is not complete; tentatively
I plan to use the following:
SAMUEL BECKETT: Martin Esslin, "The Search for the Self," ~The Theatre of the Absurd~ (Garden City, 1961), pp. 1-46. When edited of nonliterary comments, such as biographical data and the history of the production of his plays, this would be 15,000 words in length.
BERTOLT BRECHT: Eric Bentley, "Homage to Bertolt Brecht," introduction to ~Seven Plays by Bertolt Brecht~ (N.Y., 1961), pp. xiii-li. Must be edited of comments on Bentley's personal relations with Brecht and similar remarks to 13,000 words.
ALBERT CAMUS: Philip Thody, "Achievements and Limitations," ~Albert Camus: A Study of His Work~ (N.Y., 1959), pp. 94-120, 11,700 wds.
T. S. ELIOT: M. L. Rosenthal, "T. S. Eliot and the Displaced Sensibility," ~The Modern Poets: A Critical Introduction~ (N.Y., 1960), pp. 75-103, 11,000 wds.
WILLIAM FAULKNER: Robert D. Jacobs, "William Faulkner: The Passion and the Penance," in ~South: Southern Literature in Its Cultural Setting~ (Garden City, 1961), pp. 142-76, 16,300 wds.
FRANZ KAFKA: Erich Heller, "The World of Franz Kafka," ~The Disinherited Mind~ (N.Y., 1959), pp. 199-231, 11,500 wds.
JAMES JOYCE: Edmund Wilson, "James Joyce," ~Axel's Castle~ (N.Y., 1931), pp., 191-236, 16,500 wds.
ALBERTO MORAVIA: Sergio Pacifici, "Alberto Moravia," ~A Guide to Contemporary Italian Literature~ (N.Y., 1962), pp. 29-56, 10,400 wds.
BORIS PASTERNAK: Edmund Wilson, "Doctor Life and His Guardian Angel," ~The New Yorker~ (Nov. 18, 1959), pp. 213-38, 9,100 wds. To this I plan to add approximately 2,000 words from Mr. Wilson's second essay, "Legend and Symbol in ~Doctor Zhivago~," ~The Nation~ (April 25, 1959).
The other three writers to be featured are THOMAS MANN, JEAN-PAUL SARTRE and NIKOS KAZANTSAKIS. For their works, I have yet to choose a suitable essay. ~(1963)~
* ~ ~
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF CRITICAL ESSAYS "MASTERS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE"~
Richard Chase, "The Broken Circuit," ~Anchor Review~, 2 (N.Y., 1957), 6,000 wds.
Leslie A. Fiedler, "The Novel and America," ~Partisan Review~ (Winter 1960), 6,500 wds.
R. W. B. Lewis, "The Myth and the Dialogue," ~American Adam~ (Chicago, 1955), 4,200 wds.
V. L. Parrington, "Foreword," ~The Colonial Mind~ (N.Y., 1959), 1,800 wds.
Philip Rahv, "Paleface and Redskin," ~Image and Idea~ (N.Y., 1957), 1,800 wds.
And a few others in the same general vein.
THE PURITANS: Charles Feidelson, Jr., "An American Tradition," ~Symbolism and American Literature~ (Chicago, 1953), pp. 77-101, 7,200 wds.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER: D. H. Lawrence, "Fenimore Cooper's White Leatherstocking Novels," ~Classic Studies in American Literature~ (Garden City, n.d.), 10,800 wds.
EMILY DICKINSON: Allen Tate, "Emily Dickinson," ~The Man of Letters in the Modern World~ (N. Y., 1955), 5,000 wds.
T. S. ELIOT: (to be chosen)
RALPH WALDO EMERSON: Charles Feidelson, Jr., "Three Notes on Emerson," ~Symbolism and American Literature~, pp. 119-35, 142-50, 157-61, 11,000 wds.
WILLIAM FAULKNER: Claude-Edmonde Magny, "Faulkner ou l'inversion theologique," ~L'Age de roman Americain~ (Paris, 1948), p. 196-243, 15,000 wds.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD: Arthur Mizener, "The Imaginative Possession of American Life," ~Sewanee Review~ (Winter 1946), 9,600 wds.
NATHANAEL HAWTHORNE: On his career as a whole: (to be chosen)
Hyatt Howe Waggoner, "The Scarlet Letter," ~Hawthorne: A Critical Study~ (Cambridge, 1955), 10,500 wds.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: Harry Levin, "Some Observations on the Style of Hemingway," ~Kenyon Review~ (Autumn 1951), 9,000 wds.
HENRY JAMES: R. P. Blackmur, "Henry James," in Robert E. Spiller et al., ~Literary History of the United States~ (N.Y., 1948), pp. 1039-64, 11,500 wds.
Dorothy van Ghent, "Portrait of a Lady," ~English Novel: Form and Function~ (N.Y., 1953), 6,800 wds.
HERMAN MELVILLE: Marcus Cunliffe, "Herman Melville," ~The Literature of the United States~ (Harmondsworth, 1961), 4,800 wds.
Leslie A. Fiedler, "The Baptism of Fire and the Baptism of Sperm," ~Love and Death in the American Novel~ (N.Y., 1962), 12,100 wds.
EUGENE O'NEILL: Joseph Wood Krutch, "Eugene O'Neill," ~American Theater Since 1918~ (N.Y., 1957), edited from pp. 77-120, 11,000 wds.
Please consider this a tentative outline. For a more definitive list, contact me. ~(1963)~
* * *
~"THE ART OF DEMOLITION: ESSAYS ON AMERICAN WRITING"~
My thesis is that the literary "hatchet job" is an art. Those essays included in the anthology, fine examples all, should confirm that point. As a secondary purpose, I want to provide readers with a collection of vehemently negative comments on major groups and individuals of American writing. So, in choosing the essays, I observed two principles. First, I wanted effective examples of the art and so included demolitions of minor or forgotten figures only if those essays were artfully done. (See Edgar Allen Poe on Thomas Ward or Alfred Sundel on James Purdy.) Second, I wanted to cover all of American literature, thereby making this collection a counterweight to all the anthologies of laudatory remarks.
The table of contents would follow an approximate historical order of their subjects. Hence Mark Twain on James Fenimore Cooper is the first essay, while Alfred Sundel on James Purdy is last. Each of them will be prefaced with several lines of terse notes explaining the background and the circumstance of each essay. For example, as a preface to Dwight Macdonald's deflation of James Gould Cozzens, I would need to note the enormous popular and critical success of Cozzens's novel and also write a short biography of the critic. Whenever necessary, the essays themselves should be edited of extraneous materials. The enclosed list of proposed selections includes more than forty essays. As many of my choices are already in the public domain, I would expect the cost of reprint rights to be no more than two thousand dollars.
Although this anthology is not designed to suit any particular group of purchasers, I suspect it would appeal to readers who, like myself, appreciate the art of demolition and thus have avidly read everything that, say, Dwight Macdonald or Leslie A. Fiedler ever wrote. I also think that students and teachers of American literature should want this volume for its set of contrary opinions on major writers; it could well be included in sophisticated survey courses as an alternate book of criticism. As there is nothing like it, I expect that "The Art of Demolition" could develop a reputation and sell quite well over the years. ~(1963)~
* * *
A few years ago a professor of astronomy at Yale explained to me that his students were superb mathematicians, they had mastered the subject; they would fly to the moon--but they would never be astronomers, because, he said, 'They don't love the stars.' How to produce disinterested and magnanimous people, whether scientists or artists or physicians or statesmen? But I have heard that the Office of Education, or the National Science Foundation in its curriculum improvements, or the Congress when it votes billions for schooling, cares about these things at all.--Paul Goodman, "Wordsworth's Poems" (1969)
~THE COUNTERTRADITION OF AMERICAN DRAMA: PRELUDE TO THE NEW AMERICAN THEATER~
This anthology will collect American plays so different from those in the mainstream of our drama that I regard them as constituting a countertradition. The major characteristics of this countertradition are sketched briefly in accompanying notes.
The book will contain these five plays:
E. E. Cummings, ~him~ (1927)
T. S. Eliot, ~Murder in the Cathedral~ (1935)
Robert Hivnor, ~Too Many Thumbs~ (1947)
William Carlos Williams, ~Many Loves~ (1942)
Louis O. Coxe and Robert Chapman, ~Billy Budd~ (1949)
The firm or person in control of the reprint rights to each of these plays
has informed me that, in general, anthology permissions are available. Three
of the plays are presently available only in hard-to-procure editions--
Cummings's, Hivnor's and Williams's; the other two are currently in individual paperback editions. The book will also have an introduction by me of approximately five thousand words which will include an extensive characterization of the countertradition and how its plays differ from those in the main tradition. This introduction will show how such plays presage the New American Theater of the past six years, in addition to offering a brief analysis of each play and its place in the countertradition. Some of this commentary will be drawn from my essay on "The New American Theatre" in ~The New American Arts~ (Horizon, 1964).
Only in the past few years, since 1958 to be exact, has what I call the countertradition of American drama become the dominant tendency of our theater. As we carefully scutinize the plays of Edward Albee, the playwrights of The Living Theatre (Jack Gelber and Kenneth H. Brown), Arthur L. Kopit and other young writers, we begin to realize that they are, in some essential respects, quite different from the American drama of the past.
The dominant tradition of our theater, as I see it, embodies two central and often complementary characteristics--realism (as a literary mode) and sentimentality. On one hand, these plays are set in a definite historical time, usually in an identifiable place. The stage intends to evoke a scene factually familiar to us; thus, in the setting there is an emphasis upon accurately reproducing details and in the dialogue the characters reproduce authentic American idiom. This kind of play ususally has a single dominant figure who often earns more of the audience's sympathy than he really merits and, therefore, becomes a vehicle for the play's sentimentality and the playwright's key ideas.
Whereas the stock popular theater embodies both realism and sentimentality, the better American plays carry, in nearly all cases, only one of these two identifying marks. Playwrights such as Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller have been the leading realists, while the works of Tennessee Williams, William Saroyan and Thornton Wilder, all antirealists, are at base sentimental.
Looking back over the history of our drama, we see that several earlier isolated, eccentric plays resemble the new American theatre in repudiating both characteristics of the dominant theatre. Their setting is usually, as in Beckett's plays, a nowhere--if the playwright specifies one place, it could just as well be another--that symbolizes the world. Rather than directly presenting the facts of reality, plays of the counter-tradition offer interpretations of the world, creating a microcosm that evokes dimensions of existence's feel and tone. Likewise, they are scrupulously unsentimental, embodying a tragic view of human existence (though not, of course, the form of classic tragedy) that we associate with the best modern literature. These authors, eschewing protagonists, create situations in which all the major characters participate equally in defining the scene, just as these writers evoke their themes from the action rather than announce them in the dialogue. Similarly, whereas plays of the dominant tradition express didactic themes, intended to guide our lives, if not to reform our ways, the theater of the countertradition attempts to demonstrate the essences of existence. It is more descriptive than prescriptive. In this respect, ~Billy Budd~ depicts the irreconcilable split between the law of the heart and the heart of the law, Hivnor's ~Too Many Thumbs~ presents the paradox of mankind's evolution, Eliot writes about the conflicting purposes of religion and politics, and Williams describes the necessities and risks of human love.
This countertradition, then, has much in common with the dominant line of American fiction and poetry which, as recent studies by Leslie A. Fiedler, R. W. B. Lewis and Charles Fiedelson have demonstrated, is more mythic, symbolistic, gothic and metaphysical than social, didactic or realistic. Thus, it is indicative that most of these plays are by authors more noted for their nondramatic works. All the plays I have chosen have received professional productions; all are enthusiastically admired by those who have read or seen them. ~(1964)~
~A STUDY OF THE PRACTICE OF THEATER IN AMERICA~
Before discussing the proposed project in detail, I think it appropriate for me to summarize my career as a critic of drama. My academic training at Brown and Columbia Universities was primarily in American literature and history. I did my undergraduate honors thesis on Henry Miller and my graduate work in American intellectual history. However, while a sophomore in college, I saw the Living Theatre's producton of ~The Connection~. Quite excited by it--indeed, it was my first "great experience" in the theater--I wrote an enthusiastic review for the undergraduate newspaper. This piece I later expanded into an article on the play which appeared in ~The Texas Quarterly~ (Winter 1963). On the strength of that article, ~Contact~, a new Bay Area magazine, commissioned me to do a comprehensive essay on the new American playwrights, which it printed in its October 1963 issue. This essay, in turn, led Horizon Press to commission me to edit a book of critical essays by younger critics on new trends in the America arts. For this I revised and expanded the ~Contact~ essay into "The New American Theater." Since that first review I have developed a wider interest in theater, writing critically on recent playwrights and drama criticism for ~Minnesota Review~, ~Stand~ and other magazines. I came to theater criticism without, in truth, ever having taken a course in modern drama, acted in a play or worked in a theater production. Though I feel I understand recent plays as literature and have used, with some success, the tools of literary analysis to explicate them, I have always felt my theater criticism suffered from my lack of knowledge of the theory and history of performance procedure. I hope to overcome some of these limitations this year in London, in the course of doing a Fulbright project on new trends in British theater and fiction; but since my program is administered through an academic institution and my advisers are literature professors, rather than theater men, I fear that my previous critical leanings will probably be reinforced, rather than tempered.
My proposed project is to study theatrical practice--styles of acting, techniques of directing, problems of production, methods of financing, varieties of stage design and related problems; and to do this I would like to visit as many significant theaters as possible and to talk with producers, directors, actors, local theater critics and patrons and, most important, to see productions of plays and, ideally, various productions of the same play. In general, I am more interested in companies that produce contemporary work than in those that confine themselves to the classic repertoire. Out of the basic material of a log of observations and conversations, I would like to fashion a long essay or a short book on the practice of theater in America today, to complement my earlier essay on contemporary plays and playwrights. Also, should I discover more new native plays and playwrights worth noticing, I would add an appendix to the earlier essay on "The New American Theater," or perhaps revise it completely, for the book's possible paperback edition.
The initial research, as I tentatively plan it, would require four trips. Since I am presently in London and my passage back to America is included in the Fulbright award, it would be foolish not to look first at some major contemporary European theater, primarily to enrich my awarenes of modern theatrical possibilities and to offer me theoretical frameworks and practical standards for understanding and evaluating American theater.
The European tour would start early in September 1965 with the Edinburgh Festival, where I hope to see both the official and unofficial exhibitions. Then I would travel to Ireland to attend the Dublin Theatre Festival and other Irish theater. From there I would go to Paris, especially to see the work of Roger Planchon (or to Lyon, should he be there instead) and whatever important foreign groups should be visiting Paris; and to Berlin for the Berliner Ensemble and to Opole, Poland, for the heralded, but unknown, theater of Jerzy Grotowski and, perhaps, to Warsaw; then to Prague to look at the theatrical experiments of Josef Swoboda, to Israel for the Habimah and other modernist groups and finally to Milan for the Piccolo Theater of Georgio Strehler. From there I shall return to America (at Fulbright expense, fortunately). I expect to allow at least one week for each city, with two apiece for Edinburgh and Paris--ten weeks in all for the European tour.
The American portion of the project would involve, tentatively, three extensive trips across the United States between the two theatrical centers, New York and San Francisco. The first would be along the northern route, the second via the South, and the third through the Central states. Certain more important theaters, such as the Arena in Washington and the repertories in San Francisco, I would want to visit more than once. I would expect to spend about one week in each city, studying not only the principal theater but others in the immediate area. At the beginning of each trip, I plan to stay about three weeks in New York City, seeing acting schools, plays, repertories, actors and directors; and at the end of each trip, there will be a week in our second theater city, San Francisco.
[Each of the next three paragraphs, one for each tour, lists a route of nine theaters between New York City and San Francisco.]
Should any new theater group spring up in the coming year, such as the projected Los Angeles Civic Repertory, I would, of course, make a special effort to assay its work. In general, I expect to keep an extra eye out for shoe-string, sidetrack, experimental groups which, I suspect, will become more prevalent outside New York in the coming years. In my earlier essay, I noted in New York at least an increasing interest in writing ~important~, rather than commercial, plays and, concomitantly, the rise of a more sophisticated theater audience. Now is the time to discover whether these developments are generally true across the U.S. Finally, I want to ascertain the character of American play production and whether shifts in theatrical presentation accompany changes in the writing of plays. ~(1964)~
* * *
It can be asked if the real history of architecture is not that of schemes which were never built. . . and if there are not, in fact, two architectures, one of research and projects, the other of completed buildings--the second being but a weak echo of the first.--Michel Ragon, "Retrospective de la prospective architecturale," quoted in Alison Sky & Michelle Stone, ~Unbuilt Architecture~ (1976)
~AN INVESTIGATION OF THE MAJOR WORKS OF FICTION, DRAMA, POETRY, SOCIAL THOUGHT, ART AND LITERARY CRITICISM, MYTH HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY, ETC., TO DEFINE THE INTELLECTUAL TEMPER OF AMERICA IN THE DECADES FOLLOWING WORLD WAR II~
As an intellectual history, this is ~not~ an interpretation of an age's artistic character, such as Roger Shattuck's ~The Banquet Years~; it is not a social history of a period, such as Frederick Lewis Allen's two ~Yesterday~ books; it is not a history of ideas, especially as they are embodied in literature, such as ~The Twenties~ by Frederick Hoffman; or an impressionistic picture of the period, such as Thomas Beer's ~The Mauve Decade~; or a thorough survey of many aspects of a culture, such as Robert Graves and Alan Hodge's ~The Long Week-End~. This study will instead emphasize ideas as they are found in literature, only because literature is the most sensitive barometer of intellectual concerns. Hence, a model closer to my conception of this study would be Alfred Kazin's ~On Native Grounds~.
In discussing intellectuals in different academic specialties, I will necessarily emphasize those who engaged the problems of their age and thus contributed to, or swam with, the intellectual currents of our times. Therefore, the philosopher Walter Kaufmann's ideas will be of more interest than those of the foremost practitioner of linguistic analysis, while the economist John Kenneth Galbraith is of more interest than the author of, say, "Price Stabilization in the Fur Industry."
Organizing the materials will, of course, pose the biggest problem. The first temptation is to posit a number of key ideas to characterize the period and then merely group individual thinkers under each heading, as William York Tindall did in his ~Forces in Modern British Literature~. This I find too easy to do in one respect and too disorienting in another. Ideas are attached to thinkers; and although ideas may characterize an age, it is thinkers who make a cultural period. It is more propitious, to my mind, to divide the study into areas of intellectual endeavor, apportioning one chapter to novelists, another to playwrights, another to sociologists, another to psychoanalysts, etc., and then develop the unifying themes through each of those chapters. Here one must choose whether to discuss the field as a whole, or to focus extensively on the work of an eminent but characteristic figure. When Kazin discussed literary criticism, he took the former path, one which I believe is more successful. In contrast, Roger Shattuck saw his era through admittedly second-level figures in visual art, poetry-art criticism, music and drama
Qualifications: Majored in American Civilization and did extensive work in the history of ideas in European literature. Did independent studies in comparative psychoanalytic theory, the city in American fiction, theories of history and an honors thesis on Henry Miller. Extensive reading in sociology and twentieth century American intellectual history. Have published articles and reviews discussing psychoanalysis, recent European writing, criticism of recent literature, American plays, sociological thinking, cultural criticism, and American fiction in ~Kenyon Review~, ~Commonweal~, ~Contact~, ~Texas Quarterly~ and various other American magazines. ~(1964)~
* * *
My work so far at King's College [University of London] has focused more around and behind the central subject, contemporary English literature, than directly in it. I was quite familiar with the major post-WWII authors before I came here, as I had selected critical essays on many of them for the book I edited, ~On Contemporary Literature~ (1964). Thus, I felt that, first, it was necessary to gain a more thorough background in twentieth-century English literature and, then, to fathom the current intellectual scene and to learn of contemporary writers whose works, if not their names, were previously unknown to me.
For the first effort I have been attending at King's College the courses on twentieth-century ficton and drama, as well as doing extensive readings of works not directly touched upon in the courses. I believe I have come to understand what is the British tradition in both these genres and, more important, what works might constitute a countertradition that is still relevant. Second, I have established contact with many of the younger critics who have written extensively on the current scene [named], as well as some of the people about whose work I may be writing. They have provided me with guidance, albeit of various kinds and in even more various directions, in approaching the mass of contemporary materials. Finally, I have done extensive readings in English history--political history, cultural history, literary history--as well as recent social thought and sociology, and I plan to pursue the suggestion made in conversation with our cultural attache', Cleanth Brooks, that the entire Commonwealth of English-speaking people might be regarded as a single literary entity.
Work projected for the second year would include, first, systematic readings in contemporary literature, especially those writers recommended to me [listed]. When this is finished, I expect to develop my notes on the material into a critical book on recent English literature. My present hypothesis is that in the past decade Britain has witnessed the emergence of a viable, if scarcely known modernist literature. I expect to have several chapters on the various major writers, dealing particularly with their formal inventions and how form is used to convey meaning; several survey chapters on various promising writers, grouped probably by styles; a portrait of the literary scene; some notes on recent developments in critical and social thought; and, in closing, an evaluation of current achievements. Among the writers whose works I plan to discuss in some detail are the novelists William Golding, Doris Lessing, Samuel Beckett, Lawrence Durrell, J. G. Ballard, Derek Ingrey, Christine Brooke-Rose, Philip Toynbee, Nigel Dennis, Wilson Harris, Edgar Mittelholzer, Amos Tutuola, Stefan Themerson, B. S. Johnson; the playwrights N. F. Simpson, David Mercer, Henry Livings, Harold Pinter; the poets Jon Silkin, Peter Redgrove, John Furnival, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dom Sylvester HouÃ©dard, Ted Hughes and Tom Gunn.
Other books about this period include John Press's study of the poetry, John Russell Taylor's of the playwriting, James Gindin's (and peripherally Frederick Karl's) of the fiction. I know of no book attempting an inter-genre approach; nor do I know of anyone who is writing such a study. ~(1965)~
* * *
I felt myself to be a radical, not an ideologue; I was proud of the revolutionary yet wholly literary tradition in American writing to which I knew that I belonged.--Alfred Kazin, ~Starting Out in the Thirties~ (1951)
~PROPOSED PROJECTS FOR A THREE-YEAR FELLOWSHIP~
The first project is a study of the major trends and figures of American thought in the period from 1945 to 1965. It will include a selective investigation of the work and ideas of the important novelists, poets, playwrights, critics of arts and letters, theologians, interpretative historians, social thinkers, psychologists, philosophers and unclassifiable intellectuals. The proposed study will then attempt to define the common preoccupations, the responses to original problems (e.g., thermonuclear war, automation), the various intellectual tendencies and the historical significance of the era.
The second project is a study of the American imagination as represented by our greatest creative figures. Tentatively, the research will concentrate upon the works and careers of a novelist (probably Melville), a poet (probably Whitman), a painter (A. P. Ryder), a composer (Ives) and perhaps also a philosopher (Pierce) and an architect (Sullivan), all of whom did their most important work between 1850 and 1920. The project may be supplemented by similar studies of the comparable masters of the period from 1920 to the present (e.g., Faulkner, Cowell or Cage, F. L. Wright, Cummings, Pollock). In addition to exploring the works of various individuals, this project will try to ascertain whether there exist any aesthetic and intellectual characteristics common to these major men and thus peculiar to American cultural excellence. Some of my thoughts on these matters are introduced in the second section of my essay, "Notes on the New American Arts" (1965). ~(1966)~
* * *
~AN ANTHOLOGY: "ARTISTS IN AMERICA: IN THEIR OWN WORDS"~
This represents a rough outline, more tentative in detail than conception, of an extensive anthology of the essential statements of America's major painters, sculptors, architects, composers and choreographers, from the beginnings to the present. Most of the selections come from artists who lived in the twentieth century, because only in the last fifty years has America achieved a tradition of sustained, rather than sporadic, excellence in all the arts. My choice of individual spokesmen, as well as the accompanying introduction and headnotes, would emphasize the uniquely eccentric, rather than the conventional and cosmopolitan, in our native traditions. The themes and figures, as well as the principle of gathering the various arts together, relate to books I have already written or projected for the future.
COPLEY, John Singleton: Excerpts from ~Letters and Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham~ (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914)
AUDUBON, John James: Selections from his writings
DURAND, Asher B.: "Letters on Landscape Painting," ~Crayon~ I (1855)
FIELD, Erastus Salisbury. ~Descriptive Catalogue of the Historical Monument of the American Republic~ (Amherst, 1876)
RYDER, Albert Pinkham: "Paragraphs from the Studio of a Recluse," ~Broadway Magazine~ (Sept. 1905)
EAKINS, Thomas: Selections from his writings
HENRI, Robert: "The New York Exhibition of Independent Artists," ~Craftsman~ XVIII/2 (1910)
MacDONALD-WRIGHT, Stanton: Excerpt from ~Catalogue of Forum Exhibition~ (N.Y., 1916)
DAVIS, Stuart: "On Abstract Art," in ~Abstract Painting in America~ (N.Y., 1935)
BENTON, Thomas Hart: Excerpt from ~An Artist in America~ (N.Y., 1937)
POLLOCK, Jackson: "My Painting," ~Possibilities~ I/1 (Winter 1947-48)
DeKONNING, Willem: "The Renaissance and Order," ~Trans/formation~ I/2 (1951)
------. "What Abstract Art Means to Me," ~Museum of Modern Art Bulletin~, XVIII/3 (1951)
MOTHERWELL, Robert: "The Painter and the Audience," ~Perspectives~ 9 (August 1954)
REINHARDT, AD: "Twelve Rules for a New Academy," ~Art News~ LVI/3 (May 1957)
------. "Art-as-Art," ~Art International~ VI/10 (December 1962)
------. "The Next Revolution in Art," ~Art News~ LXII/1 (March 1965)
RAUSCHENBERG, Robert: Excerpts from "Conversation with Richard Kostelanetz," ~Partisan Review~ XXXV/1 (Winter 1968)
KAPROW, Allan: "The Legacy of Jackson Pollock," ~Art News~ (October 1958)
------. Statement in ~Manifestos~ (N.Y., 1966)
RUSH, William: Selections from his writings
GREENOUGH, Horatio: "American Architecture" (1843), in ~Form and Function~ (Berkeley, 1957)
------. "Remarks on American Art," Ibid.
SAINT-GAUDENS, Augustus: Excerpts from ~The Reminiscences of. . . .~ (1913)
CALDER, Alexander: Selections from his writings.
SMITH, David: "Notes on my Work," ~Arts~ (February 1960)
------. "Thoughts on Sculpture," ~College Art Journal~ (Winter 1954)
------. "The Secret Letters--Interview with Thomas B. Hess," ~David Smith~ (N.Y., 1964)
RICKEY, George: "The Morphology of Movement: A Study of Kinetic Art," in Gyorgy Kepes, ed., ~The Nature and Art of Motion~ (N.Y., 1965)
OLDENBURG, Claes: Excerpts from ~Store Days~ (N.Y., 1967)
MORRIS, Robert: "Notes on Sculpture," ~Artforum~ (February 1966, October 1966)
MILLS, Robert: "A National Style for Architecture," in H. W. Pierce Gallagher, ~Robert J. Mills: Architect of the Washington Monument, 1781-1855~ (N.Y., 1935)
RICHARDSON, H. H.: Selections
JENNY, William Le Baron: Selections
SULLIVAN, Louis: "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered" (1896) and "What Is Architecture?" ~Kindergarten Chats~ (N.Y., 1947)
WRIGHT, Frank Lloyd: "Roots" and "The New Architecture: Principles" in ~A Testament~ (N.Y., 1957)
FULLER, R. Buckminster: "Review of Building," ~Ideas and Integrities~ (Englewood Cliffs, 1962)
BILLINGS, William: Excerpts from ~The Continental Harmony~ (1794), reprint edited by Hans G. Nathan (Cambridge, 1961)
IVES, Charles E.: "Epilogue" (1920), ~Essays Before a Sonata~ (N.Y., 1962)
------. "Music and Its Future" (1933), in Henry Cowell, ed., ~American Composers on American Music~ (Palo Alto, 1933)
VARESE, Edgard: "The Liberation of Sound: Three Essays" (1936-39), in Barney Childs and Elliott Schwartz, eds., ~Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music~ (N.Y., 1967)
COWELL, Henry: Excerpts from ~New Musical Resources~ (N.Y., 1930)
HARRIS, Roy: "Problems of American Composers," in Henry Cowell, ed., ~American Composers on American Music~ (Palo Alto, 1933)
COPLAND, Aaron: "The Creative Mind and the Interpretative Mind," ~Music and Imagination~ (Cambridge, 1952)
GERSHWIN, George: "The Composer in the Machine Age," in Oliver Sayler, ed., ~Revolt in the Arts~ (N.Y., 1966)
CAGE, John: "The Future of Music: Credo" (1938) and "Experimental Music" (1957), in ~Silence~ (Middletown, CT, 1961)
BABBITT, Milton: "Who Cares If You Listen?" ~High Fidelity~ (1957)
DUNCAN, Isadora: Excerpts from ~My Life~ (N.Y., 1927)
FULLER, Loie: Excerpts from ~Fifteen Years in a Dancer's Life~ (1913)
GRAHAM, Martha: Selections from her writings
NIKOLAIS, Alwin: "No Man from Mars," in Selma Jeanne Cohen, ed., ~The Modern Dance~ (Middletown, CT, 1966)
HALPRIN, Ann: Excerpts from "Interview with Yvonne Rainer," ~Tulane Drama Review~ 30 (Winter 1965)
CUNNINGHAM, Merce: "Space, Time and Dance," ~Trans/formation~ I/3 (1952)
------. "The Impermanent Art," in Fernando Puma, ed., ~7 Arts~ (Indian Hills, CO, 1955)
For further information, please contact the author. ~(1968)~
* * *
~"AMERICA NOW": SYNOPSIS OF A BOOK~
1. History and Autobiography: Aftermath of WWII. Truman's commitment to defend
the Western world. The Eisenhower fifties. McCarthyism. Economic boom and
personal affluence. The Kennedy decade. The space race. Consciousness of excessive
violence. A new mass culture. The coming of age of one born in 1940 (the author).
2. America and the World: While the U.S. has always taken most of its culture from the rest of the world, now much that is universally new and incipiently pervasive has its origins here. Differences between indigenous situations (eliminating the race problem, for instance) and those likely to become worldwide (music).
3. Technology and Affluence. The willful generation of research and development; organization of advanced knowledge. How everyday life has changed, is changing and promises to change in response to technology, and how dependent the average American has become upon commonly available machinery. Statistics and examples.
4. The interaction of "Black" and "White": The reality of cultural integration, in spite of social segregation. The "Americanness" of U. S. blacks and the "Negroness" of U.S. whites. Social interest and radical myths. Evolution of U. S. blacks' strategy, between general alternatives of separation and integration, violence and nonviolence. Is there an "Afro-American" culture?
5. The Cultural Boom. Money and the arts. Foundation and the audiences. Who gets paid and how much? Excesses, dishonesties, monopolies. The commercializa|tion of "radical" culture.
6. The Popular Arts. Rock music, films, architecture, advertising illustration, studied for themselves and as reflections of social changes and aspirations, etc.
7. Transformations in the Esoteric Arts. What is new and important in all forms of literature, music, dance, painting, sculpture, film and artistic terrains across and between, in the early seventies.
8. The Hyper-Educated Society. Increases in numbers educated at all levels. Education as the major U. S. business and political issue. New practices and possibilities in schooling. Effects of hyper-education.
9. The Politics of Sex. A general view of who does what, how often, and where; and an analysis of what the much-proclaimed "sexual revolution" actually changed.
10. Politicians and the People. Is Nixon different from Johnson, and how do they both differ from Kennedy. Responses to Vietnam. The issues in cultural modernism. Possibilities of radical, visionary alternatives.
11. The Forging of an Antagonistic Culture. The generations. The development of hippies, new left, yippies, etc. Symbols and situations of confrontation--
marijuana, Chicago, Woodstock, etc.
12. Recapitulation and Prognostication. "Revolution"?
There will also be bibliographies to each chapter. The aim is to present details and perspectives not commonly known, and yet persuasive. I estimate 75,000 words of text, for delivery in 1972-73. ~(1970)~
* * *
~A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF AMERICAN THOUGHT IN THE POST-WWII PERIOD~
The concept of "thought" is interpreted as broadly as possible--to include the humanities, the social sciences and the physical sciences; yet the emphasis will be upon intellectual endeavor at the highest cultural levels. The project has grown to four volumes, one of which has already been published, the second of which is currently in production for publication in 1971. The first book, ~Master Minds~ (1969), focuses upon fourteen eminent artists and intellectuals of the first rank, not only to document their individual careers and achievements, but also to define personal and intellectual styles I take to be characteristically contemporary and American. The second volume deals entirely with the nonliterary arts--painting, sculpture, music, dance and filmmaking and the new art forms among and between, such as "environments," "mixed-means events," and "artistic machines"; and since my book's major theme is the radical changes implicit in recent work, its tentative title is ~Metamorphosis in the Arts~. The third volume, currently in progress, will complete the consideration of humanistic cultural achievements. Chapters already drafted cover post-WWII social philosophy, sociology, historiography, architecture, government, anthropology, esthetics, literary criticism, and arts criticism. This winter I hope to complete the remaining sections of this volume, tentatively intended to cover economics, jurisprudence, education, philosophy, psychology, city planning, fiction, theater and poetry. While approaching each field of intellectual endeavor as a distinct entity, with its own traditions and preoccupations, my study is continually relating ideas and patterns in one area to those in another, as well as setting contemporary contributions in a larger historical and cultural context. The overall thesis, evident throughout, is that only in the post-WWII period did American culture come of age, developing examples of acknowledged excellence in nearly all fields of intellectual activity. It has, thus, been my aim to define and characterize the important work in each area as judiciously and accurately as possible, particularly in introducing major achievements; but since my aim is an integrated and encompassing picture of genuine excellence, rather than a critique of hypocrises and inadequacies, the book's tentative title is "The Maturity of American Thought."
The fourth book, still to be written, will treat intellectual areas less familiar to me. For this reason, I expect to spend next summer, when the hot weather customarily makes reading easier for me than writing, investigating those fields I plan to write about the following winter, ideally completing the four-book project in five years. The folders in my files currently have such titles as physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, computers, management, mathematics, linguistics, cosmology, computers, thermonuclear strategy, electronic communicat|ion; but I expect that further research will establish new topics. The final result of all this research and writing will hopefully be a comprehensive picture of American thinking in recent times. ~(1970)~
* * *
~THE ECCENTRIC TRADITION IN AMERICAN THOUGHT: BEFORE 1850~
This book will be a series of interrelated profiles of some of the most important minds in American intellectual history prior to 1850. The chapters will not only describe the work of each of the following men but will try to generalize from their example how creative achievement happens in America. The result, I hope, will be an encompassing theory of the American imagination.
1. Oliver Evans (1755-1819), who devised the first example of assembly-line
2. William Billings (1746-1800), a tanner by trade, who was also, by common consent, the first important American composer
3. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), who differs from the others primarily in being better known
4. Edward Taylor (1644-1729), by common consent, the first important poet
5. Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872), the painter who also invented the telegraph
6. John Woolman (1720-72), a prophetic social critic
7. Jonathan Edwards (19703-1758), the theologian and philosopher
8. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), the medical doctor who investigated the physical causes of mental distress
9. Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), the novelist who originated the American gothic style
10. John James Audubon (1785-1831), the ornithologist who was also a pioneering naturalistic artist
11. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), the first great American painter
12. Horatio Greenough (1805-1852), sculptor and aesthetician
As the chapters will average around 7,000 words in length, the final book will be about 90,000 words, or 224 pages. ~(1966)~
* * *
~A COURSE ON EXPERIMENTAL WRITING~
More properly alternative writing, which is to say a workshop in exploring alternative ways in which poetry, fiction, drama and essays are written. The teacher will survey various current directions, and students will be required to submit creative work, in the medium of their choice, experimenting with structures radically different from those they had previously mastered. Kostelanetz has compiled several anthologies of avant-garde writing and written extensively on the subject. ~(1971)~
* * *
~NEW WRITING NOW~
A collection of moderately innovative work, most of it previously published only in periodicals, nearly all of it by young Americans, and all of it easily available for reprint here. What follows is a tentative table of contents, alphabetically listed for convenience; the final selection will be based on it. The book will run approximately 256 pages.
~Author~ ~Pages~ ~Selection~
Butterworth, Michael 8 Circularisation
Chin, Frank 20 Monday Monday Is Monday
Cohen, Keith 10 Madness in Literature
Coolidge, Clark 3
At One . . . , Torsion Brack
Cory, Jean-Jacques 1 Testimonial
Disend, Michael 8 The Strange Duet
Federman, Raymond 20 Take It or Leave It
Friedman, Ken 8 Papa Larabourrou
Friedman, Paul 10 The Story of a Story
Gangemi, Kenneth 5 Questions & Answers, Eleventh Miscellany
Graham, Dan 5 Income (Outflow) Piece, All You Need Is Love
Haselwood, Roy 4 The Weatherman of Death
Herman, Jan 4 One Talk One
Higgins, Dick 4 Empty Streets, Sophia, Structure
Israel, Philip 4 The Man Who Came Apart
Kaltenbach, Stephen 4 [Four untitled messages]
Kiyokawa, Schoichi 6 One Thousand
Lagomarsino, E. 6 Essay on Desks
Lamothe, D. L. 3 Triangles for Grace
Mella, John 9 Trial
Meltzer, Richard 5 Fan Club News
Morresey, John 4 Concerning the Game
Noonan, John Ford 15 The Effects of Trimethylchloride
Oppenheim, Dennis 6 Wall St. Stock Exchange Removal Transplant
Payerle, George 8 M'Od
Sanders, Ed 6 The Hairy Table
Shapiro, David 4 For Chagy
Simon, John Oliver 4 The Adventures of a Floating Rabbi
Siskind, Mitchell 6
A Day I'll Never Forget
Sondheim, Alan 1 Totality of Consumption Possibilities
Spatz, Ronald M. 4 XCQWP BNKJYS FGHZTD
Veitch, Tom 4 New York Telegram
Walsh, Jon 2 From ~Desent~
Weller, Michael 5 Moment
Wicklund, Willie Mae 2 Nemo's Construction, etc.
Wilson, Lanford 5 Wandering
Winkfield, Trevor 7 Robinson Crusoe
Wulffson, Don 10 You Too Can Be a Floorwax That Even Your (Husband Can Apply
This book should particularly appeal to that increasing audience of readers
interested in what is new and unknown in the most contemporary literature.
* * *
~A COURSE ON GENIUS IN AMERICA~
This course will present the work and life of exceptional Americans in a wide variety of "fields," most, though not all, of them cultural. For various practical reasons, it should begin with contemporary figures and then work backward in history, so that the opening sessions will probably treat individuals already profiled in my book ~Master Minds~ (1969): Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, Marshall McLuhan and perhaps John Cage. Students will be urged to sample the man's work and/or information about it, as well as some basic biographical data; and classes will discuss the nature of his genius and the possible meanings of his life. Among earlier geniuses I would probably present Jackson Pollock, David Smith, R. Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, W. E. B. DuBois, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, Charles Ives, Henry Ford, William Faulkner, D. W. Griffith, Herman Melville, Samuel F. B. Morse, Walt Whitman and Benjamin Franklin. Similarities and contrasts will be continually defined throughout the survey, and students will be asked to do a paper on a similar figure of their choice. Although the course is structured to study interesting individuals, one cohesive theme would be general qualities peculiar to American genius; a second major thread would be the possibilities of American life, for among the ulterior motives of such a course would be the dramatizing of possible models for aspiring students. ~(1972)~
* * *
The various reasons for [architectural] unbuiltness range from positive to negative, albeit the terms positive and negative become ambiguous when one is speaking of the state of being unbuilt (which is here considered to be a "positive" situation). Something built would have lost its magic, and here would be considered to be "negative."--George R. Collins, introduction to ~Unbuilt America~ (1976)
~ANALYSIS OF INTELLECTUAL REMUNERATION AND COMMUNICATION IN THE UNITED STATES~
This proposed project represents an extension of the radical analysis presented in the opening portions of my forthcoming book, "The End of Intelligent Writing," an elaborate critique of the current channels between intelligent writer and intelligent reader, which has not yet found a publisher, although chapters from it have already appeared prominently in several little magazines. The first half of this study examines the shape of literary politics in America, the development of the most powerful informal group ("The New York Intellectuals"), the forms and functions of literary power, and the current general crisis in the intermediary media--in sum, defining several developments contributing to constriction in the pathways of literary-intellectual communication. This research persuasively documents the existence of distinct blockages, of various kinds and for various reasons, in those channels customarily assumed to be "free," and I suspect that further research will identify yet more barriers.
The first part of the proposed extension would investigate intellectual economics, in a general analysis of who gets paid for what and by whom? What kinds of intellectual work are more lucrative, both individually and corporately? And what kinds are not recompensed, and why? Is American intellectual life today subject to any kind of "class" analysis? If so, how do the divisory lines run? This research will necessarily attempt to separate cultural work financed by direct sale and/or royalties from that supported by universities, foundations, and the government, and thus ascertain which cultural enterprises are largely dependent upon subsidy, whether directly (e.g., strategic research) or implicitly (e.g., nearly all "quality" publishing)? How has the structure of U.S. intellectual economics affected the general understandings of literate people? And how has the structure changed in recent decades? How does the American situation differ from European? What are the most glaring inequities? How might the current arrangements be changed? This part requires systematic research and analysis of information that is, by and large, publicly available.
The second portion of this project will concentrate upon the channels of
cultural dissemination, in order to ascertain precisely how intellectual ideas
and/or works are presented and then circulated. More specifically, I hope
to trace the evolution and dissemination of "successful" innovative
ideas, such as Chomskyan linguistics, cybernetic theory, serial musical composition,
"revisionist" interpretations of the Cold War, Marshall McLuhan's
hypotheses about electronic communication, Herbert Marcuse's critique of industrial-
bureaucratic society, always noting, in the course of tracing dissemination, what delays and resistances were encountered along the way. I also plan to identify how these researches were subsidized and whether any earlier research in similar veins was neglected and, if so, how these new ideas managed to overcome earlier neglects.
This study will necessarily deal with the role of private communications
(e.g., letters, copies of drafts, etc.) and professional conferences, as well
as with the influence of books vs. periodicals at popularizing such ideas.
Did the post-literary media help? These questions can be answered through
interviews with the participants and their professional associates, and then
supplemented by research in libraries and elsewhere. From such investigations
would come not only precise histories of intellectual dissemination but also
some general descriptions of the
forces likely to block innovative and/or radical intellectual developments--the kinds of possibly important ideas that are ~not~ becoming general intellectual knowledge.
Another realm of questioning concerns how cultural businesses profit from first-rank intellectual creation, and how the effort to maximize profit can affect intellectual communication. How has the pattern of profit in cultural enterprises changed in recent years? How has the current crisis in magazine and book publishing affected the situation? In this last respect, I want to pursue further the analysis broached in "The End of Intelligent Writing" by studying more closely the dissemination of "leftist" criticism in the U.S., documenting in yet greater detail the power of the Random House-~New York Review~ combine and the precise character of the several strains of "radicalism" it has historically favored. This last study will also define, for purposes of contrast, the dissemination of other strains of "radical" ideas--leftist criticism from publishers other than Random House, Buckminster Fuller's visionary architectural proposals, the hypothesis of a guaranteed annual income, the formation of "up-from-under" organizations for protest and reform, etc. What ideas are not getting through, and why not? Where does de facto censorship exist? And how does it function? The study will conclude by defining both recent changes in the pattern of intellectual communication and the possibilities of various alternatives. The result should hopefully be a sociology not of knowledge but of the dissemination of knowledge. Both the example and evidence of such "hidden histories" might influence future studies of American thought.
I would expect to undertake this research in the coming academic year, during which I have no permanent commitments greater than a one-day-per-week college teaching position. Since this project should take at least a year to complete, may I please request support totaling $6,500, which I budget as follows: rent, $2,200; travel, $800; food, clothing, etc., $1,500; typist for final draft, $400; books and magazines, $500; postage and telephone, $600; writing supplies, $300; and miscellaneous, $400. I anticipate incorporating this research into articles suitable for periodical publication and the definitive published version of "The End of Intelligent Writing," as well as the history of post-WWII American thought on which I have been laboring fitfully for the past few years. I have not applied to any other foundation for aid in this project, whose earlier research was financed entirely by previous free-lancing. ~(1972)~
* * *
~A COURSE ON LITERATURE AND THE ARTS TODAY~
The course would begin by introducing essential distinctions between high art and commercial art, quality and trash (or rare pleasures and common), past art and contemporary, and then proceed to introduce, in the most comprehensible terms possible, some of the most interesting developments in post-WWII, mostly American poetry, fiction, theater, painting, sculpture, film, music, dance, architecture, television and mixed-media arts. The emphasis will be upon differences in the various media--how each has capabilities unavailable to the others. The functions and varieties of "criticism" will also be discussed. These presentations will draw upon my books on ~The New American Arts~ (1965, co-authored) and ~Metamorphosis in the Arts~ (1972-73). I would also expect to invite practitioners, were funds and/or individuals willing, to introduce their work to the class, or the students could visit studios, gallerys, museums, concerts and poetry readings whenever possible. The course's primary purpose is basic literacy in all the arts; secondary themes include interrelations among the arts and conceptions of quality applicable to all arts. Toward the end of the course, students will be asked to submit at least one creative project in any artistic domain, and these will be discussed in class. ~(1972)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP IN ART CRITICISM~
Research toward a critical and historical study of the influence of avant-garde art upon American literature in the twentieth century. Rather than emphasize the interrelations of prominent individuals, I want to define precisely the major formal revolutions of modernist painting music, dance and film and then identify parallel formal developments in modernist writing. My assumption, which is derived from previous research, is that structural innovations have originated largely in nonliterary arts, for what we call "experimental writing" is generally the result of applying (or adapting) these structural ideas to literary creation. Among these innovations I would already identify collage, cubist perspective, constructivism, serialization, reductionism, intermedia; but I anticipate that further systematic investigation will reveal more subtle developments that will in turn suggest literary parallels. The enclosed essay on "Dada and the Future of Fiction" represents an early foray into such analysis; present research will hopefully be less breathless. I regard this work as preceding a long-projected comprehensive historical and critical study of the emerging "new literature." ~(1972)~
* * *
~A COURSE ON ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF LITERATURE~
The exploration, individually and collectively, of radical ways of creating fiction, poetry and theater. The intention is not to inculcate a particular style but to encourage, if not insist, that participants work in ways previously unknown to them, as either writers and readers. The general aim is strengthening the imagination, both through one's own creative endeavors and in appreciating the innovative works of others. The course will open with the instructor's survey of pattern poetry, words in space, mixed-means theater, fictions without words, "concretism," and other new forms yet unnamed. Students are expected to submit their own works for scrutiny not only by the instructor but by the class. The emphasis will be upon courage and adventure rather than slickness and familiarity. Enrollment presumes some experience with conventional literary forms and a commitment to the course's purposes. The instructor has written ~The Theatre of Mixed Means~ (1968) and edited ~Imaged Words & Worded Images~ (1970), in addition to contributing his own stylistically radical poems and stories to magazines and anthologies here and abroad. ~(1973)~
* * *
~ADVANCED WORKSHOP IN EXPERIMENTAL WRITING~
This would attempt to get students to write in ways other than those they have already developed. Therefore, its first rule would be that you can't do what you're already done. For that reason the workshop would be restricted to advanced students who would be required to submit samples of their work, less to determine their acceptability than to establish their principal style(s). The course will open with a collective effort to define, in formalistic ways, established ways of writing in each genre. With the help of invited guests (and a few of my own anthologies), we would then study the emerging radical alternatives in the nonliterary arts. All this would serve as a background to encouraging students to experiment, ~literally~, with various alternative structures, both known and, hopefully, unknown. The aim is not to make everyone an avant-garde writer, as I suspect that most participants will continue to concentrate upon their previous styles, but to expand not only their arsenal of imaginative techniques but also their awareness of how artistic discoveries can be turned to personal uses. I don't know of any course like this in the U.S., partly because very few people could teach it. Nonetheless, I think it would successfully supplement a writing program based, as most of them are, upon poetry or fiction. I'd prefer teaching in the evening, no more than one night a week; and since the weekly seminar I now conduct numbers thirty-five, a class of two dozen prospective writers does not seem forbidding. Indeed, given this course's emphasis upon artistic variousness, more people would, until a certain number, be more desirable than less. ~(1973)~
* * *
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF "THE NEW POETRIES IN NORTH AMERICA"~
Now is the time to do a rigorously avant-garde anthology of North American poetry. In my reading and critical writing over the past few years, I have discovered several radically alternative kinds of poetry; and though works in these veins occasionally appear in survey anthologies or collections of only one kind, no one has ever devoted a book entirely to them. I'm speaking, roughly, of four general categories of new poetry--visual poetry, where the principal means of enhancing language is pictorial; sound poetry, where musical qualities, rather than syntax, are the unifying factor in a poem; minimal poetry, which realizes drastic reductions in the amount of language; and alternatively structured work, which is a looser category of radical poetic options. As these terms suggest, my criterion for newness in art is strictly formalist. My sense of experimental poetry is more elaborately defined in the seventeenth chapter of ~The End of Intelligent Writing~ (1974). Versions of this essay have also appeared in Canadian, British and Australian periodicals. Certain ideas were presented in a television program I wrote and narrated for Camera Three (CBS network). Some of these poets are also included in an exhibition, ~Language & Structure~, that I am presently preparing for an opening in Toronto and subsequent travel around North America. I expect to do more writing and lecturing about this subject.
The anthology I have in mind would have a categorical organization similar to that of my ~Possibilities of Poetry~ (Delta, 1970), and I regard "The New Poetries" (note plural) as an appropriate sequel to that earlier book. This new collection will, like its predecessor, open with a substantial critical introduction and close with an appendix of bio-bibliographies. It would be unrealistic to provide a specific table of contents at this point, as final selection depends not only upon further research but upon availability and budget. However, among the poets I would expect to include are Vito Acconci, Charles Amirkhanian, Bill Bissett, George Brecht, John Cage, Clark Coolidge, Kenneth Gangemi, John Giorno, Dick Higgins, Jack Kerouac, Robert Lax, Jackson Mac Low, bp Nichol, Norman Henry Pritchard II and Emmett Williams. I would also try to include the appropriate eccentric works of poets with more conventional reputations, such as Thomas Merton and Edmund Wilson. I regard "The New Poetries" as a prelude to another anthology, tenatively entitled "The American Tradition" that would represent a similarly radical reinterpretation of excellence in the history of American poetry.
One historical precursor for this anthology is Donald Allen's ~The New American Poetry~ (1960), which similarly gathered together kinds of poetry that were neglected at the time (and were often, like current experimental work, dismissed as not poetry). Not only did this Allen anthology change our sense of recent American poetry, but it remains in print fifteen years after its initial publication; I suspect that my book will do as well. The only recent anthology that partially broaches this new terrain is Ronald Gross and George Quasha's ~Open Poetry~ (1973), which is grossly fat, overpriced and underedited. The book I have in mind would, by contrast, run approximately 320 pages. "The New Poetries" would ideally become ~the~ concluding book in survey courses of modern poetry and American literature, and it would appeal hopefully not only to aspiring poets and to poetry readers but also to reviewers and purchasers of my previous anthologies of avant-garde writing. Were this book contracted before the end of 1975, I would expect to deliver it by the fall of 1976. Since I am personally acquainted with most of the book's contributors, I would prefer obtaining the permissions myself. ~(1974)~
* * *
Youth must distinguish carefully between the essential duties and the nonessential, between those which make for the realization of the best common ideas, and those which make merely for the maintenance of a dogma or unchallenged superstition.--Randolph Bourne, "The Dodging of Pressures" (1913)
~A CRITICAL BOOK ON "CONTEMPORARIES"~
For several years now, both publishers and fellow writers have been suggesting that I do a comprehensive critical book on the younger generation of American literary writers. I have continuously followed their works, from my earliest days as a book-reviewing critic, and have kept annotated copies of their books. Several of my anthologies have included many works by my chronological contemporaries. Perhaps because my own writing has taken various forms, I have met colleagues in several fields--not just fellow essayists but novelists and poets too; and my memory of these conversations tends to be strong. My book on ~The End of Intelligent Writing~ (1974) includes two chapters on that generation born between 1937 and 1947, which is to say that they graduated from college between 1959 and 1968 and will thus be in their thirties in 1977. The fact that visiting European scholars frequently ask me about "the new writers" indicates, I should think, a recognition of my continuing concern.
Whereas my earlier essays on younger American writers were mostly synoptic, the book I am now proposing, tentatively entitled "Contemporaries," would focus upon approximately thirty prominent individuals. Organized as a series of personal profiles, averaging 2,500 words in length, this book would describe and analyze their particular literary activities. The essays will be diverse in approach, emphasizing what is important about each person--a single masterpiece, or a developing concern, or a body of significant writing, or literary endeavors other than writing. As these portraits will deal with writers as well as work, I will describe, wherever possible, the people and their lives. Though the tone of the book will be generally sympathetic, I will not resist considered critical judgments. The model in my own previous writing would be the profiles that became ~Master Minds~.
One good reason for doing this book now is the widespread sense that it ought to be done--that someone ought to organize our critical understanding of a chaotic scene; and if I felt that another critic could do it better, I would gladly step aside. I regard the book as an opportunity to cast my accumulating perceptions and judgments into a definitive form.
I tentatively expect that "Contemporaries" will include chapters on most of the following individuals, listed alphabetically for convenience.
Vito Acconci Richard Goldstein Thomas Pynchon
Renata Adler Dick Higgins Ishmael Reed
Margaret Atwood Erica Jong
Bill Bissett William Melvin Kelley Aram Saroyan
Steward Brand John Leonard David Shapiro
Clark Coolidge Lucy R. Lippard Sam Shepherd
Jerome Charyn Richard Meltzer Robert Stone
Michael Crichton Jack Newfield James Tate
bp Nichol Ronald Tavel
Frances FitzGerald John Ford Noonan
W. I. Thompson
Richard Foreman Joyce Carol Oates Diane Wakoski
Kenneth Gangemi Norman Henry Pritchard II Anne Waldman
The order of the chapters will hopefully develop an appropriate logic, and I am sure that certain themes will be reitereated at appropriate points throughout the book.
"Contemporaries" ought to appeal to readers of my other critical books and literary anthologies, especially to those who have been following, so to speak, my earlier writings on this literary generation. More specifically, it should be important to aspiring writers, younger readers, teachers of courses in contemporary literature (in all genres), and many others. Where this book contracted soon, I would probably finish it within eighteen months. ~(1974)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP FOR VISUAL ART~
Further work in "constructivist fiction," both for projected books and periodical contributions, as well as larger formats for visual (gallery) display. For an introduction to constructivist fictions, see the enclosed samples. ~(1975)~
* * *
~LITERARY ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE AT A PUBLIC TELEVISION STATION~
Of all the arts, perhaps the most ~mis~treated within television culture is literature. Adaptations, enactments, readings and other methods have attempted to re-create literary works visually, but what is proposed here is a television station's inviting a well-known experimental writer to approach the possibility of creating for the medium from scratch.
"Author Richard Kostelanetz has already crossed the barrier into sound by participating in WXXI-FM radio project, the prize-winning Intergalactic Poetry Energy Circus. For several months he has been talking to our television staff about extending his ideas into the visual medium. During a one-week residency next fall, the facilities of a fully professional environment will be made available to him to test the limits of sound ~and image~ within the broadcast medium.
"Among the ideas he is considering: (1) Declaration of Independence: 'The making of chroma-keyed footage of me reading the same text at various distances from a single repositioned camera or before cameras at various distances.' (2) Autochronology: 'An autobiographical piece that involves me performing live before a camera in addition to a voice-over narration of me reading a text that will also appear, thanks to a character-generator, on the screen.' (3) 'Reading aloud, in some inventive way, visual poems that appear simultaneously on the screen.'" ~(1977)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP FOR CREATIVE WRITERS~
Further work in experimental fiction. ~(1977)~
* * *
I repeat: It suffices that a book be possible for it to exist. Only the impossible is excluded.--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel," ~Ficciones~ (1956)
~ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE, WNET VIDEO LAB~
Initially a professional prose writer, I began in the late sixties to do various kinds of highly experimental creative work--visual poetry, minimal fiction, visual fiction, nonsyntactic prose--all of which have been widely published, exhibited and anthologized, as well as acknowledged in critical histories of American literature. In the past three years, I have begun to work horizontally, out of printed rectangular pages into other media, such as ladderbooks (4 inches high, several feet long), newsprint books, posters, drawings, silkscreen prints and photolinen. As a guest artist at WXXI-FM in Rochester, New York, March, 1975, I made audiotapes that involved multitracking and inventive microphone placement, among other techniques, to realize initially literary texts in radically different experiential forms. The resulting audiotapes, a unique aural experience, have been broadcast over WXXI-FM itself, the National Public Radio Network, the National Educational Broadcasting Association network, and WBAI-FM (in a two-hour program, devoted entirely to my audioart, which will be rebroadcast on 4 December, 1977, Sunday, 9:30 p.m.). These audiotapes have also been aired at many universities, art museums and comparable "concert" situations. The Intergalactic Poetry Energy Circus, of which I was a principal part, won an award for innovative cultural programming from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1977. In July 1975 and then again in May 1976, I returned to WXXI-FM to make other tapes, and I expect to return there again.
In September 1975 I was guest artist in video at the Synapse studio of Syracuse University, where I exploited the indigenous possibilities of the video medium to realize in distinctive ways four initially verbal texts. For one story, "Plateaux," I introduced an evolving moire' pattern; for "Excelsior," which switches rapidly between two voices (audible on the videotape), I created two abstract kinetic fields, and then swiftly alternated between them. The central work in my initial videotape, ~Three Prose Pieces~ (1975), is "Recyclings," in which nonsyntactic prose texts are read by several nonsynchronous voices, all of which are mine. The color image consists only of pairs of identical lips (mine), moving synchronously with the audible speech. That is, the first section has one voice and one pair of lips; the last section, devoted to a different text, has six voices and six pairs of lips, which were made by laying one atop the others, through six generations. Thanks to the technique of video superimposition, I was able to make a chorus of myself (and my lips). For ~Openings & Closings~ (1975), a fifty-five-minute tape, I instructed a populous crew to switch rapidly between black-and-white and color images, in response to switches in my own aural declamation, ideally making each new image as radically different as possible from its predecessors. It was my aim to reproduce visually the kinds of leaps in time and space that characterize the printed text of 330 one-sentence stories.
What I should like now would be another collaborative situation in which I could do alternate versions of these earlier video pieces. I belatedly discovered that "Recyclings" should have been done with two-inch videotape, which would "hold" several generations of overdubbed imagery far better than the one-inch tape we used at Synapse. Second, the imagery of "Plateaux" could be improved, or a wholly different visual experiment tried. Anyone who has collaborated in several audio studios knows that each one offers different inputs, in both technologies and personal tastes, which ultimately influence artistic output; and I think that the same principle is applicable to video studios, in my continuing quest to make definitive realizations of my initially verbal texts. I have been reliably informed that no other video artist is using the medium in this way, and it is commonly known that few published writers have made creative video, as distinct from documentary video. The attached packet contains my much-reprinted essay, "Literary Video," which includes a general descripton of personal purposes that I take to be artistically unique.
Beyond that, I would hope as well to bring new, previously unrecorded prose texts to the Video Lab. One of these, "Declaration of Independence," would involve making my face into a chorus of itself, which would require not only multigenerational passing of imagery (as in "Recyclings") but also the multiple imagemaker (that I saw in Ed Emshwiller's ~Polobolus~, on your demonstration tape). Another nonsyntactic prose text, "Prunings," would probably require an extended narrative of kinetic abstract shapes, to complement visually the electronically processed prose declamation.
For a retrospective exhibition of my creative work in all media, ~Wordsand~, which will open at the Gallery of Simon Fraser University and subsequently tour, I should also like to make a videotape catalogue, so to speak, in which I would introduce the various phases of my creative work; examples of it would be cut into the tape as I talked. (In format and structure, this would resemble the twenty-eight-minute feature program, "Poetry to See & Poetry to Hear," that I wrote and narrated for Camera Three, CBS network, May 1974, a tape of which is presently distributed by the New York State Education Department.) This documentary videotape would then become a keystone in the video component of the exhibition ~Wordsand~, which would include an audiotape catalogue and a conventional spine-bound book-catalogue as well. Like the audiotape and the book, this video ~Wordsand~ would survive the gallery tour to be a documentary in its own right. Given the large amount of visual and verbal material to cut into the basic narrative, I suspect that editing this tape would require computer-assistance. Otherwise, my pieces involve a minimum of props, travel and setting. If there is anyone on camera, it is myself.
Having also worked with words (visual poetry) and numbers (numerical art), I should like to experiment with your Vidifont character-generator, probably in sequential animation. A machine of this kind was introduced to me at Synapse in 1976, but I was not able to use it during my week there. One advantage of an extended residency at a place convenient to my Manhattan home (unlike Synapse) will be, I assume, sufficient time to discover and consider the unique possibilities that video offers to all strains of my artistic activity. ~(1977)~
* * *
In 1917 Ezra Pound hoped to edit magazines as whole entities--having the kind of complete|ness, formal integrity, structure and continuity or progression you find in a good poem or novel. . . . Since Pound's efforts we have had--as far as I know--only one gut innovation in magazine editing technique. That came in 1970 when Henry Korn and Richard Kostelanetz founded ~Assembling~.--Karl Young, "Assemblings," ~Margins~ (1975)
Since the two recent ~Assemblings~ are 40% larger than their largest predecessors (and ~Eighth~ had to appear in two volumes), it is clear that we are ~serving~ a large number of writers and artists, mostly American, who would not otherwise be so freely published. In line with the stated intentions of "Development Grants," we are applying to do three "Grand Assemblings" which will differ from the current versions in that ~we will print and bind~ all camera-ready material submitted by invitees (rather than requiring them to submit a thousand copies of their contribution, appropriately sized). In this respect, the "Grand Assemblings" will resemble the one-shot ~Critical Assembling~, funded by NEA-Literature for 1978 for publication in 1979. For "First Grand Assembling," we will invite at least four hundred possible contributors to submit no more than two camera-ready pages of anything "otherwise unpublishable" that they want to include. For "Second Grand Assembling," we will invite at least four hundred possible contributors to submit no more than three sheets into a thousand-page book; and for "Third Grand Assembling," we would invite five hundred experimentalists to submit no more than four pages. The results would not only be a grand inventory of contemporary literary possibilities, but also be truly incomparable annuals, the best in America since ~New Directions~ of the forties or ~American Caravan~ (1927-36). Copies will go gratis to the contributors, who constitute the initial sophisticated audience; and the remainder will be sold mainly to libraries and collectors. By 1982, "Grand Assemblings" should be economically self-sustaining in some form. We think that "Grand Assemblings" constitute the most propitious way to extend our editorial concept, which Karl Young identified in ~Margins~ as the "only one gut innovation in magazine editing technique" since Ezra Pound's ~Exile~. ~Assembling~ was recently honored with an exhibition at the Pratt Graphics Center in New York City, as perhaps the first U.S. periodical-small press to have an institutional show since ~The Dial~. ~(1978)~
* * *
~ART RETROSPECTIVES ON VIDEOTAPE AND AUDIOTAPE~
In the autumn of 1978, the Gallery of Simon Fraser University initiated a comprehensive traveling exhibition of Richard Kostelanetz's art with words, numbers and lines, in books, prints, audiotapes, videotapes, film and a hologram. In the preface to the accompanying catalogue, it is suggested that just as the gallery space is an exhibition medium, so can both audiotapes and videotapes be. Since ~Wordsand~, as the exhibition is called, includes both these media, it would be appropriate at this time to do a comprehensive audio presentation about this work and then a videotape exposition as well. In each of these exhibitions, the aim is to bring scattered work together--to show where the art has been, how the different parts relate to one another, and where the art is going. Whereas the gallery remains the incomparable form for exhibiting large prints and drawings, the electronic media should be more effective at presenting such durational arts as audiotapes, videotapes and films. We presently request support to produce entirely on our own initiative, renting equipment and studios as necessary, a one-hour audio ~Wordsand~ and a one-hour video ~Wordsand~; both have already been scripted. The principal precursor for this in Kostelanetz's experience is not his creative video but the program "Poetry to Hear & Poetry to See" which he wrote, organized and narrated for Camera Three-WCBS (1974); a videotape copy of it is enclosed. Both the audio and video ~Wordsand~ will not only be exhibited on his personal tours and in conjunction with later installations of the gallery exhibition, but they will also be offered to public channels that have previously broadcast his work--Soho Artists Video, Synapse, WXXI-FM, WNYC-FM, WBAI-FM, as well as National Public Radio and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. ~(1978)~
* * *
~"AMERICAN WRITING IN 1980"~
Extending the compositional principle of ~A Critical Assembling~, funded
in 1978 by NEA-Literature for publication in 1979, we should like to publish
a compendious anthology entitled "American Writing in 1980." It
would be realized in the following innovative way: two thousand U.S. writers,
working in a wide variety of modes, would be invited to contribute a single
page, 5" by 8", camera-ready for offset reproduction, in an alphabetically
organized book. This invitation would state that the invitee's contribution
may consist of literally anything he or she wishes: a fresh manuscript in
whole or in part, a page cut from a previously published book, a resume, a
manifesto, a list of previous publications, a display that would include both
examples and commentary, or anything else that can be reduced to a single
5" by 8" mass-
reproduced format. Every page received from those invited will appear intact. Were this proposal fully funded, invitations would go out in May 1979, with a deadline of 1 October, for book publication at the beginning of 1980: one copy will be mailed gratis to every contributor. The book's principal editor has produced over two dozen anthologies, both selective and inclusive, historical as well as prophetic. As indubitably the most populous anthology of its sort ever published in the U.S., "American Writing in 1980" will ~serve~ more writers than any other and no doubt stand as a monument for our time. Tied to a particular calendar milestone, this proposal will not be made again. ~(1978)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP FOR MUSIC COMPOSITION~
Further work in text-sound art, which is my term for language creations whose primary means of both coherence and enhancement are based in sound, rather than syntax or semantics. This work will include the realization of several new tapes of varying complexity and varying duration (including an evening-length "opera" in this mode), as well as the redoing of previous work whose current realizations are technically inferior. Some of this composition will require the expensive rental of a synthesizer and a multitrack audio studio, not only for the creation but for subsequent postproduction (e.g., mixing down into quadriphonic and stereo tapes suitable for concert performance and radio broadcast). Further text-sound work with videotape is also a possibility.
Thanks for your request for a "more detailed description of the work proposed." One hesitates to give away too many professional secrets to a jury of peers, especially prior to realization, let alone dissemination; but here are a few compositions I would like to do:
(1) A more sophisticated ~Praying to the Lord~, whose initial version was produced on primitive machinery at the Western Front in Vancouver, BC, a year ago. Make two basic tapes, one of the Lord's Prayer in English and the second of a comparable Hebrew prayer. Then quadri-canonize each of these modules through five generations, so that four voices in staggered succession appear on the second generation tape, and then sixteen voices on the third generation, up to 256 on the fifth generation. Should I have access to supersophisticated equipment (i.e., a two-inch tape recorder with sixteen or more tracks), I should consider a sixth generation. More professional machinery would enable me to eliminate the noise and hiss that plague my current tape, which has nonetheless been aired over public radio here.
(2) "Counting," in which I count to one hundred, using one voice for the number "one," two variations of my own voice for the number two, up to one hundred voices of me, each preferably different in quality, for the number one hundred. This should be spectrumized; and given the number of voices I want to process, obviously the more audiotracks that are available the better the results will be.
(3) A series of pieces involving tapedelay of nonsyntactic language, so that related words are heard simultaneously in varying arrangements.
(4) Further experiments along the line of "Recyclings," which require that the spectator hear (and distinguish) several words simultaneously, much as a musical chord incorporates several notes simultaneously.
(5) My plans for an evening-length "opera" I would rather keep to myself, but suffice it to say that I would function as both "the composer" and "the librettist" for this work. Okay, let me just hint that it will deal with the rhyming properties of language.
Even though this work is based upon language, it is ~music~ in that it uses structures and machinery more typical of music than "literature." That accounts for why the primary means of both coherence and enhancement are, as I noted in my original application, sound, rather than syntax or semantics.
At the suggestion of a member of your staff, I also enclose a videotape of mine, realized two years ago at the Synapse studio of Syracuse University. The third piece on the tape, roughly six minutes down, incorporates a musical piece into an audiovisual experience. (The overdubbed imagery is my lips.) The first two pieces on the videotape I would classify as closer to "literature" than ~music~. Let me suggest that categories are useful in classifying work, not people, especially at a time when the most adventurous artists want to work in more than one area, at once importing ideas from other arts and yet respecting the particular possibilities of the art at hand, which is in this case ~music~. ~(1978)~
* * *
~You wrote two filmscripts too, didn't you?~
Yes, but they failed. They were published as books.--Richard Burgin, ~Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges~ (1969)
~AN ASSEMBLING OF "AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY IN 1980"~
Following the innovative book-compositional principles of ~Assembling~, we will invite four hundred notable American photographers to submit one 8" x 10" photograph apiece for inclusion in an alphabetically organized book. All photographs submitted by those invited will be included in "American Photography in 1980," which will thus become the most open and comprehensive inventory of the art in the U.S. today: 368 pages, 8 1/2" x 11", 300-line screened halftones, 70-lb. coated stock, 2,000 copies. One copy will go gratis to every contributor. ~(1978)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP IN ART CRITICISM~
May I propose an extended critical essay on ~polyartists~, which is my coinage (acknowledged by Merriam Websters) for individuals who do distinguished work in two or more unadjacent media. (Sculpture and painting are as adjacent as poetry and fiction, or video and film, while painting and film, say, are not adjacent. A polyartist should not be confused with a ~dilettante~, whose work in several areas is undistinguished.) After describing the polyartistic imagination in general, I hope to deal with specific figures, defining qualities common to a particular polyartist's work in two or more domains and/or identifying those fundamental esthetic ideas that appear in various arts. My hypothesis is that the polyartist should be considered a radically different kind of artist. The essay's introduction will then survey the total work of such great modern polyartists as Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, L. Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, Hans Richter, Hans (Jean) Arp, Jean Cocteau and Wyndham Lewis.
Most of the essay will be devoted to discussing in critical detail those contemporaries, mostly American, who extend this tradition: John Cage, R. Buckminster Fuller, Claes Oldenburg, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer, Vito Acconci, Tom Phillips, Andy Warhol, Alison Knowles, Leonora Carrington, Robert Morris, and Dick Higgins, among others. I expect that this essay, once completed, will appear in a periodical and perhaps be incorporated into an illustrated book. ~(1978)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP FOR CREATIVE WRITERS~
Further work in experimental writing. ~(1978)~
* * *
The shift from object to concept denotes disdain for the notion of commodities--the
sacred cow of this culture. Conceptual artists produce a professional commitment,
that restores art to artists, rather than to "money vendors." The
withdrawal of art into itself may be its saving grace. In the same sense that
science is for scientists, and philosophy is for philosophers, art is for
Ursula Meyer, ~Conceptual Art~ (1972)
~THE UPDATING, REVISION AND PUBLICATION OF "TEXT-SOUND ART IN NORTH AMERICA"~
A fifty-page essay was initially written in 1976, after years of informal
research, under a modest NEA Visual Arts Services Grant. Text-sound art is
my definition for the intermedium between language and music, where words
are enhanced primarily in terms of sound, rather than syntax or semantics.
sound art has been performed live in concerts, broadcast over media, and recorded on tapes and records. This essay was, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive survey of North American text-sound artists ever published; at minimum, it makes everyone aware of American exemplars of an art that has received far more attention in Europe. An abridgment of this essay appeared in ~Performing Arts Journal~ II/2-3 (Fall 1977; Winter 1978); a more severe abridgment appeared in the ~New York Times~ (24 July 1977). People continually ask for copies. In an appendix to the NEA report, I proposed an anthology of printed materials relevant to the art, "Text-Sound Texts." The production of camera-ready copy for this book was funded by NEA Visual Arts Services in 1978.
What I should like to do now, with requested support, is update the previous essay, revising and enlarging it to utilize newer knowledge about and experience of text-sound art (traveling if necessary to secure it). The definitive essay, "Text-Sound Art in North America," I would then published in a paperback edition of two thousand copies that would probably be 5" x 8" in size, ninety-six pages in length, and inexpensive in price. As an experienced smallpressman, I would handle all aspects of book production myself, and copies of the book would be consigned to the major small-press distributors. In the past two years, I have proposed this book to several commercial publishers, university presses, and even noncommercial publishers, yet all for their own reasons were unable to contract it. Nonetheless, an audience for this book exists, initially among practitioners, who have no other source for comprehensive knowledge of what other North Americans are doing, and then among the producers of radio and other audio programs who would like to air a language art--a "poetry," if you will--that is particularly appropriate to both their medium and our times. ~(1979)~
* * *
~FELLOWSHIP FOR CREATIVE WRITERS~
Further work in experimental writing, including a series of "Autobiographies" with various structures, in various media. ~(1979)~
* * *
~PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS OF "EPIPHANIES"~
~Epiphanies~ is a large collection of single-sentence fictions that have no necessary relation to one another. These are offered to literary editors to excerpt to their tastes. The idea is that editors are invited to extract from the entire text the individual sentences they wish to publish--it is, after all, the forte of ~editors~ to select. These sentences may then be published in any order, as long as the published arrangement clarifies that the sentences were not otherwise connected to one another--say, with extra space between them, or separate paragraphs, or blocks of type afloat in the space of the page. Publishers should consider this an opportunity for innovative design and typesetting--for doing something different not only from what they usually do but from what others have done. The sentences in ~Epiphanies~ will also become the material of an audiotape, a film, a videotape, and perhaps a book, as well as a gallery installation in which all printed versions will also be exhibited, with acknowledgment to their respective editors. ~(1979)~
* * *
I've written. . . a poem about a friend who promised us a picture. He died. He's a well-known Argentine painter, Larco, and then I thought of the picture he had promised us, promised my wife and me--I met him in the street--and then I thought that in a sense he had given us a picture because he had intended to do so, and so the picture was in some mystic way or other with us, except that the picture was perhaps a richer picture because it was a picture that kept growing and changing with time and we could imagine it in many different ways, and then in the end I thanked him for that unceasing, shifting picture, saying that, of course, he wouldn't find any place on the four walls of a room, but still he'd be there with us.--Jorge Luis Borges, in conversation with Richard Burgin (1969)
~AN ASSEMBLING OF "AMERICAN ART IN 1980"~
Extending the book-compositional principles of ~Assembling~, an annual compilation that I have coproduced since 1970, I should like to publish a compendious anthology entitled "American Art in 1980." It would be realized in the following innovative way: Eight hundred upper-rank U.S. visual artists, working in a wide variety of modes, would be invited to contribute one page apiece, 8" x 10", camera-ready for offset reproduction in an alphabetically organized book. The invitation would state that this contribution may consist of literally anything that artist wishes: a black-and-white (Veloxed) reproduction of self-selected work, a manifesto, an original drawing, a resume, a compressed catalogue, a proposal, a display that would include both examples and commentary, or any other possibility that fits into a single 8" x 10" mass-reproduced format. Every page received from those invited will appear intact. Were this proposal fully funded, invitations would go out in the summer of 1979 with a deadline of 1 October, 1979, for book publication at the beginning of 1980. When the grant is securely in hand, other funding sources will be canvased for support sufficient to enlarge the number of pages (and thus the number of invited contributors). As indubitably the most comprehensive anthology of its sort ever published in the U.S., this will no doubt stand as a monument for our time. Drawing upon my experience in organizing and producing such compilations, I would expect to publish the book in an edition of two thousand copies, 8 1/2" x 11", 70-paper, perfect-bound and individually shrink-wrapped; one copy will be mailed gratis to every contributor. Costs of printing and postage can be expected to run at least $8,000. The remaining copies would be distributed by Jaap Reitman, Printed Matter and other specialists in contemporary art books. If contributors tell their friends and colleagues about the book. the other copies will quickly be gone. It is hoped that everyone professionally interested in the subject will want to have "American Art in 1980." ~(1979)~
* * *
~A FILM OF "CONSTRUCTIVIST FICTIONS"~
The production by Richard Kostelanetz and Peter Longauer, collaborating as equals, of a ninety-minute, three-part film of Constructivist Fictions is to be a collection of unrelated episodes (expanding the demonstration film), a single sustained narrative ("Symmetries"), and a single narrative with overlapping sequential parts ("Intermix").
Constructivist Fictions are line drawings that change in systemic sequence. The systems informing these changes may be additive, reductive, permutational, or combinational, among other syntactic techniques. One recurrent theme is variation and development within a systemic constraint. In film, unlike graphic media, the rate of progression can be manipulated, so that the transitions occur at precisely determined speeds that can, for example, be constantly slow, medium or fast, or progressively accelerating or decelerating. Film enables us to control not only the sequential ordering of the individual images but the time allowed for their perception as well. Such cinematic devices as fades and dissolves, when judiciously employed, serve the ends of Constructivist Fictions and become elements of it, widening the potentialities of the work itself and further enhancing the esthetic experience. Although the filming of Constructivist Fictions depends upon animation techniques, the result is not animation in the usual sense. Rather, filmed Constructivist Fictions become, we feel, visual poetry of a precise mathematical order comparable to music and could indeed be defined as a visual approximation of music. Both artists have shown their work widely, Kostelanetz at universities and art museums, Longauer on both public and commercial television. ~(1979)~
* * *
~A FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN SOUND POETRY~
~Text-Sound Texts~ is the title of an anthology that Richard Kostelanetz produced under a 1978 grant from NEA-Visual Arts Services. This fall, its four-hundred-plus camera-ready pages will be delivered to William Morrow, Inc., which has contracted to publish both hardback and paperback editions in the spring of 1980. Since this collection is the first of its kind exclusively of North American work, several of us sound poets would like to organize in the wake of its publication the First American Sound Poetry Festival, surely in New York (at a major local museum), probably with satellite festivals elsewhere in the U.S. (e.g., San Francisco and Ann Arbor). At these festivals, contributors to the book would present their text-sound works, on the average of three per evening for twenty sessions. Although European countries have frequently presented comprehensive sound-poetry festivals, it is unfortunate, as well as indicative, that none has yet happened in the U.S. These performances should also be professionally recorded for subsequent radio broadcast. Contributors to the book are listed, along with their works, on an enclosed table of contents. Some of these people are better known as "composers" or "painters"; nonetheless, all of them create language works that are best defined as "sound poetry." This application requests support for honoraria, travel reimbursements, organizing costs and recording expenses for at least sixty participating poets. This First American Sound Poetry Festival should be regarded as a prelude to the Fifteenth International Festival--the first to take place in the U.S.--hopefully in 1982. ~(1979)~
* * *
In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman.--Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Con|ceptual Art" (1967)
~THE PREPARATION OF A SERIES OF "AUTOBIOGRAPHIES"~
in a wide variety of forms and media, including a book or, more likely, books;
poster-maps; essays of diverse lengths; an audiotape; a videotape; and perhaps
a film and hologram. All of these are genres and media in which I have previously
worked. Composing a self-portrait from many perspectives in time and space,
including dimensions omitted from most earlier autobiographies (e.g., the
actual sound of a subject's voice), I hope to allow the reader-
spectator a greater opportunity to interpret a wealth of data--not only the biographical facts, but also the ways in which these facts are presented. My experimental hypothesis is that the truest autobiography of a many-sided person would necessarily be even more various in its approaches. An abundance of Autobiographies could perhaps realize a complexity of self-understanding and self-presentation that would be less likely, if not impossible, in a more conventional narrative. As a trained historian, I am less interested in myself per se than in the exploration of biographical structures, which is to say the various ways in which a complex life can be understood. In part for convenience, the life I choose is my own. ~(1979)~
* * *
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF "THE OTHER POETRIES OF NEW YORK CITY"~
Since the spring of 1979, Charles Doria and I have been collecting poetry written in New York City in ~languages other than English~. We are requesting funds to prepare a special issue of ~Assembling~ of these poems, reprinting camera-ready offset the original texts (and typesetting previously unpublished poems), ~en face~ from translations, detailed glosses or other explanatory material that Dr. Doria will prepare in collaboration with the authors and sympathetic translators. It can be expected that this proposed project will include poems initially written in French (including Creole), Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukranian, Polish, Chinese, Russian, Greek and Lithuanian, among other languages. Announcements of this project will appear in the literary press at the end of 1979, and we expect that practitioners will advise one another to submit their exemplary works. Dr. Doria is personally proficient in Greek, Latin, Coptic, French, Italian, French and German, and he has translated from most of these languages. We expect that this ~Assembling~ of "The Other Poetries of New York City" will run at least four hundred pages and be printed in a perfect-bound edition of at least two thousand copies. There should be extensive publicity in the New York City ethnic press and distribution to ethnic bookstores, as nothing like this anthology has ever appeared in New York (or the U.S.) before. ~(1979)~
* * *
~"WORDWORKS: POEMS SELECTED & NEW"~
This will be Richard Kostelanetz's sixth book of poetry. Within its ninety-six pages will be the best and most anthologized poems from his earlier collection: "Disintegration," "Live-Die," "Concentric," and "Nymphomania," among others. It will also contain illustrations of his recent poetry hologram.
The intent is to cull a volume that is better than any of his previous individual books: ~Visual Language~ (1970), ~I Articulations~ (1974), ~Rain Rains Rain~ (1975), ~Portraits from Memory~ (1975), ~Illuminations~ (1977).
"Wordworks" would benefit from appearing in the wake of Kostelanetz's collected essays on poetry, ~The Old Poetries and the New~ (1981), in the University of Michigan Press's distinguished series, "Poets on Poetry."
His poems have been published and exhibited around the world, and they have also been included in over thirty-five anthologies. In recent histories of American literature (e.g., ~Literary History of the United States~, ~The Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing~), he is commonly acknowledged as one of America's major experimental poets.
Since little in the book requires fresh typesetting, the manuscript is nearly entirely camera-ready, and a photocopy of it can be submitted to book publishers promising a quick reply. ~(1980)~
* * *
My principal multimedia project at present is the production of a series of ~Autobiographies~. My experimental hypothesis is this: since it is the nature of the autobiographer to leave out more than he puts in, the truest autobiography would be various in its approaches, each element ideally containing something that the others lack. The "Audioautobiography" will draw upon recordings of my voice, the voices of my family and friends, recordings of passages from books that have influenced me, and historic audio materials, reproducing not only sounds from my life but, literally, the sound of me, which are two dimensions that previous autobiographers, dealing only with the medium of print, were unable to include. Examples of extrinsic excerpts include FDR announcing the end of WWII, Ralph Ellison reading the opening of ~Invisible Man~ (for which both tape and permission have already been obtained), All-State Choir in 1956, memoirs of friends, family and colleagues. Parts of the composition will depend upon multitracking, as the narrator in the present speaks over sounds from the past; and the whole must be edited with the highest precision. I expect to produce it out of my own studio and multitrack studios rented in New York City.
As a sometime historian (listed in the 1968 and 1973 editions of the ~Directory of American Scholars--Historians~), I am less interested in myself per se than in the exploration of a diversity of autohistoriographical structures, which is to say the various ways in which one's life can be understood. In part for convenience, the life I choose is my own--its facts are more familiar to me, and about it I am less likely to be inconsistent.
I know of no audiotape like it. There have been autobiographies in print, to be sure, but no audioautobiography known to me; and in this sense, mine might become a model for what others might do, not only for broadcast but for private purposes. ~(1980)~
* * *
~A BOOK OF "PREAMBLES"~
"Preambles" is a tentative title for a proposed book that would collect Richard Kostelanetz's introductory essays written for the following collections of literature, art, criticism and social thought: On Contemporary Literature (1964, 1969), The New American Arts (1965), Twelve from the Sixties (1967), Beyond Left & Right (1968), Possibilities of Poetry (1970), Imaged Words & Worded Images (1970), Social Speculations (1971), Seeing Through Shuck (1972), In Youth (1972), The Edge of Adaptation (1973), Breakthrough Fictioneers (1973), Short Fictions (1974), I Articulations (1974), Essaying Essays (1975), Younger Critics in North America (1976), A Critical Assembling (1979) and Autobiographies (1981). Nothing included here appears in either the author's ~Twenties in the Sixties~ (1979) or his ~Wordsand~ (1978), both of which collect essays of his that had not previously appeared in books published under his name.
As many of these collections are presently out of print, "Preambles" would be the only place in which these essays could be conveniently found. Several are regarded among the best of kind; most were pre-published in magazines; some have already been reprinted in anthologies edited by others. Kostelanetz's essays could be offset directly from their original publications, or be entirely reset and perhaps revised for this new book. Each should be prefaced with a brief headnote, recalling the occasion for which it was written and perhaps describing the book it introduced; and "Preambles" will open with an introduction to the problems of introductions. The only book comparable to this is W. H. Auden's ~Forewords & Afterwords~ (1973), which actually contains, its title notwithstanding, more book reviews than essays initially written to introduce books. It is expected that readers interested in contemporary art, literature, criticism and social thought will continue to consult these essays and, thus, want to obtain "Preambles." Since nearly two hundred thousand copies of these earlier collections have already been sold, it can be assumed that many readers are familiar with the author's name and his work. ~(1980)~
* * *
In 1979, I began to work with the video character-generator, the electronic letter-making machine, initially for ~Declaration of Independence~ and then with ~Epiphanies~. The latter is based upon over twenty-five hundred single-sentence stories, which were initially written on 3" x 5" cards, in unfixed order, for publication in several possible forms: in a book, as a gallery exhibition on cards, on an audiotape, for a film and/or a videotape. The proprietor of a private New York studio, Davidson Gigliotti, invited me to use his character-generator, which is limited to a single style of type and a grid ten lines high and twenty-eight characters wide, to throw the stories individually on the screen in various typographic arrays.
Obviously, it would be more advantageous to compose further video Epiphanies
on the Vidifont Mark II that, I understand, has multiple type styles, proportional
spacing, typefaces of various sizes and a voluminous memory. Because I would
want each story to look as different as possible from all the others, I would
expect to exploit the total capabilities of this technology. (According to
its caretakers, this has scarcely been done before.) Whether these Epiphanies
require background imagery remains to be known. (I think not; but if so, I
would, true to my constructivist tastes, use nothing more complicated than
different individual colors or regular patterns as edge-to-
edge background. I have no intention of ever shooting outside the production studio.) As audio background, I will probably continue to use Samuel Feinberg's spectacular recording of J. S. Bach's ~Well-Tempered Clavier~. The result would be several thirty-minute programs (or perhaps thirty seven-minute programs, or both) ideally for serial distribution over National Educational Television.
Several other prose pieces of mine suggest possibilities for the character-generator. "Stringtwo" is a seventy-foot typewritten word, composed as it is of overlapping English words, and it would be interesting to run this as a continuous horizontal crawl, probably in conjunction with an audiotaped reading of the same text. "Partitions" is a work initially composed for the eight-page memory of the limited character-generator mentioned before. Here the six words within a single word would become successively visible before the entire word appears again (e.g., partitions/pa/par/part/art/tit/it/|partitions). One hundred and ten different words, enhanced in these ways, would appear on the screen in a rigorous incremental presentation that moves progressively from one at a time (twice) up to ten at a time (also twice), the visual-verbal perception thus becoming progressively more difficult. Experience with successful residencies also tells me that this work with the Vidifont Mark II is likely to inspire new writing that is created especially for the machine's particular capabilities. Naturally, work on these secondary pieces depends upon available budget and time.
Because I have never used this sophisticated character-generator before and have never before employed a typesetting technician, I have no credible idea of how much these works would cost to produce or even how long they would take to make. Your administrator cites the rates of twenty dollars per hour for the Vidifont and thirty-five dollars per hour for the required operator. Since the typesetting of twenty-five hundred separate stories, each ideally with its own typography, is alone likely to take 160 hours (at four minutes apiece), it seems appropriate to budget at least 200 hours here. Since that will cost ten thousand six hundred dollars (@ fifty-five dollars per hour), it seems to me that fifteen thousand dollars would be a reasonable total; the remaining funds will go to pay for videotape, dubbing copies, re-editing, transportation, assistance and contingency fees.
My work with video has so far focused upon its possibilities as a ~literary~ medium, discovering how it can enhance language, rather than deflect it, and what kinds of language can best exploit the unique capabilities of the medium. It is unfortunate, I think, that public television in America has presented remarkably little original contemporary literature, preferring instead to produce interviews with prominent writers and adaptations of familiar short stories. The contrary examples of European public media show that this absence need not be. ~(1980)~
* * *
An interesting thing to start with would be the whole notion of the object, which I consider to be a mental problem rather than a physical reality. An object to me is the product of a thought; it doesn't necessarily signify the existence of art. My view of art springs from a dialectical position that deals with whether something exists or doesn't exist. I'm more interested in the terrain dictating the condition of art.--Robert Smithson, quoted in Lucy R. Lippard, ~Six Years~ (1973)
~A CRITICAL HISTORY OF RECENT INNOVATIVE LITERATURE~
I have observed, in ~The End of Intelligent Writing~ (1974, 1977) and elsewhere, that literary experimentation continues in America, even if such work is rarely acknowledged in the prominent reviewing periodicals. What I am presently proposing is an extended examination that is both historical and critical of significant formal innovation in recent American literature. My historical assumption is that certain literary styles that were prominent in the sixties--for instance, expressionist confessional poetry, collage and pastiche, ironic narration, etc.--have by now all become milestones that an authentic avant-garde must decisively surpass. With this distinction in mind, I have identified currently innovative forms in poetry, fiction, drama and the essay. This literature was sketchily surveyed in the penultimate chapters of ~The End of Intelligent Writing~; some of it has been anthologized by me in several books and included in the traveling exhibition I curated, ~Language & Structure in North America~ (1975-77). Generalizations about this work were presented in "An ABC of Contemporary Reading," which I included in ~Esthetics Contemporary~ (1978) and which I recently worked into a longer manuscript that will appear in a special issue of ~Poetics Today~ devoted to "The Poetics of the New Literature."
What I am presently requesting is a full year's support to write a book-
length critical survey of this recent writing, discussing major writers and works in depth and detail. In the section on poetry, for instance, I would expect to discuss not only visual poetry and sound poetry--the intermedial forms of poetry--but also minimal poetry, abstract poetry, asyntactical poetry, among other currently radical forms. In my chapters on fiction, I likewise expect to separate those innovative works that purify the elements indigenous to fiction from those that mix them with materials, ideas and structures more typical of the other arts. I expect, in addition, to do comparable chapters on innovative dramatic writing and on innovative literary exposition. I include Canadians because, for reasons explained elsewhere, I consider English-language Canadian writers to be a neglected minority within North American literature.
Since this avant-garde American literature has not received much criticism
before, let alone notice, my approach shall be initially introductory--
identifying general developments, making discriminations between old and new, placing individual works within larger art-historical tendencies, identifying important individuals, describing their works, analyzing major achievements in considerable detail. Since my theme is formal evolution, these more extended analyses will be formalist in method, not only characterizing the forms precisely by illustrating how they relate to ostensible content; beyond that, I expect to use whatever critical strategies (and essay lengths) the works demand. While the body of the book will be organized around art-historical categories, I expect to conclude it with short bio-bibliographical profiles of the major figures. All this is to say that, the radicalism of this work notwithstanding, my critical approach will be fairly traditional.
To give a more specific sense of the literature I plan to discuss, I give the following list of [seventy] writers and publications [ranging alphabetically from Vito Acconci's selected writings/performances/installations to Paul Zelevansky's books]. It should be clear that it is my aim to write a definitive critical introduction to these works and what they represent in the evolving history of literature in America, which is to say that I hope that this first book on this emerging avant-garde will stand above all future essays on the same material, because it is essentially correct in its selection of individuals, its distribution of emphases, its identification of major esthetic developments and its analysis of major works. In this respect, I hope that my critical essay will be the equal of Marcel Raymond's ~From Baudelaire to Surrealism~ (1933), L. Moholy-Nagy's ~Vision in Motion~ (1946), Martin Esslin's ~The Theatre of the Absurd~ (1961) and P. Adams Sitney's ~Visionary Film~ (1974). It thus aims to be better than other books that, by contrast, appear to be definitive when they are first published but are later judged to be limited--for example, Edmund Wilson's ~Axel's Castle~ (1931).
It should also be clear that I would not propose this project unless I knew it could (and should) go beyond my previous commentaries on this work--not only that in ~The End of Intelligent Writing~ and the essays collected in the second half of ~The Old Poetries and the New~ (1980) but in my general introductions to the anthologies collecting the new writing: ~Imaged Words & Worded Images~ (1970), ~Future's Fictions~ (1971), ~Breakthrough Fictioneers~ (1973), ~Essaying Essays~ (1975), ~Language & Structure in North America~ (1975), ~Text-Sound Texts~ (1980) and ~Scenarios~ (1981). This proposed history is a book I plan to write from scratch, much as the books mentioned in the previous paragraph were written from scratch; yet it will culminate my principal critical interest of the past decade. The tentative title is "The New Literature in America."
Although scholars of contemporary literature sometimes publish short reviews of new books or extended critical articles on just one author or a single work, I know of only one single-authored book partially on this period that treats all genres together, as I plan to do; and that is Ihab Hassan's ~Contemporary American Literature: 1945-72~ (1972), which incidentally acknowledges my own contributions as a critic, poet and anthologist. However, this book hardly touches upon the innovative literature I am favoring, although Hassan himself has acknowledged it in his essays since then. The only prolific critic I know with a strong sense of what is genuinely contemporary in American literature today is Jerome Klinkowitz, who differs from me in writing all but entirely about fiction and in concentrating upon writers whom I consistently take to be less innovative. It is commonly understood that the literature I wish to examine at length has no other serious comprehensive critic--that nobody else is, as you say, as "qualified" to write the pioneering study that is proposed in this application. ~(1980)~
* * *
~"ARTISTS' PROPOSALS: AN ASSEMBLING"~
For ~A Critical Assembling~ (1979, NEA-funded), Richard Kostelanetz solicited camera-ready contributions and then published them in alphabetical order, rather than, as in previous ~Assemblings~, collating thousands of pages the contributors submitted to us. For a new ~Assembling~, entitled "Artists' Proposals," over one thousand American artists and art administrators will be invited to respond to the following question: IF YOU COULD APPLY FOR A GRANT OF $500,000, WHAT PRECISELY WOULD YOU PROPOSE TO DO? All responses must be no more than one page in length, they must be camera-ready (as we will not edit, typeset or "reject"), and they will be published in alphabetical order. For a grant of seven thousand dollars, we estimate that we can produce sixteen hundred copies of an 8 1/2" x 11" book with 480 pages (on sixty-pound paper). Since 10 pages will be reserved for house business, we will accept only the first 470 camera-ready submissions to arrive at our P.O. Box. All contributors to ~Proposals~ will receive two copies of the published book (representing choice "readership"); the remainder of the edition will be sold through Jaap Reitman, Printed Matter and the like. For obvious reasons, "Artists' Proposals" will be dedicated to the Minnesota artist Don Celender. We believe that "Proposals" should be the most marvelous, interesting, diversified and comprehensive collection of fantasies, speculations and solid suggestions ever compiled anywhere. It may also have a beneficial effect on U.S. arts funding and, ultimately, upon American art. Assembling Press made a comparable application to the Literature Program [of the NEA] for a "Literary Proposals" with an entirely different collection of contributors. Gratified to do either one, we would be especially pleased to do both. ~(1980)~
* * *
Ideas alone can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.--Sol LeWitt, "Sentences on Concept|ual Art" (1969)
~A COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF PUBLICLY FUNDED LITERARY GRANTING IN THE U.S.~
Although the federal Arts and Humanities Councils were formed in the 1960s, as a facet of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, it was not until the 1970s that they blossomed and become, sheerly by the size of their beneficence, a major cultural force. Indeed, the NEA, NEH and comparable regional organizations have become such a prominent factor in American culture today that it is initially hard for us to remember that ten years ago scarcely any of their activities existed. This project proposes to ascertain critically what effects they have had upon the creation and dissemination of American culture; but rather than deal with the public funders in general, I expect to concentrate upon their literature programs and literary granting, because literature is the cultural area I know best--its personnel and issues are more familiar to me.
Thus, the initial questions of my study are what effects has the growth of public funding had upon American literature? Where have these programs succeeded? And how have they failed? What are or should be their purposes? How do American programs, both federal and state, compare with those in other countries? What secondary effects have they had?
My initial hypothesis is that they have influenced, often in subtle, unexpected ways, the shape and tone of ~noncommercial~ cultural activity in the U.S., and then that they all have serious problems, ranging from deleterious bias to the mismanagement of internal information to scandals verging on corruption. However, since the problems of one organization are not always present in another, and no fault known to me is common to all cultural funding agencies, my conclusion is that none is inevitable. A more critical hypothesis examines the possibility of improvement, in part because of self-correcting experience but also because of the salutary effects of outside criticism. (One informant, a Canadian, suggested that in general the U.S. programs "were ten years behind the Canadian and twenty years behind the British.") A final intuition is that the expected corruption--the undue influence of politicians upon their selections--has scarcely occurred.
As there is no known "method" for examining such institutions, I expect to function as a critical intellectual historian, using statistics and other empirical materials at some points and personal critical judgments at others. There is no immediate model for this project, in part because American intellectual historians have never before had government cultural funders to study. (The WPA, by contrast, was simply an employer of last resort for a limited number of artists and writers.) It could be said that this study is about the impact of government intrusion into a domain that previously lacked it, in part to compensate for cultural failures in the commercial process. (Differences in "produce" notwithstanding, certain governmental farm programs are in certain respects the most comparable precursor.)
I take it that this project thus fits securely into your category of "American Society and Politics" whose stated mandate is support of "projects that develop new perspectives on the evolution of modern American society and that emphasize the interplay of ideas, values and institutions in the emergence of our present civic culture." Speaking personally, I should add that with my projected book I hope to do for public cultural funding what my ~Literary Politics in America~ (1974, 1977) did for its subject--not only demystify definitively but open a previously neglected subject to further critical analysis. ~(1980)~
* * *
What is most necessary now for text-sound art to survive in America is a recorded anthology of only the very best work, and with that principle in mind may I offer the following proposal for a two-record long-playing set, with times listed along with the pieces and their composers:
~Side One~: Beth Anderson, "If I Were a Poet," 1:15; Glenn Gould, Prologue from ~The Idea of North~, 4:00; Steve Reich, "It's Gonna Rain," 20:00; Norman Henry Pritchard II, "Gyre's Galax," 3:00.
~Side Two~: Bliem Kern, "Jealousy," 1:16; Tom Johnson, "gbda," 4:00; Charles Amirkhanian, "Seatbelt, Seatbelt," 14:58; Richard Kostelanetz, "Praying to the Lord," 10:00.
~Side Three~: Bliem Kern, "Sound Poetry," 9:00; Jackson Mac Low, "The 1st Milarepa Gatha," 10:00; Jerome Rothenberg, "10th Horse Song," 4:10.
~Side Four~: Charles Amirkhanian, "Roussier (not Rouffier)," 4:00; Emmett Williams, "Duet," 1:58; Four Horsemen, "Allegro 108," 3:00; Toby Lurie, "Innocence," 2:00; Charles Morrow, "Sunchant," 3:50; Mary Ellen Solt, "Zig-Zag," 5:00; John Cage, excerpts from ~Empty Words~.
With these pieces we have, in my judgment, not only the best American text-sound art--a corpus of work that is good as the best European text-sound--but a coherent sense of where this fertile intermedium might go. ~(1981)~
* * *
~PUBLIC ART PROJECT FOR PORTLAND~
What I am proposing for the ceiling of the Justice Building arcade is a multiple sequence--a set of visual narratives, if you will--that can be comprehensibly "read" in six different ways: (1) from its far left end to its far right end; (2) from its far right end to its far left end; (3) from the middle to the left end (from image #8 to image #15); (4) from the middle to the right end (or from #8 to #1); (5) from the left end to the middle; (6) from the right end to the middle. In each narrative, there is a beginning to the sequence, a complication, a denouement and an end. While this work has beginnings and ends, the individual images have neither tops nor bottoms and are thus equally present to the eye from any viewing angle.
The overall scheme is mostly symmetrical--as befits a building that is, as far as I can tell, likewise mostly symmetrical both in its overall design and its individual designs (e.g., the lamps).
What are now ink lines on the drawings will be made entirely of black mosaic tiles 3/4" wide against a background of white tiles, while pencil lines portray gray tile also 3/4" wide. These pencil lines thus represent "ghosts" echoing both the dark diagonal lines within their images and their mirrors within the scheme. All lines will run to the edges of the coffers, and the blacks and whites will be as black and white as possible, better to reflect the lights directed at them. The tabletops will have patterns whose ratios correspond to those on the ceilings immediately above them. The lamps will be hung at the distance we discover most effective for illuminating the ceiling. (This last fact would be impossible to determine in advance of on-site experiments.)
The individual designs have the scale of 1/2" to 1', because larger drawings seemed unnecessary.
I wish I had sufficient information to present a comprehensive budget, but this has not been easy to ascertain. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to expect that the extra costs of putting my works onto the tiles of the ceiling would not exceed that of the available funds.
I hope that my work will engage attention, rather than distract it, and that it will be regarded, both by those who experience the space daily and by those who see it only once, as major contributions to public art. ~(1981)~
* * *
~THE BOOK PUBLICATION OF "EPIPHANIES"~
"Epiphanies" is large collection in progress of single-sentence fictions, over two thousand in number at last count, that have no intentional connection to one another. Excerpts have appeared in literary periodicals, on videotape, in radio plays both extended and brief, on cards in a gallery exhibition, as the sound track of a film (one in German, another in English), and in live theatrical performances, both here and abroad. A selection of German translations will be published as a small paperback in 1983 by Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. In a book version, these Epiphanies should appear in physically separate blocks of type, several to a page, ideally in a variety of typefaces (to reinforce the fundamental idea that these are indeed distinctly separate stories), with plenty of separation between them (forcing the reader to acknowledge space as he or she moves from one to another). As the stories themselves are not intrinsically difficult, especially after their principle is understood, the book should attract fiction readers willing to appreciate a series of surprises whose theme is the exhaustive experience of the experience of fiction. My own recommendation would be that "Epiphanies" be published in two editions--a 6" x 9" trade paperback and a 10 3/4" x 16 1/8" hardback, photographically enlarged 180 percent (so that individual Epiphanies would come to resemble newspaper headlines). Publishers should consider "Epiphanies" an opportunity for innovative design and typesetting--for doing something different not only from what they usually do but from what others have done. If the publisher wishes, the author would be able to take charge of the design and deliver camera-ready copy. ~(1982)~
* * *
~UNITED STATES/JAPAN EXCHANGE FELLOWSHIP~
1. Further work in producing Audio Art in languages other than English. (One of the enclosed sample audiotapes, ~Invocations~, contains speech in two dozen languages other than English. I am presently completing a sixty-minute radio program, entirely in German, on commission from the ~HÃ¶rspiel~ department of Westdeutscher Rundfunk.)
2. Collecting more "outtakes" (by other filmmakers) for "Epiphanies," which is a universal film in progress designed to be at least 240 minutes in duration, composed from over a thousand outtakes/excerpts so far gathered only in Germany and in the U.S. (The sample was made in Berlin; footage of equal length has already been gathered in the U.S., but not yet incorporated into this early draft.)
3. Exploring the possibility of preparing a sound track in Japanese for the film ~Epiphanies~.
4. Creating original video and holography, probably with imagery of language, in English or Japanese or both.
5. Meeting with friends, correspondents and friends of both correspondents and friends.
6. A greater understanding of Japanese approaches to media and art. ~(1982)~
* * *
~"LOVINGS": A BOOK~
"Lovings" is a collection of autonomous single-sentence fictions that aims to include within a single text (and context) a multitude of erotic experiences. Whereas most erotic writing is about one thing, this is meant to be about everything. Periodical editors are invited to select the ones they wish to publish. Those individual stories can then be run in whatever order an editor prefers. Please allow in the design and typography sufficient space (or distance) to establish that these are separate stories, with no particular connection to one another, other than common subject. My own recommendation would be that the designer use different typefaces for adjacent stories and, better yet, that blocks of type be floated in the space of the page (or the magazine column). Another suggestion is that a periodical interested in using a good deal of the text consider publishing their selections as a kind of serial, with a dozen or two stories in each successive issue, the whole thus functioning as a continuing feature to which readers might immediately turn as they open each new issue. Stories from "Lovings" may well be published as a book of similar design. Beyond that, these "Lovings" could, with the aid of a sophisticated character-generator, also become the content of a videotape and the base of a feature-length film. ~(1982)~
* * *
1. Further work in audio art with religious texts. These tapes will use multitracking, tape-delay, voice-modification, computer-assisted voice resynthesis and other sophisticated techniques. Some will be produced at the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music, where I have a gratis residency.
2. The preparation of a five-hour continuous tape of "Epiphanies," a collection of over two thousand single-sentence stories read by over fifty people. Two thirds was already recorded at WBAI-FM, New York.
3. The preparation of a series of feature programs on "The Sound of Literature," which cover an area between sound poetry and audio art on one side and high literary declamation on the other. It will include commentary by the producer and/or interviews with the authors. Sample subjects: Glenn Gould (on his radio documentaries), Allen Ginsberg reading Jack Kerouac's "Old Angel Midnight," Klaus SchÃ¶ning on ~Neue HÃ¶rspiel~, Mauricio Kagel, Sten Hanson, James Theobald, Donald Hall on poets' readings, Jackson Mac Low, John Giorno, Gertrude Stein's sound poetry, Charles Dodge, Bliem Kern, Jerome Rothenberg's Horse Songs, Gerhard Ruhm, Eberhard Blum performing Kurt Schwitters's ~Ursonate~, Vachel Lindsay reading "The Congo," Carl Sandberg, Barbara Stoler Miller chanting Sanskrit poetry, Norman Henry Pritchard II, The Last Poets, Ralph Ellison reading the preface to ~Invisible Man~ (private tape in hand), Charles Amirkhanian, Lord Buckley, etc. ~(1982)~
* * *
"Epiphanies" is a large collection of single-sentence stories each of which is meant to be the key moment, or the epiphany in the James Joycean sense, of a larger, otherwise nonexistent story. As each is a discrete unit, there are no intentional connections among the stories.
Given such thorough disconnection, translating them into another language became more of a problem than we initially supposed. Most professional translators are especially skilled at rendering their native language consistent--they know how to assimilate a style in another language and then create a comparable coherent style in their own language. They impose consistency by, among other things, making sure that each time a certain phrase appears in the original text it is translated with the exact same words.
With "Epiphanies," however, just the opposite is required. Given the premise of the utter independence of each story, it would be better if the translation had a variety of styles--if, say, the same phrases were translated in various ways. Unsuccessful in our quest for an individual translator to do the entire text into German, we realized it would be better to organize a squad of translators--indeed, a populous team with both professionals and amateurs. The stories, cut into individual slips, were laid out on tables. Two dozen translators were then invited to select the ones they wanted to translate. I as the author was present to answer particular questions about meaning. My publisher checked the translations for accuracy. Within four hours a thousand stories were German--such being the effectiveness of American-style mass production; and a good time was had by all, to whom I am grateful, not only for their participation in this experiment in translation but for their idiosyncratic German words. (Now it might be interesting, if not appropriate, to organize yet another team to retranslate these German Epiphanies back into English.)
This unusual method could be applied to translations of "Epiphanies" into other languages. ~(1982)~
* * *
Regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea which follows it; perhaps, in a certain collocation with other ideas, which may seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.--Friedrich Schiller, as quoted by Sigmund Freud, ~The Interpretation of Dreams~ (1913).
~"ALL ALONG THE EDGE": A RICHARD KOSTELANETZ READER~
This would collect the best of his works, in all genres and media, between
a single set of covers, representing comprehensively a versatile and prolific
American author. It will open with selections from his ~Autobiographies~,
including the "Self-Profile" of 1969 and his "Autochronology"
of 1980, and then have two of his journalistic profiles, one of Glenn Gould
and the other of Gertrude Stein. Then come selections from his literary criticism:
the introduction to ~The New American Arts~ (1965), the introduction to ~Twelve
from the Sixties~ (1967), the introduction to ~The Theatre of Mixed Means~
(1968), the opening chapter of ~The End of Intelligent Writing~ (1974), as
well as such polemics as "A Magazine of Verse" and "The New
Class." A third section will be devoted to his writings on art: essays
on Charles Ives, Moholy-Nagy, recent American music, artists' self-books,
in addition to essays on his own art--
"Book Art" and "Art Autobiography." A fifth section of the book will be devoted to selections from his creative work, as well as prefaces about them. Visual poems: Disintegration, Manifestos, Live-Die, Concentric, Tributes to Henry Ford, Me, The East Village. Visual fictions: Biography, Come Here, Football Forms, Replicate, Passage, Impose, Ripening, March. Verbal fictions: Milestones in a Life, Dialogue, Plateaux, the first section of ~Foreshortenings~, excerpts from both ~Openings & Closings~ and ~Epiphanies~. Numerical art: 1024, Two Intervals, Increments, Exhaustive Parallel Intervals, etc. Experimental prose: Declaration of Independence, Recyclings, Conspandextract. The conclusion of this section will include stills from his films and videotapes, photographs of his holograms, and production notes on his audio art. The book will open with a new introduction and close with an elaborate bibliography. As an introduction to work that is currently scattered in many places, this "Reader" should run about four hundred pages,6" x 9", and perhaps use, whenever possible, original printings for offset reproduction. ~(1982)~
* * *
~AN AMERICAN TELEVISION VERSION OF A GERMAN FILM ABOUT PRE-WWII BERLIN~
In the Wiessensee section of (East) Berlin is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe (with over 110,000 graves). Founded in 1880, mostly intact, it is a surviving representation of Berlin Jewry (and Berlin as a whole) between 1880 and 1940, when Berlin had the largest Jewish population of any city between Warsaw and New York and when Berlin's Jews, though never more than five percent of the total population, had a disproportionate prominence. In the cemetery as a whole one sees the culture of Berlin's Jews at this time, confidently constructing mausoleums that they expected their children would visit and honor, if not aspiring to be buried nearby, in sum revealing their innocent assumption that Jews (and everyone else) would survive and prosper forever in the promised land of Berlin. In the details of many gravestones the viewer can imagine not only individual lives but the culture of a community. What we are doing is an imaginative documentary about this cemetery as an evocative relic of this lost Berlin.
The film opens with the front gate of the cemetery; and after the titles, the camera tours down the honor row, culminating with the gravestone of Leo Baeck, Berlin's last great rabbi, but, as it swings around, revealing that only his wife is buried here. (Baeck, in fact, is buried in London.) From here onward, the graves are shown in mostly chronological sequence, beginning with the cemetery's first stone (1880). We go through the mausoleums of the pre-WWI period to the interior burial ground devoted exclusively to those Berlin Jews who died in WWI. After this is a stone honoring Russian war prisoners who happened to die in Berlin. The film then progresses into the postwar period, beginning with a spectacular tour of the mausoleums along the cemetery's outer wall, the camera's eye reminding us of the sky under which all are buried. As the survey approaches the Hitler period, we see companion stones belonging to the parents of Kurt Tucholsky, the father dead at the beginning of the century, his grave topped with ivy, the mother dead at Theresienstadt, her ground space empty. The film shows the stones of couples who died in the same year, and then couples who died on the same day in October 1942: double suicides on the verge of imminent deportation. In short, the visual track of the film consists only of scenes from the cemetery. The sound track consists of Berliners and ex-Berliners talking about the cemetery in the prewar period. The current version, roughly twenty-one minutes long, was composed under a grant to Literarisches Colloquium Berlin from the Berlin Senat. This grant, for "low-budget" productions, is intended to produce short films for projection in standard German moviehouses.
We are petitioning for support for an English-language version scaled for television. This means that certain scenes will need to be reshot so that the words, now enlarged, can be read on the smaller television screens; the opening walk down the honor row will need to be slower. We will also need more stills of stones to fill out the twenty-eight-minutes slot that is standard in the U.S. And we shall need to compose a separate sound track from the English portions of those interviewed for the earlier film. *** Those interviewed have become a de facto advisory committee, aware of what we were doing before we shot a single roll: [listed]. To them add the following advisers: [listed]. Research for the film was done in l981-82, during my residency in Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm; the interviews and filming were done in 1983.
We also propose to produce, from sound materials not used in the film, an audio documentary, a radio program, about Jewish life in prewar Berlin. This will run sixty minutes and be offered initially to English-language stations that have previously broadcast my works: Canadian Broadcasting, Australian Broadcasting, National Public Radio and Pacifica Stations. *** It is possible that we will later produce versions of the film with sound tracks in Hebrew and Swedish, among other languages, again based upon interviews with surviving ex-Berliners. *** We may also produce both a book and a museum installation about the Cemetery. Each of these latter media has the advantage of allowing the inclusion of more stones (and thus more names); the main disadvantage of the book is that photographs must necessarily be black-and-white. Neither of these media can equal film in introducing the cemetery and in evoking the experience of visiting the remarkable place.
One sub-theme that connects this project to the author's previous work is the sense that gravestones in this period constitute a kind of visual poetry, or can be appreciated as visual poetry. To be precise, I consider the experience of the cemetery to be about visual history, or the evocation of history through visual artifacts. All cemeteries "live," but to different degrees; and in my experience, none is as historically evocative as this. *** We expect to obtain permission to shoot again in the Cemetery. Ask any filmmaker who has worked in East Germany and you'll understand how difficult this is. Since the German version was a success, we assume that we can come again. *** Among the television outlets asking to see the final English film are WNET, New York, and Sender Freies Berlin, which previously aired a Kostelanetz-Koerber film. ~(1983)~
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~PROPOSAL FOR LINE BOOK-ART COMPETITION~
Working with the concept of "Constructivist Fictions," I have produced several hundred pages of sequential line drawings. Some of these sequences or "stories" appeared in two collections, ~Constructs~ (1975) and ~Constructs Two~ (1978), as well as numerous literary magazines here and abroad. Rather than produce more collections in this mode, I think it would now be more interesting to incorporate many of these several-page sequences into a single narrative titled "Intermix" that would extend the following organizational principles for its entire length: Page one of "Intermix" would be page one of story A (as untitled now as the others); page two would be B1; page 3, C1; page 4, A2; page 5, D1; page 6, B2; page 7, E1; page 8, A3, and so forth. Therefore, each new page of "Intermix" would either continue a previously established narrative or initiate a new one. The book I propose to do of this material would contain at least 500 images on 500 sheets, photocopied on only one side, in edition of seventy-five copies (which is an appropriate number for a book so thick), and then perfectbound with a wrap-around cover of heavier stock. The cost of photocopying and collating 500 sheets of 25% cotton content paper would run at least 4 cents per sheet, bringing the cost of each book to at least $20.00 for the pages alone. The cover and binding would be $6.00 or so per book, bringing the total costs for seventy-five copies to nearly two thousand dollars. I would expect to match your grant with my own funds, in addition to doing all the artwork and overseeing the book's production. Though I have previously produced book-art books in an incomparable variety of sizes, editions, subjects and modes, the proposed "Intermix," in the structure of its materials and its physical composition, resembles no other book I have done. ~(1983)~
* * *
Rabelais indulged in the conception of visionary cities, as did other great writers of the times, among them Shakespeare and Cervantes. In Shakespeare's play ~The Tempest~, Prospero and Miranda find themselves on a distant island, again set within the utopian tradition of an arcadian analogy, which is envisioned by Gonzalo as the incarnation of nature in man, "the opportunity to organize a community untainted by competition or the shadow of ambition, an arcadian anarchy founded upon the permission given to each of its members to follow his own instincts.--Udo Kultermann, ~Visible Cities--Invisible Cities~ (n.d.)
~"EPIPHANIES" IN SEVERAL MEDIA~
My principal creative project these past few years has been "Epiphanies," which is a collection of over two thousand discrete single-sentence stories which can be "published" in several forms:
1. A set of at least three thick pocket-size volumes with one story on each
page, printed not across the shorter dimension, as in conventional books,
but parallel to the longer side of the page.
2. A series of audiotapes of at least ten hours' total duration in which nearly every story would be individually dramatized.
3. A theatrical version, as outlined in my anthology ~Scenarios~ (l980), with at least fifteen performers distributed among the audience in a nontheatrical space (say, a ballroom or a gymnasium).
4. A series of videotapes, likewise at least ten hours' total duration, in which the texts of the stories would appear on the screen, one at a time, with letters produced by a video character-generator.
5. A museum exhibition for which the stories would be typeset with headline-sized letters and individually mounted on 8" x 10" boards which would be distributed throughout a space.
6. A film composed of Epiphanies found in other filmmakers' footage ("outtakes")--at least a thousand excerpts for a film of four hours' duration. (The sound track for this film would come from #2 above.)
7. An operatic version with additional musical material by Bruce Kushnick; here some Epiphanies would be of words alone, others of music alone and yet others of both words and music, used in the widest variety of complementary ways.
8. Boxes of cards, with one story to a card.
9. Other realizations no doubt inspired by the first eight. ~(1983)~
* * *
~AMERICAN POETS & RECORDING TECHNOLOGIES~
This series of twenty-six thirty-minute radio programs will progress through three kinds of material: (1) The earliest recordings of American poets. (2) The classic recordings of that generation of native poets who were prominent between the Wars. (3) Post-War American poets' direct involvement with recording technology. This section will feature, for one program apiece, the audio literature of John Giorno, John Cage, Norman Henry Pritchard, Dick Higgins, Jerome Rothenberg, Raymond Federman, Charles Amirkhanian, Beth Anderson, Jackson Mac Low et al., with introductions, examples and interviews by me. ~(1983)~
* * *
~FURTHER WORK ON VIDEO "EPIPHANIES"~
Single-sentence stories appear on the screen in typography made with a video
character-generator. The sample tape was made on an elementary letter-making
machine, donated to the author-typesetter; it was limited to a single size
and style of type arrayed in a grid that is ten lines high and twenty-eight
characters wide. With sufficient funding, we hope to rent a character-
generator with more possibilities in the presentation of language: a machine that can, say, create typefaces of various styles and sizes, whose words can emerge from any place in the visual field or can expand in size within the visual field, whose words can flip and turn like acrobats, which can present the words within a sentence in an irregular sequential flow, etc. We plan to make at least four hours of videotape that can then be divided into lengths most appropriate for distribution (8 x 30 minutes, l6 x l5 minutes, or 48 x 5 minutes). A sound track especially for this work will be composed by Charles Dodge, the master of computer-assisted speech synthesis and the director of the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music. (He has previously produced Richard Kostelanetz texts for Swedish Radio.) ~(1983)~
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~A MUSEUM EXHIBITION ABOUT THE GREAT JEWISH CEMETERY OF BERLIN~
In the Weissensee section of (East) Berlin is the largest Jewish cemetery in Western Europe (with over 110,000 graves). Founded in 1880, it is the principal surviving representation of the great age of Berlin Jewry (and, by extension, of the Lost Berlin), when Berlin had the largest Jewish population of any city between Warsaw and New York, when Berlin's Jews, though never more than five percent of the total population, had a disproportionate, spectacular influence. Looking at the gravestones of the pre-Hitler period, one can imaginatively reconstruct from visual, verbal and numerical detail not only individual lives but images of a community wealthy and confident, constructing stylish mausoleums that they expected would be visited and honored by their children and grandchildren, who would of course aspire to be buried nearby. By contrast, in the stone of a husband and wife who committed suicide on the same day in 1942 is the conclusive destruction of this dream. (And the modest stones of the post-WWII period tell yet another evocative story.)
During a residency in Berlin (West) as a guest of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm, I took a large number of photographs of gravestones, mostly in black-and-white, that I initially envisioned for a 6" x 9" book about the Cemetery, as well as color slides that were initially intended to accompany concert performances of an audiotape "Kaddish" that I am presently making. However, once the slides were developed, it became vividly clear that color prints of these slides (which have negatives) could become a museum exhibition. (The fact that the cemetery lies physically in ~East~ Germany makes an exhibition more necessary.) Since my interpretation of the significance of the cemetery depends upon the abundant accumulation of evocative details, my vision of this visual history has at least two hundred color prints, 8" x l0", with horizontal photographs mounted one above the other, the vertical ones by themselves, with footnotes, as needed, and succinct statements gathered from the literature about Berlin Jews (and a few of my own), in large type on cards, say, l8" x l2", interspersed between. Other exhibition formats are no doubt possible. In these color prints is also sufficient material for a memorable catalogue. ~(1983)~
* * *
~A THEATRICAL "EPIPHANIES"~
"Epiphanies" is a large number of single-sentence "lines" that are available for theatrical performance. Since these are meant to be the resonant key lines--Epiphanies, in the Joycean sense--of longer, otherwise nonexistent narratives, my principal request of the performers is that they read each sentence in ways that evocatively communicate their sense of what the remaining, implicit story might be. Any number of performers may sit or stand as they wish, in a proscenium or an open space; and there is no need to costume or mime any activities, since it is assumed that most, if not all, of the action is in the lines and how they are spoken. The performers are functioning more like musicians who play their solos on cue. For the premiere performance, with both faculty and students at the University of North Dakota, the lines were read one line at a time, with pauses between, by four informally dressed performers distributed around the circumference of a circle made by the audience seated in the middle. (This was an inversion of the traditional theater-in-the-round.) From the ten-thousand-word manuscript of single-sentence lines, the director chose those she preferred, had them typed on individual 3" x 5" cards and then distributed these cards over large tables, inviting the four performers to choose those Epiphanies each felt he or she could articulate best. The director then assigned some of the remaining Epiphanies to those performers ~she~ thought could render them best. (No director is obliged to use all the lines; none of them is necessarily more essential to the whole than any of the others.) Appropriate direction should emphasize the individuality of each story and thus avoid, in the ordering of elements, suggesting any relation between the story at hand and any other near it. Though the original production had stories emerging in succession from various points around a circle, with the director on a podium in the middle (functioning more like an orchestral conductor in revising entrances and speech volume), I allow that other directors might want to have them spoken, if not dramatized, in other ways and set in other kinds of theatrical spaces. A subsequent production, exclusively with students at Vassar College, took place within an art exhibition gallery, with spectators scattered about; and since this director instructed her dozen performers to speak often in canon or unison, she used three times as many stories within a production that took just as long as the initial one--forty-five minutes. Moreover, as the order of the lines need not be fixed, I could envision the director changing the sequence from performance to performance in an extended run, or the performers exchanging Epiphanies with one another, in part to keep their renditions continually fresh. There is no doubt in my mind that different groups will (and should) perform "Epiphanies" in totally different ways, much as Gertrude Stein's similarly open texts are susceptible to radically different theatrical interpretations, and lengths could vary from a few minutes to several hours, much like the works of John Cage. (Video and audio renditions are also possible.) Despite variations in interpretation, the text has its own intelligence; it will always be about one theme that is unique to it: the exhaustive experience of the experience of story.
Since "Epiphanies" is conceptually so different from standard theatrical texts, potential producers and directors are asked first to consider whether they can (or wish to) realize the concept; and if this sounds feasible to you (or at least ~not~ impracticable), please write me for a copy of the entire text. ~(1983)~
* * *
What the work of art looks like isn't too important. It has to look like something if it has physical form. No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea. It is the process of conception and realization with which the artist is concerned. . . . If the artist carries through his idea and makes it into visible form, then all the steps in the process are of importance. The idea itself, even if not made visual is as much a work of art as any finished product. All intervening steps--scribbles, sketches, drawings, failed work, models, studies, thoughts, conversations--are of interest. Those that show the thought processes of the artist are sometimes more interesting than the final product.--Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" (1967)
~AN EXHIBITION OF "EPIPHANIES"~
"Epiphanies" is the collective title for over two thousand single-sentence
stories--Epiphanies in the Joycean sense--that have been "published"
in several media: in literary journals, as a book (in German, l983), in two
radically different theatrical performances (both of which are preserved on
videotape), as a radio play several hours long, on a videotape that exploits
the technology's unique capabilities of electronic character-generation, and
in a film. What is proposed is a complete exhibition of this project, an exhibition
that would draw upon the multi-media capabilities of American museums and
universities. This exhibition should ideally include:
1. The mounting of over two thousand cards, each 4" x 6", over the gallery space.
2. The display of the book(s) and of versions previously published in literary magazines (whose editors were encouraged to select the stories they liked best and then print them in whatever order they thought best).
3. Videocassettes of earlier theatrical productions and of the version produced with a character-generator and audiocassettes of the radio play; all cassettes should be available in the exhibition space for insertion into appropriate playing equipment, as individual viewers request.
4. A fresh production of the theatrical text, which is susceptible to various interpretations; this should coincide with the exhibition's opening.
5. Occasional screenings, perhaps twice a week, of the film that is, at last count, seventy minutes long and will soon be much longer. (It would also be possible to make a separate installation of this film, which could be divided into four equal parts, and then projected continuously and simultaneously onto four screens at four points of the compass, while a single sound track, drawn from the radio performance, would be broadcast over the installation space.)
6. The presentation, at the conclusion of the exhibition, of the "musical" version, with a score for small ensemble by Bruce Kushnick. (This, like the theatrical version, is suitable for student-amateur performers.) It should be noted that in every form "Epiphanies" is concerned with the same things--those heightened moments that are the Epiphanies, or cohering climaxes, of longer stories and then the exhaustive experience of the experience of fiction; the theme of the project as a whole is the experimental exploration of different media as vehicles for story-telling.
Possible sponsors can consider copies of previously published versions and of sample exhibition cards, slides of images from the videotape and the film, videotapes of the earlier theatrical performances and of an earlier, twenty-eight-minute version of the film. Interested sponsors should consider applying to appropriate departments of the National Endowment for the Arts for matching funds. The author-artist would like to participate in the production and design of an appropriate catalogue. Those interested in exhibiting "Epiphanies" should contact him. ~(1983)~
* * *
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF NEW AMERICAN RADIO ART~
This book will contain scripts, texts, retrospective descriptions and other printable materials about creative (non-documentary) radio programs designed not to adapt live theater or, mostly, even to create the illusion of live theater, but to exploit the unique possibilities of strictly audio experience. Selections tentatively include: Archibald MacLeish, ~Fall of the City~; Norman Corwin, ~Daybreak~; Lucille Fletcher, ~Sorry Wrong Number~; Violet Atkins, ~The Return to Berchtesgaden~; Norman Rosten, ~Paris Incident~; Kenneth Patchen, ~The City Wears a Slouch Hat~; Bob (Elliott) & Ray (Goulding), ~Spelling Bee~; John Cage, ~Roaratorio~; R. Murray Schafer, ~Dream Passage~; Michael Palmer, ~Idem I-V~; Beth Anderson, ~Riot Rot~; Sandra Braman, ~Vellum~; Albert T. Cook, ~Recall~; Larry Johnson, ~Weorald~; Peter Ganick, ~Targets~; Welch D. Everman, ~Trio and Duet~; Doug Kahn, ~Ronald Reagan Speaks for Himself~; Carol Adorjan, ~Portions Mechanically Reproduced~; Stephen Dixon, ~Hugh~; Lawrence Weiner, ~Need To Know~; Francis Schwartz, ~The Madness (?) de Robert Schumann~; Henry H. Roth, ~Hotline~; Bern Porter, ~Abu-Abu~; Glenn Gould, ~Arnold Schoenberg~; Jackson Mac Low, ~Dialog Unter Dichtern/Dialog Among Poets~; Richard Barnes, ~Radio 66~; Alison Knowles, ~Bean Sequence~; Anson Kenney, ~Conceptual Radio: Five Performances~; Reuben Ship, ~The Investigator~; John Chu, ~Out of My Mind~; Richard Kostelanetz, ~The Gospels/Die Evangelien~
In the editor's opinion, these are not only the radio texts that propose how best to exploit the medium; they are also include many of the best ever written in this country. The German word ~hÃ¶rspiel~ is used, because it simultaneously expands and elevates the prosaic notion of "radio plays." To make this selection, the editor read all the historical anthologies; he also asked service magazines in both radio and literature to publish announcements of the project. (The response was approximately a hundred original manuscripts, ten of which are included above.) Several texts were edited at his suggestion; others were produced especially in response to his interest. The book as a whole will run approximately five hundred pages, and it will be, incidentally, the first anthology of North American Radio Plays in over thirty-five years. Like its immediate precursors in the editor's own history--~Text-Sound Texts~ (Morrow, l980) and ~Scenarios~ (Assembling, 1980)--this book will contain a critical introduction. Publishers interested in contracting it should contact him. ~(1983)~
* * *
~AN EXHIBITION OF THE UNIQUE PUBLISHING PROGRAM OF THE FUTURE PRESS~
Established and directed by Richard Kostelanetz, himself a noted critic and
anthologist of experimental writing, The Future Press is devoted exclusively
to radically alternative materials for literature and alternative forms of
books. Toward the realization of these aims, its publications have so far
included a visual fiction in the form of a poster that must be cut out and
taped into a polyhedron that contains a multipath maze (Bob Heman's ~The Journey~);
a typographically inventive visual-verbal essay, 40" x 26", of remarks
(in French) about the Marquis de Sade (Paul Nagy's ~SadisfactionS~); a set
of seven cards of numerical art (Kostelanetz's ~Numbers Two~); a minimal fiction,
with no more than two words to a paragraph, in two radically different book
-folded newsprint, 11" x 17", and a spine-bound paperback, 5 1/4" x 4" (Kostelanetz's ~One Night Stood~); the most spectacular individual collection of verbal-visual poetry ever published in this country (Ian Tarnman's ~First Principles~); and Kostelanetz's third one-man collection of his visual poetry, ~Illuminations~. Upon receipt of expected grants, the Future Press will publish the collected verbal-visual essays of Loris Essary and Carl D. Clark; Bob Heman's ~Roads~, which will contains one hundred 2" cubes of visual fictional material--cubes that can be variably arranged in three dimensions; ~Particulars~ and ~Exhaustive Combinations~ by Jean-Jacques Cory, who works exclusively with words in lists; ~Zoomorph~, a four-color, 23" x 29" poster-book-scenario by Fred Truck, winner of the ~Kontexts~ 1976 international "originality award"; an audiocassette of previously uncollected text-sound pieces by Jackson Mac Low and W. Bliem Kern; an anthology of New York State sound poets; and several formally related, structurally alternative books by Richard Kostelanetz (including his film ~Constructivist Fictions~ made in collaboration with Peter Longauer). In the proposed exhibition, all available works will go on display: the posters and book pages on the walls; the book-
sculptures on pedestals; the audiotapes on playback machines; and the films in either continuous or special showings. The space requirements for this exhibition would be modest. There should also be a catalogue comparable to that produced by Kostelanetz for the retrospective ~Assembling Assembling~ (1978). This new book would include a brief history of the press, illustrations of exemplary work, reviews, documentation of publications, and other relevant materials. Precisely because The Future Press is so unique, this exhibition would also be unquestionably singular. ~(1983)~
* * *
~THE PUBLICATION OF "INTERMIX"~
A constructivist novel of six hundred leaves (twelve hundred pages, by conventional ways of counting), with several sets of narratives of symmetrical abstract drawings that metamorphose, from image to image, in systemic sequence, "Intermix" represents the culmination of a vein of constructivist fiction begun in 1974 and already informing two collections of stories, ~Constructs~ (WCPR, 1975) and ~Constructs Two~ (Membrane, 1978), and two novellas in the form of ladderbooks, ~Modulations~ (Assembling, 1975) and ~Extrapolate~ (Cookie, 1975), in addition to one variation with over a hundred loose leaves, ~And So Forth~ (Future, 1979), and another novel with 392 images, ~Symmetries~ (forthcoming). All these volumes will eventually be exhibited, as well as sold, together. The cost of photocopying and collating six hundred sheets is $18.00 (@ three cents per sheet); and for two hundred copies the printing costs alone would be $3,600. Binding such books would cost an additional $1,000. The author has produced over a dozen other book-art books of numbers, words, lines and photographs, in formats ranging from conventional spine-book books to sets of cards, tabloid-sized newsprint, and ladderbooks. These books have been exhibited and distributed around the world. ~(1983)~
* * *
We now perceive that we should have reached our theory of the hidden meaning of dreams by the shortest route had we merely consulted the vernacular. Proverbial wisdom, it is true, often speaks contemptuously enough of dreams--it apparently seeks to justify the scientists when it says that "dreams are bubbles"; but in colloquial language the dream is predominently the gracious fulfiller of wishes. "I should never have imagined that in my wildest dreams," we exclaim in delight if we find that the reality surpasses our expectations.--Sigmund Freud, ~The Interpretation of Dreams~ (1913).
~BOOK PROPOSAL: "THE GREAT JEWISH CEMETERY OF BERLIN"~
Many images of prewar Berlin are familiar to us: the lush elegance of Unter den Linden, the grandeur of the Hotel Adlon, the urban spectacle of Potsdamer Platz or Alexanderplatz; but these images survive only in miniature photographs that scarcely represent the grandeur of their subjects. There remains in Berlin today another image of lost Berlin, this less familiar than the others, but no less grand and compelling, with a scale and detail that is more suitable to a reasonably priced book of photographs. That relic is the Great Jewish Cemetery in Weissenssee, a rather inaccessible section of (East) Berlin. First established in 1880, it differs from other Jewish cemeteries in its immense size (over 110,000 graves) and its short history, which gives both firsthand and secondhand experience of the place an epistemological coherence. Here are the gravestones of Jews who lived in Berlin after 1860, when Berlin Jews received full civic equality, when Jews, though never more than 5 percent of the total city population, had such a disproportionate prominence that, to the remainder of Germany, Berlin was known as a Jewish city.
Choosing to regard this graveyard as the principal surviving representation of a Lost Berlin, I have assembled a book of my photographs, punctuated by short texts, as an exemplary visual history or, to be ironic, modern archaeology. Two of these black-and-white photographs are set on each 6" x 9" page, except when a text supersedes a photograph. The book has a brief preface and will have in the back explanatory footnotes correlated by page numbers to certain individual photographs, adding essential information that might not be apparent in the photographs alone. I also hope to obtain, for an appendix, a complete list of all the individuals buried there, along with their birth dates and death dates (thinking that this would make the book yet more attractive to the descendants of Berliners). All this prose notwithstanding, the unusual presupposition of the book is that the photographs tell most of the story, for in the gravestones we see not only individuals, whose lives are sketched in the data and design of their unusually idiosyncratic stones, but an entire community that, at least until the middle l930s, clearly felt glad to be in Berlin, confident that the city would remain secure for Jews forever. By contrast, the fewer stones laid after l933 and then after l945 tell other sorts of stories.
Color slides of the cemetery are scheduled to be included in a New York museum exhibition in l984, while a traveling installation of slides and audiotape exclusively about the cemetery is also a future possibility. With the aid of a grant from the Berlin Senat, a German colleague and I are producing a twenty-minute documentary film about this extraordinary place, ~Ein Verlorenes Berlin~, and expect eventually to receive funds to redo this film in other languages of the Berlin diaspora--English, Hebrew, Swedish, Spanish, French and perhaps Portuguese--not only for screenings at festivals and cultural centers but for broadcast over television. We are also completing for RIAS-Berlin a ninety-minute radio documentary (in German) about the cemetery and will be exploring the production of similar documentaries in other languages. The project was begun during my 1981-82 residency in (West) Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm.
Notwithstanding such interest from other media, this project that began as a book should eventually appear as a book. My first-draft dummy runs over 250 pages; my sense is that the final product should have at least 320 pages. Book publishers interested in considering a photocopy of ~The Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin~, and promising a quick reply, are invited to write me. ~(1983)~
* * *
~AN EXHIBITION OF ANTHOLOGIES~
Over two dozen books of literature, criticism, art and social thought, edited for publishers both large and small--a retrospective of two decades' work--would be put in display cases or, more attractively, left on a supervised table for reading on the premises, in either an art gallery or a library. The display would include ~On Contemporary Literature~ (l964, l969), ~The New American Arts~ (l965), ~Twelve from the Sixties~ (l967), ~The Young American Writers~ (l967), ~Beyond Left & Right~ (l968), ~Imaged Words & Worded Images~ (l970), ~Possibilities of Poetry~ (l970), ~Moholy-Nagy~ (l970), ~John Cage~ (l970), ~Social Speculations~ (l97l), ~Future's Fictions~ (l97l), ~Human Alternatives~ (l97l), ~Seeing Through Shuck~ (l972), ~In Youth~ (l972), ~Breakthrough Fictioneers~ (l973), ~The Edge of Adaptation~ (l973), ~Language & Structure~ (l975), ~Essaying Essays~ (l975), ~Younger Critics in North America~ (l976), ~Esthetics Contemporary~ (l978), ~Assembling Assembling~ (l978), ~Visual Literature Criticism~ (l979), ~Text-Sound Texts~ (l980), ~The Yale Gertrude Stein~ (l980), ~Scenarios~ (l980), ~Aural Literature Criticism~ (l98l) and ~American Writing Today~ (two volumes, l98l). The exhibition should have a catalogue that would open with an expanded version of an autobiographical essay (already drafted for another medium) about the general purposes of these anthologies and then particular histories of individual books. Space permitting, it would perhaps include reproductions of tables of contents, excerpts from introductions and comprehensive bibliographical data. Materials from this catalogue could also be displayed. The exhibition would be the first of its kind, to my knowledge, and would probably be particularly appropriate for libraries with modest exhibition facilities. ~(1983)~
* * *
~DEAR DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC ARTS:~
Four years ago I received from the Visual Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts a Planning Grant for Art in Public Places. Since most of my creative work has been literary, the people awarding me this grant no doubt expected that I would come up with proposals for public art different from the common run. Well, I have. One principal way in which they differ is that most are for extended spaces, such as the edge of a train platform, a series of vaults in a hallway ceiling, the vertical risers of a wide flight of steps, or the floor of a very long passageway, such as that connecting one train line to another or the airline's terminal to the departure pad. Although I once submitted slides of the kinds of images that might fill such spaces, I found that this is less relevant than my declaring in writing, as I am doing now, my preference for such spaces (which most other artists inclined to public art judge impossible) and acknowledging as well that I work within a literary tradition. That last means that I work either with language or literary forms. For the edges of train platforms, for instance, I am proposing the installation, in brass letters at least four inches high, two feet from the edge, their bottoms facing away from the tracks, of texts I call ~strings~. These are extended sequences of letters that are composed of overlapping words, each new word including at least three letters of its predecessor. Let me quote, as an example, the beginning of ~Stringfive~:
rwritemperamentorthographysicisternumericalibereavesdropenervous. . . .
I calculate that, if the letters are four inches high and set lower-case,
the exhaustive text (which is a hundred inches long on my typewriter) would
be two hundred feet long, which happens to be the length of a typical subway
train station. Since these strings, unlike most public art nowadays, cannot
be understood in a single glance, they need a captive audience, like people
waiting impatiently for a train, willing to work on a puzzle, with full assurance
that should they not entirely solve it now, it will surely be there the next
time they return. I have already completed six exhaustive texts in this vein--three
in English, one in French, one in German and one in Swedish--
and would like to believe that in a university town or a sophisticated city at least the French and German would not be entirely incomprehensible. One charm of these ~Strings~ is that they are complicated and engrossing enough to survive repeated viewings, especially in public situations where, incidentally, their pedagogic value should not be minimized. For extended passageways and ceilings, I have works I call constructivist fictions which are sequences of square symmetrical abstract line drawings that metamorphose in some sort of systemic narrative and, in contrast to verbal fiction, can be "read" from either end. Some involve only a few successive drawings; others fall into the range of twenty images (and are thus suitable for spaces extended to the ratio of twenty to one); one is nearly four hundred images long (and thus perfect for the driveway to the CIA!). One of these Constructivist Fictions was the finalist in a Portland competition for thirteen ceiling vaults. A final public-art proposal I have is for a film installation of "Epiphanies" ideally in a place where people are waiting against their wishes. It is described in more detail on the enclosed sheet [reprinted below]. Now that I have written this letter, as well as the enclosed proposal, could I please ask you to show both, which may be freely copied, in lieu of slides from me, the next time your council or a similar panel meets to consider artists' ideas for art in public spaces. Naturally, if I pass the first hurdle, I would be willing to make more specific models for more specific sites. If you or your colleagues have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. ~(1983)~
* * *
The real problem now seems to be whether work outside the conventional art-work
role may still be regarded as having any chance of remaining within the general
category of art-
work. Does it make sense, as the saying goes, to pick up the ball and run with it ~only~ if everybody thinks one is still playing soccer?
The main problem with contemporary practical art, it seems to me, is that there's a tendency to overlook that practice is based on rules and that rules are ~prior~ to practice.--Ian Burn/Mel Ramsden, "Some Notes on Practice and Theory" (1969)
~THE 16 MM FILM "EPIPHANIES"~
This film, long in progress, contains heightened narrative moments, both visual and verbal--Epiphanies, in the James Joycean sense--that have no ostensible connection to one another, either horizontally (in time) or vertically (in space); for two dimensions of this radical experiment are, first, numerous parts that are identical only in structural kind and, then, a sound track that proceeds independently of the visual (and yet continually complements it esthetically). The sound track contains single-sentence stories I have written and the visual element is drawn from found footage, both color and black-and-white, collected from innumerable sources and edited by me into continuous film that emphasizes the particularity of each visual Epiphany. In its abundance of discrete stories, "Epiphanies" has been (and will be) ultimately concerned with exploring, within the verbal/visual form indigenous to film, the exhaustive experience of the experience of story. The final film should be four hours long, for both continuous showing and an installation in which one hour segments would be projected continuously to four sides of the space (while the separate four-hour sound track is aired continuously). This application requests support for further gathering and editing of found Epiphanies and for further electronic processing and editing of the sound track. After five years of work on "Epiphanies," I for one would like to see how the complete film turns out; I hope the panel agrees.
Of "Epiphanies" in progress: A twenty-six-minute version, enclosed with this application, has been screened at Arsenal (Berlin), Literarisches Colloquium Berlin and Donnell Library (N.Y.); a seventy-minute version exists but has not yet been printed; a twenty-minute version with a German soundtrack, commissioned by Sender Freies Berlin as part of its ~Projektionen '83~ series, was broadcast over the North German television network in 1983. Yet more footage has been gathered for future re-edits. Several hours of rough audiotape (in English), with over fifty readers, were produced in 1982 and 1983. Approximately forty-five minutes of this raw material was electronically processed during a two-week residency at WGBH-FM in 1983. Selections of the text have appeared since 1980 in over two dozen American literary magazines and in theatrical productions in 1980 and 1981; a selection in German translation was published as a book in 1983. Another version of "Epiphanies" explores the use of a primitive video character-generator, while a three-minute excerpt toward a full-length opera, written in collaboration with the composer Bruce Kushnick, was accepted for broadcast over Westdeutscher Rundfunk. An exhibition at Albright College (1983) included not only the film and videotape but a wall of small cards, each with a single story.
Notes on the film "Epiphanies": Each sentence is meant to be the epiphany, or encompassing climactic moment (in the James Joycean sense), of a longer, nonexistent story. My aim in writing these stories is to make single sentences so evocatively sufficient that the remainder of the story need not be said. Collected together, these stories make a fictional experience that is not linear, but spatial; not sequential, but thoroughly discontinuous; not nineteenth-century, but twentieth-century (though also echoing Homer, whose parataxis Herodotus compared to beads on a string). To me, the author, no story in "Epiphanies" is more important than any other; in context, none is is merely transitional. Another aim was to touch upon the fullest range of human experience, making perhaps the most universal fiction ever written.
Wishing to extend the principle of Epiphanies into film, I had to decide how such climactic moments could best be made. Since each visual epiphany is meant to stand by itself, absolutely without reference to sequences either before or after (and with no ostensible connection, other than structural similarity, to the different stories on the sound track), I decided it would be best (esthetically, as well as financially and for efficiency) not to shoot fresh footage but to find Epiphanies (perhaps unintentional) in outtakes gathered from many other filmmakers. Had I shot my own footage, I figured, the style of a single cameraman or single director would inevitably impose a consistency that would be utterly contrary to my purpose of making each sequence a distinctly separate entity, as well as contrary to my desire for universality. So, thousands of feet of 16 mm film in a diversity of formats and styles, gathered from the widest variety of sources, were viewed to find the few hundred that I used. The result is, to make two crucial distinctions, not a "compilation film" but a film best made with the compliments of others; and not a film adaptation of a text but a realization in film of unique esthetic principles that likewise inform the text (and, in point of fact, precede it).
The work is so various and abundant that people viewing it tend to come away with (1) a sense of the whole and (2) moments, either verbal or visual, that particularly appeal to them. In my experience, everyone has his or her own favorites, usually for personal reasons (and whether these favorites are visual or verbal often indicates much about his or her perceptual outlook). Whereas another film also made with Martin Koerber, ~Ein Verlorenes Berlin~, has a particular theme that, even if it is not told, must be communicated for the film to succeed, "Epiphanies" is so expansively open that I can expect no more than the reception of its esthetic theme: ~the exhaustive experience of the experience of story~. Everything else any viewer takes away is, literally, his or her own to possess (and beyond my design).
Several people who have seen the same version-in-progress twice have asked me if the "second film differed from the first." This indicates not any trickery on my part but a quality peculiar to "Epiphanies": A film so rich in discrete parts simply cannot be assimilated thoroughly in a single sitting. As the film becomes longer, and yet more various, it will become yet more impossible to view fully in the conventional way--perhaps not even in several sittings! With this problem in mind, let me suggest that "Epiphanies" is best seen in venues where members of the audience can enter and leave as they wished, confident that they can return at any point without difficulty. While they may, it is true, have missed certain episodes, they would not upon their return in any sense feel lost. In that case it would be more appropriate to show the film continuously in situations where viewers could stay as long as they liked. There would be no starting time other than the opening of the projection and no closing time other than turning off the lights. (This is politically agreeable to someone like myself who dislikes the convention of forcing an audience to seat themselves at a certain time, not to arise until another time.)
The further I get into this film, the more I find it differs from 99.9 percent of the films ever made, not just because its parts are so disconnected (whereas most films aim for continuity) or because its sound track does not-- and need not--synchronize with the visual track, but in the kind of alternative cinematic experience it offers. Yet in spite of these conceptual differences and its unusual origins, "Epiphanies" is still very much about exploiting (and exploring) possibilities unique to the medium of film. ~(1983)~
* * *
I have a spiteful motive in writing such a book in the present climate of society. It is to establish that if you do not do better, it is not because there are no alternatives, but because you do not choose to. . . . Our problems are not technological and sociological; they are moral and political.--Paul Goodman, ~Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals~ (1962)
~A SPEECH-MUSIC "KADDISH" FOR RADIO~
In an earlier work, ~Invocations~ (1981), I mixed the prayers of over sixty ministers from different faiths, speaking over two dozen languages, into a work of art about the sound of the language of prayer. By contrast, the proposed "Kaddish" will focus upon a single prayer that is spoken in a great variety of styles and accents. A prayer for the dead that exists only in Aramaic (and differs from others of its kind in not mentioning death), the Kaddish is also the most poetic statement in the Jewish liturgy. The following rough English transliteration of one system of pronunciation gives some sense of its special sacred sound:
Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'me rabbo, b'olmo deevro chiruseh v'yamlick malchuseh, b'chayechon uvyomechon, uv'chayey d'chol beys yisroel, baagolo uvizman koreev, v'imrue omen. Y'he sh-meh rabbo m'vorach l'loam ulolmay olmayo. Yisborach v'yistabch v'yispo-ar v'yrisroman v'yisnaseh v'yis-hador v'yisaley v'yishallol sh-meh d'kukdsho b'reech hu l-elo min col birchoso v'shiroso tuscho'choso v'nechemoso daamiron b'olmo v'imru omen. Y'he sh'lomo rabbo min sh'mayo v'chayim olenu v'al col yisroel, v'imru omen. Oseh sholom bimromov, hu yaaseh sholom olenu v'al col yisroel v'imru omen.
[The best translation known to me is: Magnified and sanctified be his great Name in the world which he hath created according to his will. May he establish his kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time, and say ye, Amen. Let his great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, magnified and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be he; though he be high above all the blessings and hymns, praises and consultations, which are uttered in the world; and say ye, Amen. May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us and for all Israel; and say ye, Amen. He who makest peace in his high places, may he make peace for us and for all Israel; and say ye, Amen.]
The plan is to collect readings of this traditional text from ministers and cantors around the world, the sounds of their voices implicitly representing the scope of the Diaspora. Here, as in ~Invocations~, I prefer recording religious professionals, because not only do they say the prayer accurately, they have more experience at articulating the nuances of every phrase. Therefore, it is requested that each radio station interested in the work please endeavor to record local rabbis and cantors. These readings will then be mixed into duets, choruses, fugues, and successive solos, in the tradition of ~Invocations~ and the ~Eight Nights of Hanukah~ produced for the CBC in 1983. My "Kaddish" will be produced, funding permitting, in 1985, at a length between forty and sixty minutes (with excerpting probably feasible), ideally for broadcast on or around Yom Kippur 1985. Radio directors seriously interested in coproducing the work, or in auditing either of its predecessors, are advised to contact me. ~(1983)~.
* * *
~MODULAR AUDIO "EPIPHANIES"~
~Background~: "Epiphanies" is a collection of over two thousand single-sentence stories that have been published in both literary journals and an anthology of theatrical ~Scenarios~ (1980). They also became the text of both a performance piece and a character-generated videotape. In German translation, selections from the text were published as a book; other parts became the sound track of a film shown on the North German television network. Back in America, over a thousand of these stories were recorded by thirty-five readers at WBAI-FM, New York, in February 1982, and then several hundred more were recorded at WGBH-FM, Boston, in January 1983, for editing into a single uninterrupted program at least four hours long. In James Joyce's theory of the short story, we remember, the epiphany is the encompassing climactic moment that functions to illuminate the entire story. In my "Epiphanies" I have tried to suggest the same momentous quality within a single sentence that is, hopefully, so evocatively sufficient that the remainder of the story need not be said. As no story is intentionally related to any other, the experience of a succession of them is necessarily discontinuous--not nineteenth-century, but twentieth. In time-based media, where the Epiphanies come at a moderate pace, listeners tend to remember what suits their taste and experience, as well as assimilate another quality I take to be the principal theme of the work as a whole: ~the exhaustive experience of the experience of story~.
~Foreground~: What is proposed is a different use of this taped material. As the stories can be heard in any order, the long tape can thus also be divided and distributed into a large number of short programs--at least fifty, perhaps as many as one hundred--that range in length from twenty seconds to a few minutes. Distributed over the satellite, these brief programs could then be spontaneously inserted, in any order, at available lengths, into the empty spaces of each station's programming. (They are better than most promos and, better yet, would sustain interest in promos if interspersed between.) In an individual station's programming, "Epiphanies" should appear as a continuous unscheduled feature--each program a surprise that should nonetheless refer to others. The initial constraint for me as the author/producer is to separate the individual stories--no story should sound connected to any other. Thus, in addition to using a great number of readers with distinctive voices, I have been using audio processing to give each story its own setting, so to speak. Approximately thirty-five minutes of material were processed to my satisfaction during a sixty-hour guest residency at WGBH-FM in Boston in 1983. I shall need to process a few hours more before this is done (and the whole can be cut apart). Since variety is key, the plan is to use various technologies in several studios. These "Epiphanies" will initially be distributed over a satellite system as a continuous program, with the segments prefaced by a voice announcing the length (which will aid in cuing) and then the suffix, "Those were "Epiphanies" by Richard Kostelanetz." From time to time there will be a longer credit to its benefactors.
This is not the sort of program that commercial radio would ever want to do (since it cannot be sponsored), and there is no mechanism known to me for either producing or distributing it at National Public Radio at present. By contrast, were it made available gratis to independent stations, it could be easily plugged into the available open spaces in the imprecise programming formats that customarily allow announcers and engineers to improvise within an overall structure. ~(1983)~
* * *
Conceptual art is only good when the idea is good.--Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" (1967)
~"WORDSAND": A TRAVELING EXHIBITION~
A traveling exhibition of my creative work with language in several media, ~Wordsand~ presently includes spine-bound books of my visual poetry, visual fiction, experimental prose and numerical art; ladderbooks of visual fiction; card books whose pages can be distributed over an exhibition space; silk-screened prints; a poem on adding machine tape over fifty feet long; offset cards; stereoaudiotapes; color videotapes; 16 mm sound films; and a hologram. The spine-bound books have customarily been placed on an open shelf adjacent to a comfortable chair. The ladderbooks have been strung out over the display space. The card books can be mounted on walls, along with the prints. The cassettes of audiotapes and videotapes can be played whenever visitors wish. The film can likewise be shown on demand or at scheduled times. A holographic film is available, if the host already has (or can arrange to borrow) a clear cylinder 16" in diameter, a circular projection stand, and appropriate installation know-how. The exhibition has been installed in a space 100' x 20', in two adjacent rooms roughly 20' x 30', within a single space 35' square divided by thin screens and within a space 20' x 50' punctuated by a pillar. Only the sixteen large prints need be framed; they are already matted. All the materials fit into a single crate 46" x 30" x 9" that weighs roughly ninety pounds, and it has so far gone, mostly by "package express" (bus), to Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, Cornell College (Iowa), University of North Dakota, Miami-Dade Community College, Vassar College, and California State University at Bakersfield. The Gallery at Simon Fraser copublished a ninety-two-page catalogue that is filled not with illustrations but with theoretical and art-autobiographical writings. Even though I would like to do a larger illustrated catalogue before long, I can supply copies of this first edition to retail at three dollars apiece. It appears that ~Wordsand~ may well be the first comprehensive one-person exhibition of its particular literary-artistic kind in America.
The following materials are available for the ~Wordsand~ exhibition:
~Word Prints~, seven silk-screened prints, nonsequential, 26" x 40"
~Echo~, one silkcreened print, 23" x 29".
~Numbers One~, six prints, 22" x 30", only two of which must be displayed together.
~Modulations~ and ~Extrapolate~, two ladderbooks, each roughly 4" x 80", to be mounted vertically on a wall.
Posters & cards: Manifestoes, Radar, Autobiography, Combinations, Echo, Metamorphosis, Evolving, Milestones in a Life.
Loose-leaf books: ~Numbers One~ (seven images), ~Rain Rains Rain~ (twenty-four cards)
Books: ~Visual Language~, ~In the Beginning~, ~Accounting~, ~I Articulations/Short Fictions~, ~Recyclings (Volume I)~, ~Openings & Closings~, ~Portraits from Memory~, ~Come Here~, ~Constructs~, ~Numbers: Poems & Stories~, ~Three Places in New Inkland~, ~Illuminations~, ~One Night Stood~ (both newsprint and perfect-bound), ~Constructs Two~, ~Foreshortenings~, ~Turfs/Arenas/Fields/Pitches~, ~Wordsand~, ~And So Forth~, ~Exhaustive Parallel Intervals~, ~More Short Fictions~, ~Autobiographies~, ~Recyclings~, ~Reincarnations~.
~String Three~, adding machine tape three inches high and over fifty feet long.
Videotapes: ~Three Prose Pieces~, ~Openings & Closings~, ~Declaration of Independence~, ~Epiphanies~ for character-generator, ~Literary Video~, a copy of the film ~Epiphanies~ with a German sound track, and video documentations of two radically different theatrical performances of the dramatic version of ~Epiphanies~.
Audiotapes: ~Experimental Prose~, ~Praying to the Lord~, ~Audio Art~, ~Foreshortenings & Other Stories~, ~Monotapes~, ~Openings & Closings~, ~Invocations~, ~Seductions~, ~Relationships~, ~Dialogues~, ~Conversations~, ~New York City~, ~Asdescent/Anacatabasis~, ~The Gospels~, ~Die Evangelien~.
Films: ~Constructivist Fictions~, ~Epiphanies~, ~Ein Verlorenes Berlin~.
Hologram: ~On Holography~.
Sponsoring organizations interested in exhibiting ~Wordsand~ should contact the artist. ~(1983)~
* * *
~A RESIDENCY IN AUDIO ART~
Even though I was an Artist in Residence last year, please hear me out. It
took me a while to discover what your Fairlight CMI could do best with speech--
how I, as a language artist, could best exploit the new machine's extraordinary potentials, within its severe limitations; and while I was more than pleased with what I did with your technician last summer, I'd like please to request another free pass at the system. My experience tells me that, given that it can handle units no longer than four seconds, the Fairlight works best with individuals words. In my first foray at the Fairlight, I used the German words for yes, no and sure. A future piece would consist of collections of related words, such as these:
Kill, Slay, Hang, Massacre, Bump Off, Choke, Drown, Murder, Execute, Smother, Decimate, Strangle, Immolate, Slaughter, Incinerate, Snuff Out, Asphyxiate, Exterminate, Assassinate, Put to Death, etc.
Live, Arise, Thrive, Vivify, Prevail, Endure, Subsist, Animate, Breathe, Turn On, Continue, Activate, Energize, Propagate, Invigorate, Resuscitate, Walk the Earth, etc.
These words would then be enhanced and combined in various ways, ideally creating a linguistic synergy that exceeds the impact of any individual word.
Another possibility would involve using a collection of Hebrew religious imperatives.
Both works extend my esthetic desire to do on audiotape language constructions that cannot be done live, to create language experiences radically different from anything heard or read before. In the course of producing these pieces, I would also like to explore the studio's other technologies for their possibilities in speech modification. ~(1983)~
* * *
~AN EXHIBITION OF FICTIONS~
Richard Kostelanetz has for the past fifteen years worked in a variety of
formats unusual for fiction, including newsprint books, ladderbooks, non-sequential
cards, mostly blank books, audio, video and film, with a variety of unusual
fictional materials, including single-sentence stories, fictions with only
one or two words to a paragraph, stories composed exclusively of numbers and
of line drawings. On the walls will be mounted several hundred cards of single-sentence
~Epiphanies~, a frieze of ~Openings & Closings~, the large-format newsprint
stories ("Milestones in a Life," certain numerical fictions), the
ladderbooks (~Modulations~ & ~Extrapolate~) and the original drawings/versions
of some of the abstract stories. Rare and fragile fictions (~Tabula Rasa~,
~Inexistences~, ~Obliterate~) will be under glass, their pages open to reveal
their contents. More common books will be on a table, available for reading
on the premises: ~Short Fictions~, ~In the Beginning~, ~Numbers: Poems &
Stories~, ~One Night Stood~ (in both editions), ~Constructs~, ~Constructs
Two~, ~More Short Fictions~, ~Come Here~, ~Foreshortenings~, the German edition
of ~Epiphanies~, ~Openings & Closings~, ~And So Forth~, ~Exhaustive Parallel
Intervals~, ~Reincarnations~. The audiotapes of fiction (~Experimental Prose~,
~Monotapes~, ~Openings & Closings~, ~Foreshortenings~, ~Epiphanies~, ~Seductions~,
~Conversations~, ~Dialogues~) should be available from the attendant, to be
played in a stereo cassette player (with earphones) whenever a spectator wants
to hear one. The same procedure should govern the exhibition of creative videotapes
(~Openings & Closings~, ~Three Prose Pieces~, ~Epiphanies~) which can
include videocopies of both theatrical performances of ~Epiphanies~ and the
four films based on fictions: ~Constructivist Fictions~, ~Openings & Closings~
and two completely different versions of the film ~Epiphanies~ that are in
turn completely different from the theatrical and video versions, and utterly
different from each other as well, one having a German sound track, the other
an English sound track. In a separate place, for reference, could be the artist's
three anthologies of fiction--~Twelve from the Sixties~ (1967), ~Future's
Fictions~ (1971), ~Breakthrough Fictioneers~ (1973)-
-and, if published in time, a book of the author's essays on fiction. The exhibition should include a catalogue itemizing the work and relating it to other developments in contemporary art and the traditions of fiction. ~(1984)~
* * *
~A SERIES OF PROGRAMS ON AMERICAN HORSPIEL~
As we approach the sixtieth anniversary of American radio drama, I would like to propose a series of twenty-six programs, each one hour long, devoted to the ~American Tradition of Horspiel~. Here, as elsewhere, I prefer to use the German term which means, literally, hear-play, because it includes so much more than the English-language equivalent of "radio drama" (but drop the original's umlaut, because I want to Americanize the word). All the works I wish to include are available on transcriptions, most of them scarce. This series would open with Archibald MacLeish's ~Fall of the City~ (l937), which remains a milestone to us all (and incidentally his greatest single work in this genre); but from there we would differ from any other series that might likewise start with MacLeish in concentrating upon the more ~radiophonic~ North American works. By "radiophonic" I mean those pieces that successfully exploit the unique acoustic possibilities of radio, to realize stories and experiences that could succeed only on radio, my theme being that in this age when film and television predominate, radio works best when it does what the other media cannot do--not when it attempts to re-create the situation or even the illusion of live theater but when it realizes experiences that can exist only in the ear. From the classic period, we will play such works as Orson Welles's ~War of the Worlds~ (l938), Lucille Fletcher's ~Sorry, Wrong Number~, Norman Corwin's ~Daybreak~ and Kenneth Patchen's ~He Wears a Slouch Hat~. Since I have suggested elsewhere (most recently in a program for Westdeutscher Rundfunk) that the greatest American radio theater of the prewar years appeared in radio comedy, we will feature, for one program apiece, several major figures from this period, including Amos 'n Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, George Burns and Gracie Allen, the Easy Aces and Fred Allen. Here we will play both whole programs and choice excerpts, depending upon what is available and how much commentary is necessary. The contemporary (post-1950) period will include excerpts from Stan Freberg, Nichols and May, Cheech & Chong, John Cage's ~Roaratorio~, the Firesign Theater's ~Do Anything You Want To~ and selections from Bob & Ray, among others. I would edit the programs and also write the brief commentaries. If the series successfully develops a positive reputation, the whole cycle could be repeated; ideally, it could also provide the sponsoring station with a foundation for fresh productions of American horspiel. ~(1984)~
* * *
When art does not any longer depend upon its physical presence, when it becomes an abstraction, it is not distorted and altered by its reproduction in books. It becomes "PRIMARY" information, while the reproduction of conventional art in books and catalogues is necessarily (distorted) "SECONDARY" information. When information is PRIMARY, the catalogue can become the exhibition.--Seth Siegelaub (1969), as quoted in Ursula Meyer, ~Conceptual Art~ (1972)
~THE SOUND OF GERMAN/AMERICAN POETRY IN AMERICA/GERMANY~
What I propose to do is record at least two dozen native-born Americans reciting a favorite German poem of their choice, and to compose from these readings an interwoven, multitrack piece ostensibly about ~the sound~ of German poetry in America. I would choose readers whose competence in German was various, from a friend with her baby jingle to Americans who frequently travel in Germany. My sense is that the work would be comic, sure, not only about the sound and rhythms of English colliding with the acoustic qualities of German, but I hope the piece will get into much else, including the profound differences between two languages with similar roots. I would do the original recordings here and there, but would in the composing need to work with a German writer whose love of language comedy equaled my own. (There are several possible collaborators in mind.)
There should also be a companion about ~The Sound of American Poetry in Germany~. This would be composed in similar ways from literate Germans reading their favorite American poems.
My preliminary calculations are that these are two separate pieces, each roughly thirty minutes in length, which could be broadcast separately or sequentially. It might also be interesting to try to compose a single piece incorporating both sets of readings, but I am less sure about what the result of that would be (or whether it would be as successful). My expectation is that the principal producer of this project will be a German station. If it were coproduced by an American organization, certain expenses could easily be shared. The compositional work will probably be done at the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm, where I have worked several times before. ~(1984)~
* * *
~POSSIBILITIES OF LONGER POETRY: AN ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN CONTEMPORARIES~
This aims to be a diversified collection of important post-1959 long poems (integral wholes, rather than collections of parts, over ten pages in length, but shorter than a whole book), along with an extended historical-critical introduction to recent longer poetry, the requisite bio-bibliographical notes, and a selective bibliography, after the model of my earlier ~Possibilities of Poetry~ (Delta, 1970), whose introduction was reprinted, among other places, in my ~The Old Poetries and the New~ (University of Michigan, 1981). My theme here, as before, is that postwar poetry represents a series of reactions to the post-Eliot hegemony of 1945, and that these reactions have been so various that it is fair to speak of this recent period as, first of all, unprecedentedly plural. The length of the book ultimately depends upon the publisher's budget (with 320 pages as minimum), and the following selections are tentative, in part because all material will be reexamined and the advice of colleagues solicited, especially about options that have recently appeared, but mostly because all possible contributors will be offered the following terms of payment: as two thirds of the publishers' entire advance to the editor be allocated to the contributors upon publication, that sum will be divided by the number of pages in the book to reach the basic per-page rate, with each contributor receiving this amount multiplied by the number of printed pages of his or her selection, without exception. Those poems whose authors/publishers cannot accept these equitable terms will simply be listed in an appendix for readers to find on their own.
ANDREWS, Lyman. "The Death of Mayakovsky," ~New Writers VIII~ (London,
1968), 10 pp.
ASHBERY, John. "Europe," ~The Tennis-Court Oath~ (Middletown, CT, 1962), 24 pp.
BERRY, Wendell. "Window Poems," ~Openings~ (N.Y., 1968), 22 pp.
CAGE, John. "Empty Words IV," ~Empty Words~ (Middletown, CT, 1979), 10 pp.
COOLIDGE, Clark. "AD," ~Space~ (N.Y., 1970), 19 pp.
DUNCAN, Robert. "Apprehensions," ~Roots & Branches~ (N.Y., 1964).
ECONOMOU, George. "Ameriki: Book One," ~Ameriki~ (N.Y., 1977), 18 pp.
GINSBERG, Allen. "Kaddish," ~Kaddish~ (San Francisco, 1963), 20 pp.
HIGGINS, Dick. "Thrice Seven," ~Foew&ombwhnw~ (N.Y., 1969), 16 pp.
JARRELL, Randall. "The Lost World," ~The Lost World~ (N.Y., 1965), 10 pp.
KEROUAC, Jack. "Sea," ~Big Sur~ (N.Y., 1962), 20 pp.
KINNELL, Galway. "The Last River," ~Body Rags~ (Boston, 1967), 15 pp.
KOCH, Kenneth. "Some South American Poets," ~The Pleasures of Peace~ (N.Y., 1969), 15 pp.
KOSTELANETZ, Richard. "The East Village (1970-71)," ~I Articulations~ (N.Y., 1974), 14 pp.
LAX, Robert. "Black & White," ~Black & White~ (N.Y., 1971), 15 pp.
LIEBERMAN, Laurence. "Orange Country Plague: Scenes," ~The Unblinding~ (N.Y., 1968), 10 pp.
MAC LOW, Jackson. "The Presidents of the United States of America," 12 pp.
O'HARA, Frank. "Biotherm," ~Collected Poems~ (N.Y., 1971), 15 pp.
OLSON, Charles. "Earth Was Born Without Union of Love," ~Maximus Two~ (London, 1966), 10 pp.
OWENS, Rochelle. "The Queen of Greece (A Narrative)," ~I Am the Babe of Joseph Stalin's Daughter~ (N.Y., 1972), 10 pp.
PRITCHARD, Norman Henry, II. "O," ~The Matrix~ (Garden City, 1970), 10 pp.
REXROTH, Kenneth. "The Heart's Garden, the Garden's Heart," ~Collected Longer Poems~ (N.Y., 1968), 22 pp.
ROTHENBERG, Jerome. "The Cokboy," ~Poland/1931~ (N.Y., 1974), 10 pp.
SHAPIRO, David. "A Man Holding an Acoustic Panel," ~A Man Holding an Acoustic Panel~ (N.Y., 1971), 15 pp.
SNYDER, Gary. "Myths and Texts," ~A Range of Poems~ (London, 1967), 25 pp.
SOLT, Mary Ellen. "The Peoplemover," ~The Peoplemover~ (Reno, NV, 1978), 20 pp.
For further information, please write the editor. ~(1984)~
* * *
~A COLLABORATION WITH POLYARTIST FRANCIS SCHWARTZ~
We would like to produce a polyartistic, polyglot, evening-length theatrical work (or contemporary "opera") utilizing instrumental sound, olfactory stimulation, video, climatic manipulation, electronically generated sound, speech collage, monologues and spatial effects. Thematically, the material will derive from ancient Jewish themes and their subsequent presence in both Christian and Islamic liturgies and commentaries (e.g., parallels and extensions of the Song of Songs on one hand and the Book of Job on the other). Given the ecumenically sacred nature of this piece, it could be presented on the occasion of a consequential date in the religious calendar of any of the three religions; it could be presented as well in spaces other than formal concert halls. We plan to incorporate not only techniques but excerpts from previous works of ours, such as Kostelanetz's ~Invocations~ (1981) or Schwartz's ~Caligula~ (1975), among others. Kostelanetz will be particularly responsible for language and media, Schwartz for music and theater. Schwartz has composed extended musical/theatrical works, Kostelanetz evening-length tape works. Not only has each worked in the other's domains, but we have known each other for over a decade and have worked together before. Remembering that religious services at their highest have always been overwhelming multimedia experiences, we think that the work we propose to do will be profoundly traditional in feeling and thoroughly contemporary in expression. While we particularly envision a live production, radio-record or television-videotape versions will also be feasible. Should any producers seriously interested in our vision have any further questions, please contact either of us--Kostelanetz in English, Schwartz at the University of Puerto Rico in English, Spanish or French. ~(1984)~
* * *
One can see in some of his applications for Guggenheim fellowships (he never got one) that he usually had a good idea of what he was trying to create and how to go about it, and if one looks closely his plans are seen to grow out of some already realized work, the analysis of which has determined the next step. It is therefore a little unsettling to read rapidly through these fellowship applications--1942, 1943, 1945, 1946, 1947--for the career unfolds too fast, novels and plays conceived, brought forth (midwife or not) and autopsied, like animated cartoons. Perhaps this haste was anxiety, the result of having no audience to justify his art.--Taylor Stoehr, introduction to ~Creator Spirit Come: The Literary Essays of Paul Goodman~ (1977)
~THE AUTOMATED PEN~, A BOOK ON WORD PROCESSING FOR WRITERS
This will differ from guidebooks already popular, such as Peter McWilliams's ~Word Processing Handbook~, in concentrating not upon differences in machinery but upon the various word-processing programs which my colleagues and I will discuss critically from the perspective of their capabilities and accessibility for ~writing~ everything from letters to books. One truth that seems to be lost in current advice is that while all the new machines have advantages over typewriters, not only do they do different things, but even the same tasks are often done differently. For instance, in evaluating some of the popular cheaper systems, we will show precisely why their programs, though useful for writing neat business letters, are not good for writing long essays or books.
In discussing the more sophisticated programs, such as those available for the IBM-PC, we will evaluate and contrast the differences in printing options and, say, physical manipulations, for instance separating those that use the function keys excessively from those that use them scarcely. We will analyze such supplements as Word Plus and Grammatik as well the genuine advantages of an expensive "dedicated" word processor, if only to show what is ultimately feasible in word processing with computers. We shall not ignore machines other than the IBM; but since our thesis is that no single program is always best--they just have different capabilities for writing--our general advice about machines is that you should purchase that which best operates the program that best suits your writing needs. If, for instance, you prefer the operational style of the Spellbinder program, the Eagle is probably best; but if you want to do a footnoted text and to split your screen horizontally with, say, your outline in the top part and your work area in the bottom, you should consider a machine sympathetic to programs with split-screen capabilities. Should you want to use programs that allow you to write in the different alphabets of foreign languages, another machine would be best. And so on.
We expect that our commentary will be sophisticated and discriminating, in the tradition of McWilliams, who gains the reader's trust through his critical-advisory style. One of us is a professional writer who has authored over twenty books and incidentally advised many colleagues about word processing; his partner has worked for several years in the technical writing department of a computer installation and is thus accustomed to explaining technical procedures to laymen. If this book were contracted now, we would expect to deliver within a year computer disks ready for typesetting a 256-page book. ~(1984)~
* * *
~FILMING "NEW YORK CITY"~
~New York City~ is an extended 140-minute audiotape composed of sounds both typical and unique to New York City, which were then mixed together not to create scenes but to reveal acoustic qualities and audio experience. It was commissioned by the HÃ¶rspiel (radio play) department of Westdeutscher Rundfunk for broadcast in 1984 in its ~Metropolis~ series (which also includes Pierre Henry's Paris and two 1930 radio pieces about Berlin by Walter Ruttmann and Alfred Doblin). What is proposed here, in a reversal of convention, is basing a film on this sound track. As the tape is composed of sounds unique to New York, so the footage would be of images likewise unique. To capture the variousness of the city, it would be better, I think, if this footage were shot not just by me, but by others as well. Colleagues would be asked for their outtakes, while I would offer advanced New York City film students 16 mm stock, in exchange for credit in the film (and payment for footage actually used). The latter, especially, would be encouraged to shoot extended sequences, as many sections of the tape run over five minutes. This footage would be edited, and sometimes superimposed, by me, at times to accompany the film track explicitly, other times to complement it with parallel impressions. This procedure for producing the film ~New York City~ resembles what I am doing, with some success, in my film "Epiphanies" (in progress since 1981), which was likewise composed from footage shot by others. Behind the idea of the film stands the main principle of my current creative work, which is realizing in a new medium what began in another (mostly audiotapes from texts, but also, in the case of "Epiphanies," exhibition cards, audiotape, videotape and film, all from a text). Another form for my audio ~New York City~ would be a concert presentation with thousands of slides; but one advantage of film, it seems to me, is that its images are kinetic, as my sounds as kinetic. (A second advantage is that film is potentially a mass medium, while concerts are not.) Oddly, the only earlier example known to me of a radio play that became a film was also the initial model for my own hometown portrait--Dylan Thomas's ~Under Milk Wood~. ~(1984)~
* * *
In the center of Fedora, that gray stone metropolis, stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room. Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora. These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason for another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.--Italo Calvino, ~Invisible Cities~ (1972)
MODEST EDITIONS OF UNPUBLISHED BOOK-ART BOOKS
For the past decade Richard Kostelanetz has been working on several book-art dummies that have not been funded in the past and are probably not going to be funded anywhere else, including "Intermix" (interwoven sequences of drawings, several hundred pages long), "Symmetries" (a visual novel with 392 line drawings, to be produced in a ninety-six-page format 4" high x 14" wide), "Recall" (based upon systematic recompositions of a classic symmetrical photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge), "Relationships" (in a scroll several feet long), "More Numbers" (in a conventional saddle-stitched format), and ~Prose Pieces~ (nonsyntactic writing, also for a more conventional format), all of which are/will be written/drawn and produced by the artist.
Richard Kostelanetz has authored and produced over a dozen book-art books, in a variety of formats ranging from conventional spine-bound books of drawings, words, photographs and numerical arrays to ladderbooks, newsprint books, two-front books, loose-leaf books, card books and much else, which have been distributed through Jaap Rietman, Printed Matter and other choice outlets. There have been several one-person exhibitions of his book art in New York and elsewhere, and his book-art books have been incorporated into ~Wordsand~, a traveling retrospective of his work with words, numbers and lines in several media. In the theoretical discussions about "Artists' Books," he has stood for the position that evidence of esthetic consideration of the medium is more important than the biography of the author and thus that the term ~Book-Art Books~ is more appropriate than the more familiar epithet. ~(1984)~
* * *
"EPIPHANIES": AN OPERA
~Epiphanies~ began as Richard Kostelanetz's text of single-sentence stories that are epiphanies in the Joycean sense. Some of them have appeared in American literary magazines; a selection, translated into German, appeared as a book in 1983. Fifty voices were recorded, reading most of these stories, for a long radio play whose production (i.e., audio processing) is still in progress. The stories also became the sound track for a film whose visual element was composed of cinematic epiphanies gathered from other filmmakers' footage. A version of this film, with a German sound track, was broadcast over the North German Television network in 1983. There is also a theatrical version of the text that has been produced both at Vassar College and University of North Dakota (in remarkably different productions). A video ~Epiphanies~, composed exclusively on a character-generator, also exists.
What is proposed here is an operatic realization of the enclosed text with music by Bruce Kushnick. As can be observed on the sample audiotape, some of the stories are read alone, while others are set to music; in yet other passages is music alone with a similarly epiphanic quality. Changes in media notwithstanding, there is an overall effort to make each event stand by itself, distinct from all the others. As author-composers, Kushnick and I expect to provide elements of written text and sound scores (and tapes) that can be selected and assembled to the director's taste and then distributed among available performers. (With neither sound nor text need all our elements be used.) We look forward to interpretations that are radically different from one another, and very much regard our work as a sort of outline offering performance opportunities beyond our own imaginations. The enclosed audiotape sample we have so far produced was accepted for broadcast, as is, by the ~HÃ¶rspiel~ (radio play) department of Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne. Should anyone considering our proposal have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask. ~(1984)~
* * *
In the end there were no developers interested. The neighbors who had hoped to acquire the property found they couldn't, and the developer who originally did acquire the property did the houses very differetly.--Robert Venturi and John Rausch, in ~Unbuilt Architecture~
~A NEW, EXPANDED EDITION OF~ MASTER MINDS
~Master Minds~ (1969) is a book of my long comprehensive profiles, mostly from the ~New York Times Magazine~, of major American artists and intellectuals, including Marshall McLuhan, Herman Kahn, Glenn Gould, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman, Ralph Ellison, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Cage, Milton Babbitt, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. In these pieces, I have tried to introduce first-rank intellectual and artistic achievements in terms comprehensible to laymen and then to show how such work reflects its authors. Since cultural achievement is the source of my interest, these profiles are mostly sympathetic, though scarcely uncritical. People familiar with my writing tend to judge them as my most popular (or incipiently popular) prose. Nonetheless, when ~Master Minds~ first appeared in 1969, its publisher was administratively disintegrating; and even though the book was scarcely advertised and never reprinted, it was kept in print for a dozen years before its copyright was returned to me. In the meantime I have done similarly extended profiles of other seminal figures, including Kenneth Burke, Edwin Land (the Polaroid chief), Noam Chomsky, Northrop Frye, Robert Wilson, Hannah Arendt, Merce Cunningham, John Ashbery, and B. B. King, among others.
What I propose now is a new edition of ~Master Minds~ that would include these new pieces, revised for their inclusion here. (If these can be set in type identical to that of the original book, the earlier chapters need not be reset.) I would like to think that this new ~Master Minds~ not only would attract literate general readers; especially in paperback, it would also be used in courses devoted to intellectual history and contemporary studies. Any editor seriously wishing to consider the original volume, along with the new pieces, is advised to contact me. ~(1984)~
* * *
~FURTHER WORK IN THE PRODUCTION OF "AUDIO WRITING"~
1. An Audioautobiography, probably sixty minutes long.
2. A series of sixty-minute pieces about the sounds of American poetry as spoken by individuals whose mother tongue is German, Swedish, French or Italian, and the sounds of familiar poems in those languages spoken by native Americans, produced in collaboration with audio colleagues native to those other languages.
3. The completion of "Epiphanies," in progress since 1982, to be at least four hours long as a continuous piece, but probably also divided into sets of shorter programs for wider distribution.
4. The beginning of "Epiphanies" in German and Spanish, produced with the cooperation respectively of the DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm and the University of Puerto Rico.
5. The completion of "Constellations," in progress since 1979, in which groups of words that relate in various ways interact in various ways in acoustic space.
6. "Kaddish": Whereas ~Invocations~ brought into a single acoustic space the various prayers of sixty ministers, in over two dozen languages, this hour-long piece, requiring (like its predecessor) several weeks of field recordings, will mix on a multitrack tape machine the various versions and accents of a single text
7. The exploration of further work with sacred texts, especially at the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm and the studios of both Westdeutscher Rundfunk and the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music.
8. Two sixty-minute audio montages, one in English, the other in French, about Jewish life in Berlin prior to WWII, to be composed from excerpts from long interviews made for the film ~Ein Verlorenes Berlin~ (l983) and its successors.
9. The completion and preparation for publication of "Texts & Proposals for Radio," in progress since 1981, which would be the first American book of a single practitioner's ideas for and about alternative radio. ~(1984)~
* * *
~AN ENGLISH EDITION OF A GERMAN BOOK~
~American Imaginations~, a collection of my writings on American avant-garde artists, was published in Berlin by Merveverlag in 1983; all other rights to the material in it were retained by me. Since this German edition has been successful, not only critically but commercially, I would like to offer the English originals to publishers here. What this short book contains are long comprehensive profiles of Gertrude Stein, Robert Wilson, and Merce Cunningham, along with a shorter profile of Charles Ives and three pieces about John Cage--one a critical review of his poetry (from the ~New York Times Book Review~), the second an unusual interwoven conversation about his ~Empty Words~, and the third a more conventional interview about his ~Writings Through Finnegans Wake~. The book's theme is announced in the opening sentences of its preface: "Just as America is different from Europe, so American artists at their best are different. In the following pages are essays about some of the most different artists ever to have come from my home shores, and what connects these essays to each other, what makes them a book, is my sense that collectively they reveal an American imagination that is fundamentally different from European or Oriental, perhaps even more different than America itself is from Europe." In the original manuscript were chapters that were not translated, but could be restored to this English edition--long profiles of Kenneth Burke and John Ashbery (both from the ~Times~) and shorter pieces on Phillip Glass, Dick Higgins, and Don Celender. All the pieces are written to be accessible (except perhaps one of the Cage conversations), for the book should appeal to students of contemporary art as much as literate laymen. Editors wishing to consider either the German edition or the English manuscript are advised please to contact me. ~(1984)~
* * *
Our problem is not a causal but a conceptual one.--Ludwig Wittgenstein, ~Philosophical In|vestigations~ (1953)
~FURTHER WORK WITH LANGUAGE IN HOLOGRAPHY~
For the past few years, I have been envisioning two kinds of holograms that would use language entwined in capabilities unique to holography: one would involve a multitude of words that are not just orthographic palindromes but also visually self-reflective (MOM, HUH, WOW, TOOT, MUM, TIT, TAT, TOT, TOOT-TOOT, etc.) in a 360 degree hologram, so that they continually spin on themselves, perhaps in combination with words whose visual reversals are not identical but other words (such as, MAY-YAM, HAY-YAH, etc.). This strikes me as quite feasible. The second hologram would involve the creation, probably on a flat (painterly) plate, structures of verbal-visual revelation that would require the spectator to move his or her head, either from side to side or up and down, to see words behind the initial foreground word, or to see how the lines of some letters metamorphose into the lines of other letters, thereby making other words that ideally relate critically to the initial words. The realization of this hologram depends upon further research into current capabilities. For each of these pieces, I might also create a complementary audiotape comparable to the one produced for ~On Holography~ (1978). This proposal extends from my earlier work with visual poetry and then with language in film and videotape. ~(1984)~
* * *
It has been observed that there is a particular sonic quality common to much Caribbean speech, even though its speakers came from different islands and are speaking different languages (among them, English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Papiamento), often with diverse accents. It is also true that much of this speech is unusually beautiful in ways audible to ears that hardly understand its words. What I would like to do in this piece is get at an aural definition of this Caribbean sound by recording natives from all over the Antilles and then mixing these recordings on a multitrack machine into a continuous sound piece. In my initial field recordings, I would expect to confine the speakers to a limited range of verbal materials, such as recitals of familiar prayers (the Twenty-third Psalm, the Lord's Prayer) and identifications of their native lands and perhaps their languages; for since this is to be a piece of audio art, rather than a documentary, there shouldn't be any commentary. Nonetheless, the materials will be composed to be comprehensible to listeners familiar with western languages. It is anticipated that most of the speakers will be recorded in New York City, which has large colonies of West Indians, and that I will be using the assistance of student interns descendant from these groups. In the evolution of my work "The Caribbean Sound" descends from ~Invocations~ (1981), which was about the sound of the language of prayer, as heard in ministers speaking over two dozen languages, and ~The Eight Nights of Hanukah~ (1983), which was about the various accents of the Diaspora as heard in a single Hebrew prayer. I would like to believe that with minimal introduction "Caribbean Sound" could eventually be broadcast in public stations in Canada, Germany, Britain, Holland, France, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Should anyone have any suggestions for support, as well as critical ideas, could you please communicate with me. ~(1985)~
* * *
~COLLABORATION TOWARD THE PRODUCTION OF SOUND FICTION (AUDIO NARRATIVE)~
Paul Kresh and Richard Kostelanetz, both writers and radio artists both, began meeting in early 1985 to discuss the production of "Sound Fiction," which the latter defines (in a forthcoming book of his essays on fiction) as "stories whose principal means of narrative enhancement would be acoustic [rather than verbal], whose ultimate realization would be on audiotape (whatever printed text becoming the equivalent of a musical score)." One suggestive example in their minds is Naoya Uchimura's ~Marathon~ (1958), in which, to quote Mark Ensign Cory:
The plot is carried by two micro-durational or rhythmic figures: the anapest of [the runner's] breathing and the iambus of his footsteps. Each can be extremely effective, as in the moment when the steady rhythm of [the runner's] controlled breathing begins to falter, or when the clean beat of his footsteps becomes uncertain and then is momentarily obscured by a passing competitor.
Another precursor is Ronald Steckel and Walter Bachauer's ~Das Ohrenlicht~
(WDR/NDR/SFB, 1984), in which the protagonist responds to audibly different
acoustic spaces. Kresh and Kostelanetz plan to start their exploration with
"generic stories" told with the fewest possible words. Among later
possibilities might be stories exclusively of less definite, if not abstract
sounds that would nonetheless succeed each other with a narrative thrust--
metamorphose in a narrative way.
Paul Kresh has produced radio programs for over thirty years. He has also worked as an executive at both Caedmon and Spoken Arts, the two most prominent producers of literary records in America (and N.Y.). Among his writings are many reviews of records of music and spoken arts, the latter most visibly in the ~New York Times~, and a book about Isaac Bashevis Singer. His creative compositions for choral speech date back thirty years. Richard Kostelanetz has produced extended ~hÃ¶rspiele~ (ear-plays) for German radio since 1981. One of these works--~Invocations~ (1981)--appeared here as a Folkways Record. Australian Broadcasting recently invited him to produce a second retrospective feature about his "Audio Writing." He has also written extensively on American sound poetry and radio art, in addition to scripting radio features about both subjects for public stations abroad.
Though Kresh and Kostelanetz have different literary-musical tastes, the former invariably disparaging the avant-garde admired by the latter (both arguing endlessly while exchanging favorite records and tapes), they come together over a common enthusiasm for speech-music and the possibilities of acoustic literature. They hope that the results of their collaboration will appear not only on radio stations but on records and/or tapes. ~(1985)~
* * *
~THE WRITING OF FOUR EXTENDED ESSAYS OF RADIO CRITICISM~
l. For Westdeutscher Rundfunk Richard Kostelanetz organized, edited and scripted
a seventy-five-minute feature on the Radio Art of his late friend Glenn Gould.
Though it is commonly known that Gould was one of the great musicians of the
age, his recorded performances remaining best-sellers, Americans are less
familiar with his radio compositions, which are rarely broadcast here. With
special dispensation from the Gould estate, Kostelanetz heard them all (as
only three are now publicly available) and in his German-
language radio feature focused upon their technical and conceptual innovations. We propose that Kostelanetz be commissioned to ~write~, now in English, a long critical essay based upon this research. Most of the essay will be devoted to Gould's trilogy about isolation in Canada and the three extended portraits of musicians (Stokowski, Schoenberg, Richard Strauss). This should be considered a sequel to Kostelanetz's earlier long critical essays on radio excellence that were likewise adapted from features commissioned by radio stations abroad--one on Radio Comedy as the Principal Tradition of American Radio Drama (funded in 1982) and another on the Radio Art of John Cage (funded in 1984). Both ~Perspectives of New Music~ and a new magazine envisioned by the Museum of Broadcasting (NYC) have asked to publish this proposed essay.
2. Future Press would also like to commission Kostelanetz to make an extended critical essay of the script of his radio "Portrait of New York City Radio," which was commissioned by Klaus Lindemann of Sender Freies Berlin. Here Kostelanetz focuses upon the abundance of stations on the NYC dial, combined with the absence of a detailed radio schedule (comparable to those in German newspapers or ~TV Guide~ for television here), to identify the American radio policy of specialized around-the-clock narrow-casting. After characterizing the different sorts of programming, he concludes that in an inadvertent way the diverse abundance of NYC radio constitutes a major unplanned achievement of American broadcasting.
3. The elaboration of an interview (in German), also commissioned by WDR, with the distinguished art psychologist Rudolf Arnheim about his pioneering book on ~Radio: An Art of Sound~ (1936). From a translation of this interview, and ideas generated from it, Kostelanetz expects to produce a critical reconsideration of that first great theoretical text from the perspective of the present, in contrast to such current critical literature about radio as Mark Ensign Cory's ~The Emergence of an Acoustical Art Form~ (1974), C. H. Sterling and J. M. Kittross's ~Stay Tuned~ (1978), Tony Schwartz's ~Media: The Second God~ (1981), Ian Rodger's ~Radio Drama~ (1982) and Klaus SchÃ¶ning's ~HÃ¶rspielmacher~ (1983). This may well be the first critical essay in English on the development of radio criticism.
4. ~Perspectives of New Music~ has commissioned Kostelanetz to produce a fifty- page essay about his own "Texts & Proposals for Radio." Since ~Perspectives~ does not pay, we would like to support his writing of this, along with his essay on his "New York City" (in progress since 1982) for publication in both ~Sites-Architectural Magazine~ (N.Y.) and an anthology to appear from Ohio State University Press (neither of which pay either). Both essays draw upon his feature "Audio Writing" produced for both SFB & Australian Broadcasting. Kostelanetz remains one of the few Americans writing and publishing extended essays on native radio art (as well as producing radio features about it, exclusively so far for stations abroad, alas). It is anticipated that, since he has published many books before, his essays on American Radio Art will likewise soon appear between covers. ~(1985)~
* * *
Were unable to interest an investor.--Frank Lloyd Wright on his 1956 proposal for a mile-
high skyscraper, in ~Unbuilt Architecture~
~AN ANTHOLOGY OF "THE AMERICAN TRADITION OF POETRY"~
This selection would represent a radical reinterpretation of the nature of excellence in American poetry. In contrast to, say, Jerome Rothenberg's ~America a Prophecy~ (1973), which collects a purportedly prophetic tradition, or ~The New Oxford Book of American Verse~ (1976), which pretends to reprint everybody important, or ~The Treasury of American Poetry~ (Doubleday, 1978), which is an incoherent compendium, "The American Tradition of Poetry" would focus upon those native works which realize technical inventions in the history of poetry. It is my thesis that the principal American tradition in poetry, as in music and in painting, is one of formal innovation in the machinery of the art--a tradition of doing technically what had not been done before, either in Europe or here. Therefore, ~The American Tradition in Poetry~ will emphasize the more inventive poems of John Wilson, John Fiske, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Vachel Lindsay, E.E. Cummings, Langston Hughes, Eugene Jolas, Melvin Tolson, Bob Brown, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, John Ashbery, John Cage, and Jackson Mac Low, as well as those contemporaries extending this indigenous tradition--in sum, a succession of selections that will, like innovative art itself, surprise as it persuades. ~The American Tradition in Poetry~ will also contain a substantial introduction similar to those in other anthologies of mine; this new essay will develop ideas initially presented in critical essays collected in my book ~The Old Poetries and the New~ (Univ. of Michigan, 1981). Because the theme of this proposed anthology is so particular, I expect that it will be considerably shorter than the competing anthologies of American poetry (and thus more reasonably priced, especially in paperback) and that it will be particularly successful with students of American literature, not only as the principal book in more advanced courses, but also as an alternate selection in the standard surveys (because it collects poems that are not in the other anthologies). "The American Tradition in Poetry" could be delivered within a year of contracting. ~(1985)~
* * *
~FIVE RADIO PROGRAMS OF "THE VOICES OF AMERICAN WRITING"~
In lecturing abroad about American Literature, I find myself frequently characterizing the individual speaking voices of the great American writers, dealing as well as I can with the question of what they ~sound~ like. I point out that recordings of them reading aloud demonstrate that in America the accents of the major writers are quite various--there is no preferred or uniform style of literary speaking. Such recordings also fulfill our curiosity about familiar authors, much as literary biographies do, and incidentally add a dimension to our experience of their work, as we can hear how these writers wanted their works to sound, at least to themselves. With these themes in mind, as well as with a sense of my audience as non-American, if not non-English-speaking, I compiled a collection of taped excerpts, drawing upon sources both public and private. My proposal is that these excerpts be distributed into five radio programs, each thirty to forty-five minutes long, each with its own sub-title. These excerpts will be prefaced with my general introductions to the individual writers and specific remarks about the excerpt, both no more than two minutes long. These commentaries are intended to be simple (as the examples are often difficult) and easily translated; the excerpts, all shorter than three minutes in length, should not be translated, however, as hearing them in their original form is the purpose of this series. The five programs deal respectively with the following people:
1. American poets who made their reputations prior to l940 (Eliot, Pound, Frost, W. Williams, Sandburg, Lindsay, Cummings, Millay, Langston Hughes, Stevens, Ogden Nash).
2. American fictioners who made their reputations prior to l940 (Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner, Stein, K. A. Porter, R. P. Warren, S. J. Perelman).
3. Postwar poets (Roethke, Lowell, Berryman, Bishop, Plath, Ginsberg, O'Hara, Rexroth).
4. Postwar fictioners (Mailer, Jones, Ellison, Styron, Heller, Baldwin, Updike, Roth, Vonnegut, Barth, Burroughs, Nabokov, I. B. Singer [in both English and Yiddish]).
5. Playwrights and essayists (A. Miller, T. Williams, Eliot [as playwright], Albee, H. L. Mencken, H. Miller, Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Capote).
My expectation is that these selections are sufficiently classic to make programs that can be rebroadcast as often as the station wishes. European radio executives interested in sponsoring the "Voices of American Writing" should contact me. ~(1985)~
* * *
For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.--Sol LeWitt, "Sentences on Conceptual Art" (1969)
~"MEDIA WRITING": PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN LITERATURE~
This proposal for "Media Writing" extends into new territory what Richard Kostelanetz has done over the past decade in audiotape, videotape and holography. Among the territories he would like to explore are Sound Fiction, which is to say stories whose principal means of narrative enhancement would be acoustic, whose ultimate realization appears not in print but on audiotape. (Whatever printed texts there are, instead, become merely the equivalent of a musical score.) This differs from the aim of ~Black Box~, American Audio Prose Library et al., which regard themselves as publishing (actually, ~re~publishing) on audiotape a literature that already exists on the page. This also differs from music in its literary base of language and story. One precursor strongly in Kostelanetz's mind is Naoya Uchimura's piece for Japanese radio, ~Marathon~ (1958), in which, to quote the radio critic Mark Ensign Cory, "The plot is carried by two micro-durational or rhythmic figures: the anapest of [the runner's] breathing and the iambus of his footsteps. Each can be extremely effective, as in the moment when the steady rhythm of [the runner's] controlled breathing begins to falter, or when the clean beat of his footsteps becomes uncertain and then is momentarily obscured by a passing competitor." No one else in America is making sound fiction. Two writers approaching it, in certain ways, are Bliem Kern (N.Y.) and Dennis Williams (A.Z.).
In his work, Kostelanetz is approaching sound fiction from two directions--radio compositions (mostly commissioned by stations abroad) and declamations of his own texts in which he tries to produce on audiotape an aural experience that cannot be done live. On the enclosed retrospective, based upon a shorter program produced for Australian Broadcasting, consider for the first category the excerpts from ~Invocations~, the piece about the sound of the language of prayer in over two dozen tongues (based upon ~Finnegans Wake~). The score that does exist (reprinted in the current issue of ~Perspectives of New Music~) was, in fact, composed after the fact and is, in effect, an incomplete chart for its re-realization. The same authorial procedure informed Kostelanetz's redoing of ~Under Milk Wood~, in this case about sounds unique to his hometown--~New York City~, parts of which are also on the enclosed tape. For the second category, consider the excerpt from ~Seductions~, in which sixteen seduction stories are interwoven one sentence at a time, and told in sixteen acoustically different versions of the narrator's voice. The text for this can be found in his book ~More Short Fictions~ (Assembling Press, 1980). Speaking generally, it could be said that in future work Kostelanetz plans to combine the narrative direction of ~Seductions~ with the compositional procedures of ~Invocations~.
It is hard to justify this for a "radio" application, because, to be frank, there is no reason to believe sophisticated literary audiotape can be broadcast immediately on American radio, as it now is exists, in any consequential way. Kostelanetz knows, because he has tried for over a decade (and continues to try, most recently with a feature production grant from American Public Radio). While ~Invocations~ (1981), for instance, was initially broadcast in its entirety over SFB (Berlin), KRO (Holland), Australian Broadcasting, Yugoslav Radio and, abridged, over Canadian Broadcasting, here it was aired only over WBAI in New York. However, once it became a Folkways record, ~Invocations~ could be aired over American radio gratis, in circumstances beyond the author's control. Over WNYC-FM in New York City, for instance, it has been aired at least twice in the past year. With this principle in mind, we should note that Moses Asch, the founding chief of Folkways, has asked for further Kostelanetz work. Should Folkways decline, his works can be offered to other publishers of audiotape, and then distributed through the American Audio Prose Library, among others. In truth, since American radio stations, both public and private, are not prepared to pay for what they broadcast, the best way to distribute Audio Writing in America is not to petition radio stations directly but, after obtaining sponsorship elsewhere, to issue it on records or tapes that radio stations (and individuals) can then play as they wish.
Most of this new work will be done in the twenty-four-track console of the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm, where Kostelanetz has worked annually, gratis, since 1981. Kostelanetz has also applied for a renewal of an earlier residency at the Public Access Synthesizer Studio in New York and then for an initial residency at Real Art Ways in Hartford. All these studios, it should be noted, offer only their facilities; there is no financial aid for him or other personnel. Since machinery at each of these studios is unfamiliar to Kostelanetz, he generally must hire at his own expense an engineer to assist him.
Kostelanetz's recent video has exploited primarily the character-generator, which is the machine that electronically generates letters on a cathode-ray tube. As his own typographer, he has put his stories (mostly ~Epiphanies~) on videoscreens in various visual arrangements, making them visible for lengths of time unrelated to length (which is itself a technique worth exploring); and progressing from a simple character-generator (at Experimental Intermedia in NYC), he recently used a more sophisticated machine, with more typefaces, each in two fonts, at the Experimental TV Laboratory in Owego, N.Y. Kostelanetz's earlier Video Writing has been internationally exhibited. Stations here and abroad have asked in particular for shorter versions of ~Epiphanies~ to broadcast mostly between other programs; but without necessary assistance, Kostelanetz has so far been unable to honor their requests. In future Video Writing, he expects to go beyond the realization of prior texts by typing works directly on the character-generator, and also to explore more sophisticated image-processing of words, as begun in the tape of his poems "Duets" produced at the Experimental TV Laboratory in the fall of 1985. ~(1985)~
* * *
The architectural philosopher Colin Rowe has suggested that conceptual architecture is "the presence of absence. . . something that quite simply is ~not there~. Its specifications are there, but nothing more." (~Net Magazine~, 1975).--Quoted by George R. Collins, introduction to ~Unbuilt America~ (1976)
~OUR STRONGEST SOUNDS: AUDIO ART IN NORTH AMERICA~
The principal purpose of this series of radio programs is introducing American audiences to the native Audio Art that, its excellence notwithstanding, is largely unfamiliar. A secondary purpose is gathering into a single context and narrative the intelligence and experience of earlier radio features that were initially prepared for broadcast by public stations in Germany, Sweden and Australia (and, for one index of success, have been rebroadcast). Since these are worldclass presentations about American Audio Art, wouldn't it be appropriate to produce them for American public radio as well? (We shouldn't be, or allow ourselves to look, bush-league.) The unifying factors will be (1) the theme of native audio excellence; (2) the critical intelligence of the author/narrator; (3) opening and closing logos.
Whenever a subject in the following list is divided into two thirty-minute programs, that indicates that the original was over sixty minutes long. This history notwithstanding, rest assured that all will be rewritten and narrated as though one literate American were speaking to others and that the choice of examples will be redone with American listeners in mind.
Tentative List of the Thirteen Programs
1. An introduction identifying my subject as the best American Audio Art (as distinct from radio journalism on one side and music on the other) and then presenting, in narrative with examples, the unfamiliar thesis that historically the best American radio drama has not been literary (on the British and European models) but vernacular, as epitomized by radio comedy. I show how the principal producers of radio comedy discovered the unique dramatic capabilities of the audio medium. Taking the familiar example of the tumbling closet in Fibber McGee and Molly's domestic comedy, we suggest that, in addition to being a great joke worth repeating, this comic scene succeeds in part because it goes on so long. However, since no typical household closet has enough stuff to fall for several seconds, the joke also succeeds precisely because it is heard, not viewed--because radio forbids us to see. (It is not for nothing that such jokes did not survive on television.) We then go onto other classic radio sound effects that need not be seen, including ironic ones, such as Jack Benny's Maxwell, whose success depends partially upon the audience's recognition that the putative car doesn't quite sound like a car. From here we present rather sophisticated self-reflexive jokes, such as Jack Benny's parody of Hemingway's "Snows of Kilimanjaro," which becomes a vehicle for showcasing the virtuosity of Mel Blanc until Benny forecasts the sound of the alligator, hears silence and then congratulates himself for imagining a sound Blanc cannot do. We also examine the principle of radio's capacity for dramatic surprise with the famous Jack Benny gag about "your money or your life," incidentally illustrating both Benny's genius for pregnant silences and Marshall McLuhan's perception that to the blind all things are sudden. The material in both this program and the next was initially prepared in 1982 for Westdeutscher Rundfunk and subsequently rebroadcast on Sudwestfunk and Sveriges Radio. Both also draw upon a 1982 grant for radio criticism awarded by the New York State Council on the Arts.
2. This program will focus upon the second great discovery of the pioneering audio comedians that voice alone could wholly determine the audience's perception of character. After an appreciation of the extraordinary talents of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (who performed with aural veracity ~all~ the characters in the early versions of ~Amos 'n Andy~), we will go into ironic variations upon this capability, such as the denizens of Fred Allen's alley and Fanny Brice's Baby Snooks. In this program too belongs an appreciation of the best verbal humor, such as the recurring misunderstandings of Burns and Allen and the double entendres of Abbott and Costello. (This last point was, alas, slighted in the programs prepared for European audiences, because so much depends upon intimate familiarity with the English language.)
3. Our initial thesis notwithstanding, here we survey the best examples of literary American radio drama during its short-lived golden age, 1938-46, with excerpts from the work of Archibald MacLeish (~Fall of the City~), Orson Welles, Norman Corwin and others. Our principal concerns are the aural presentation of poetic language and the use of radio's expository conventions, such as the newscast, for dramatic purposes.
4. Since American radio art declined, while first-rate works disappeared from our airwaves, in the decades after WWII, we leap forward to the late sixties and look first not to the U.S. but to Canada, which has a stronger tradition of supporting radio art, and focus upon Glenn Gould's trilogy about isolation in Canada--~The Idea of North~ (1967), ~The Latecomers~ (1969) and ~Quiet in the Land~ (1973). (These remain, in our opinion, the greatest works of Audio Art ever produced in North America.) We show how Gould used the new technology of multitrack tape to compose radio scenes from materials gathered from disparate sources, rather than realizing a premeditated script, incidentally putting into the same acoustic space sounds that are not normally heard together. This program and the next draw upon a feature initially prepared in 1984 for Westdeutscher Rundfunk.
5. This features Gould's other radio masterpieces--incomparable portraits of master musicians: Stokowski (1970), Schoenberg (1974) and Richard Straus (1979), all of which combine spoken voice with a counterpoint of illustrative music. As far as we can tell, these last three pieces are totally unknown in the U.S.
6. Returning south of the border, we follow a major American artist who has for nearly a half-century done consequential work in and around radio, John Cage, beginning with his ~Imaginary Landscape # 1~ (1939) and proceeding through ~Imaginary Landscape # 4~ for twelve radios to ~Williams Mix~ (1953), his pioneering tape collage. Since Cage, unlike Gould, is still with us, our commentary will include excerpts from a recent interview with him.
7. This will be a critical introduction to Cage's extraordinary, prize-winning recent pieces for German radio--~Roaratorio~ (1979), ~Alphabet~ (1982), ~Muoyce~ (1983), ~HMCIEX~ (1984)--which are, alas, also unknown here. The text for this draws upon a 1984 grant for radio criticism from the New York State Council on the Arts.
8. and 9. A two-part survey of American language art that coheres in terms of sound, rather than syntax and semantics, and thus must be heard to be "read," with brief examples from Charles Amirkhanian, Bliem Kern, Jim Theobald, Toby Lurie, Beth Anderson, Jackson Mac Low, Jerome Rothenberg, Norman Henry Pritchard II, Tom Johnson, Charlie Morrow et al. This and the next draw upon programs of different lengths initially prepared for Australian Broadcasting, RAI (Italy) and Sender Freies Berlin (in addition to research done on 1976 and 1978 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts).
10. The Audio Art of Charles Dodge, including an introduction to computer-
assisted speech resynthesis and what he calls electronic radio drama, with excerpts from ~The Days of Our Lives~, his production of Samuel Beckett's ~Cascando~ and ~Any Resemblance Is Purely Coincidental~ (his dramatization of a mighty tenor's frustrated attempt to find an appropriate accompaniment to his voice). This draws upon an interview-feature prepared in 1984 for Australian Broadcasting.
11. The Audio Art of Doris Hays, emphasizing excerpts from her classic montage of ~Southern Voices~, her polylingual ~Celebration of No~ and her more recent interwoven symposium of interviews from women's peace camps. This draws upon a separate interview-feature prepared, also in 1984, for Australian Broadcasting.
12. Either a survey of current activity in American Audio Art, or another portrait of a single American audio artist. (This and #3 will be the only programs that are wholly fresh.)
13. Reconsidering the recent fate of audio comedy in America, we notice that since the mid-fifties (and the illustrative, unfortunate career of Stan Freberg) the very best work has appeared first on records (to be rebroadcast on radio, in contexts outside the authors' control, in contrast to the classic radio comedy of our initial programs, which, paradoxically, now survives mostly on disc reprints). For examples, we plan to feature record comedy that acknowledges the characteristic sound and circumstances of radio, such as Peter Schickele's portrayal of two earnest sports announcers describing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The current situation of audio comedy in relation to radio and record, we conclude, exemplifies that of contemporary native Audio Art in general (such as the best works of Dodge and Hays already noticed). While acknowledging current limitations, we will close with a plea for more production, within the context of radio, of strong native Audio Art. This concluding program draws upon another feature we are presently preparing for Westdeutscher Rundfunk. ~(1985)~
* * *
~TO REPRODUCE ~NACH WEISSENSEE~ IN ENGLISH, AMONG OTHER LANGUAGES~
~Nach Weissensee~ is a sixty-five-minute radio feature about the Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin as the principal surviving relic of prewar Berlin. The program is structured as a composed symposium of authentic ex-Berliners speaking about the cemetery, which with 110,000 graves is the largest of its kind between Warsaw and America, and the culture represented there. This German-language feature was initially produced for RIAS, the American-owned station in West Berlin, by the Berlin filmmaker Martin Koerber (who also made a film about the cemetery in collaboration with Kostelanetz), the Berlin audio artist Michael Maassen (who is also an actor in the Schaubuhne) and the American audio artist Richard Kostelanetz. Well-reviewed in the Berlin press, ~Nach Weissensee~ has since been accepted for rebroadcast elsewhere in the German radio system. Of this radio feature, the eminent art psychologist Rudolf Arnheim (Berlin, 1904) wrote them, "I want to tell you right away how deeply moving an experience it was. I was impressed by the eloquence of the speakers, by the authenticity of their memories, and the extraordinary variety of the approaches. These are exactly the people I knew in Berlin, perhaps I knew some of them personally, and therefore I felt very personally addressed. The tape is a document of the first order." Given such success, Kostelanetz and Koerber would like to reproduce ~Nach Weissensee~ in English, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Yiddish and Spanish ~not~ by translating the original German version but by the more authentic procedure of interviewing ex-Berliners presently fluent in those other languages and from those interviews composing fresh radio features with roughly similar structures and themes. As most of the original German speakers were interviewed in New York, we already have enough taped materials to produce an English version here. It is for assistance in preparing the other versions, most of which would first be broadcast here, that we appeal now. They would later be distributed to other stations here and abroad. The tapes prepared for these radio programs may also be used in presentations/installations to accompany the showing of thousands of slides taken in the cemetery today. ~(1985)~
* * *
On the map of your empire, O Great Kahn, there must be room both for the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they are all equally real, but because all are only assumptions. The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later, is possible no longer.--Italo Calvino, ~Invisible Cities~ (1972)
~FIRST AMERICAN BROADCAST OF TWO PROGRAMS INITIALLY PRODUCED FOR GERMAN RADIO:~
1. ~The Gospels~ (1982), 120 minutes long, is a continuous fugue of the first four books of the New Testament, which, we remember, tell the same story in four different ways. Here four speakers--two British and two American--are electronically mixed to perform as a string quartet might, for one or another speaker becomes dominant as his or her lines become more meaningful or more poetic. It could be said that this is the Fifth Gospel, a Gospel that could not exist until the age of audiotape, the Passion not of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, but of Matthew-Mark-Luke-John, which we should now consider the Ur-Gospel from which the others are descended. ~The Gospels~ was initially commissioned as the English warm-up for a German version, ~Die Evangelien~, that was broadcast over Westdeutscher Rundfunk in 1982. Parts of ~The Gospels~ have been aired over Australian Broadcasting and many local American stations (as an episode in Richard Kostelanetz's ~Audio Writing~), while the whole was broadcast over WBAI (New York) in its "Morning Music" show, continuously mixed in live time with an interview with the composer and solicitous telephone calls. What is proposed for American distribution is remixing the original four-track tape to bring it closer to the composer's intentions, and also adding occasional voice-over comments with the composer discussing his purposes and giving appropriate professional credits.
2. ~Invocations~ (1981) is a sixty-minute radio piece about the sound, the quality and the content of the language of prayer. Sixty ministers, speaking prayers in over two dozen languages, were recorded in West Berlin. These tapes were then mixed on a twenty-four-track machine into duets, quintets, successive solos and choruses into a sustained speech work whose structural model is J. S. Bach's ~St. Matthew Passion~. Ecumenical in spirit, the piece brings together into the same acoustical space prayers that are not normally heard together, just as James Joyce's ~Finnegans Wake~ brings into a single frame languages that are not commonly read together. The original ~Invocations~ opened with the Lord's Prayer in German; that version presently available here on the Folkways record opens with prayers in Hebrew and Syriac. What is offered now is the first American broadcast of the version beginning with prayers in English. The original tape will also be remixed to give more definition to certain passages in its second half and to incorporate appropriate professional credits within its sixty minutes.
May I propose the national distribution of both these pieces as "Holiday Specials." ~Invocations~ will go out early in December, for broadcast during the holiday season; ~The Gospels~, a few weeks before Easter, ideally for broadcast on Easter morning. First airings by affiliated stations will be gratis; rights for subsequent broadcasts are negotiable. Mailings will precede each transmission over the satellite; promotional broadcasts (for preview use by member stations) will precede the feed of each piece. There is no other way, short of distributing free records and cassettes, to introduce alternative radio art to American listeners living outside the sophisticated cities. Some may think this not worth doing--that the innocent should remain blessedly innocent; I think otherwise. ~(1985)~
* * *
~SCREENINGS OF ~A BERLIN LOST~, A PRIZE-WINNING FILM~
Martin Koerber and I are pleased to announce the completion of ~A Berlin Lost~, our twenty-one-minute, 16 mm. documentary film about the Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin, Weissensee, as the principal surviving symbol of Berlin's greatest years (1860-1940). In this subtle visual history, the cemetery and its evocative gravestones become an archaeological window into a Berlin that, alas, no longer exists. On the sound track is the authentic testimony, now in English, of ex-Berliners remembering the cemetery and the world represented there.
~A Berlin Lost~ is an authentic reproduction of our earlier film ~Ein verlorenes
Berlin~ (1984), which has been shown at festivals at Berlin, Munich and Oberhausen;
but since the gravestones on the film's visual track already provide so much
to read, we chose ~not~ to subtitle the German film (or allow the inauthenticities
of overdubbing), but, instead, to reproduce it with a wholly new English sound
track composed from fresh interviews with ex-
Berliners. Not only because the sound tracks differ in content, but also because the imagery begs to be reseen, our recommendation is that both versions ideally be screened in sequence. (For viewing the German version, we can provide printed translations of its sound track into English or Spanish.) We have also made fresh versions in Swedish and French (both available with printed English translations) and expect to produce sound tracks in Spanish and Hebrew (hopefully with printed English translations).
We think ~A Berlin Lost~ would especially interest ex-Berliners and their descendants, many of whom know about the cemetery but have never seen it (in part because it is now in East Berlin), as well as those generally interested in European Jewish culture and the life of great cities. This English film has already been screened at international festivals in Edinburgh and Melbourne. Accepted by FILMEX (Los Angeles) for its next presentations, it also toured with the 1986 Jewish Film Festival and won a 1986 award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, later touring under its auspices. Either of us can accompany the film(s), answering questions about it and Weissensee today. Institutions interested in screening our work(s), in sponsoring our accompanying presentations or in auditing 3/4" U-Matic or 1/2" VHS videotapes, should write or call either of us. ~(1985)~
* * *
Grants should function, as I've said elsewhere, to make happen what would not otherwise happen. That's certainly been true for my work recently, especially if you add residencies at video and holographic studios, which represent a kind of grant, if facilities and technicians are offered to you free. I don't see how grants "co-opt" innovation, to use your term, unless you think that applicants withhold or disguise innovative ambitions to suite the mediocre tastes of those cultural powerhouses mentioned before. What can be said for sure that a lack of grants can destroy, or prevent, innovation almost as ruthlessly as censorship can.--R.K., in an interview (1990)
~PRODUCTION RESIDENCY FOR HOLOGRAPHY WITH LANGUAGE~
To produce another hologram whose entire visual content would be words, that would exploit the unique capabilities of holography and that would hopefully utilize flat black-and-white techniques (especially since what bothers me most about my initial hologram, produced several years ago, is the hued rainbow). In principle, I believe there are only two colors worthy of Art--black and white; all other colors are worthy only of illustrations).
I have two ideas and two general biases: one idea involves creating, within a 360 degree integral, a field of visually palindromic words (e.g., MOM, WOW) that would spin around over and through each other. The second idea involves a triptych of parallelly arrayed, horizontally aligned three-part overlapping words, all of whose center words would be six to eight letters long, such as ALCO/HOLOGRAM/PANT, TU/MULTIPLEX/ICON, LOG/JAMBOREE/FER, NITRO/GENITAL/KATIVE, OINTM/ENTHRALL/UVIAL, BE/GATEFOLD/ER, etc. Beyond that, in working with language in media, especially in residencies in sophisticated installations, my first general bias is to examine the most advanced techniques (those the host technicians want most to develop) and then to figure out how best to fill them with interesting language. My second general desire is to make a hologram with more comedy than the medium has previously witnessed. ~(1985)~
* * *
~THE GREAT AMERICAN PERSON OF AVANT-GARDE LETTERS: GERTRUDE STEIN~
This tentative table of contents focuses upon the most experimental works, in support of the thesis implicit in its title, and in contrast to earlier Stein anthologies that tended to emphasize ~Toklas~ and ~Melanctha~ (and which this at once supplements and succeeds). Our theme is that these extreme writings are more relevant to current concerns; and if you accept them, in contrast to the more accessible Stein featured in, say, the Modern Library selection, then Stein becomes, as the title says, "The Great American Person of Avant-Garde Letters." This book will differ from ~The Yale Gertrude Stein~ (which I edited and introduced) in drawing entirely upon the larger corpus of works published during her lifetime (rather than after). It will also have a more general, elementary introduction. All these selections are, as far as I can establish, presently in the public domain.
Introduction: The Reinventor of English, by Richard Kostelanetz (approx.
Prose from Stein's ~A Book~ (1926)
Portrait of Constance Fletcher (from her ~Geography & Plays~, until otherwise noted)
Sentences and Paragraphs
Counting Her Dresses
Next. Life and Letters of Marcel Duchamp
A Family of Perhaps Three
Many Many Women (from ~GMP~)
At Present (from ~Operas & Plays~)
They Weighed Weighed-Layed
Old and Old
A Bonquet. Their Wills
Objects Lie on a Table
Allen Tanner (from ~Useful Knowledge~)
Are There Six or Another Question
An Instant Answer or a Hundred Prominent Men
Lend a Hand or Four Religions
A Patriotic Leading
Business in Baltimore
Wherein Iowa Differs from Kansas and Indiana
~An Acquaintance with Description~ (the entire 1929 book of that title, published initially by Laura Riding and Robert Graves)
A Bibliography (from ~transition~ in 1929)
This material runs approximately 416 pages in the copies I have and could be less or more. The list is structured to identify sources of original publication, rather than the sequence for the final book. Publishers interested in considering the introduction or sample selections are advised to contact me. ~(1985)~
* * *
In every branch of learning and in every center of research, some persons are found capable of converting a thoughtful piece of curiosity into a project so that it will appear ideal--or, as it said, "a natural"--for foundation support. Other people, also able but without this knack, must have their projects "processed," and still others learn the trick. The consequence is a strong urge in many a man to stultify himself at the expense of what used to be called intellectual honesty. The scholar or scientist salves his conscience with the thought that he will turn the proceeds to good use. He hopes to do "his own work" behind the shelter of phrases denoting expected attitudes; to do fundamental research though proposing foundational research.--Jacques Barzun, ~The House of Intellect~ (1957)
~INSTALLATIONS/CONCERTS OF ~NEW YORK CITY
~New York City~ (in progress since 1983) is an extended audiotape composed from hours of field recordings of sounds that are particular to New York City: subways of various kinds, cacophonous garbage trucks, dense crowds in small spaces, an abundance of answering machines, the din on the floor of the Commodities Exchange, other languages spoken with bits of English, peculiar aural juxtapositions of city and sea that can be found along the shoreline, the polylingual radio spectrum, the echoes of canyon-like streets, sirens familiar to every television viewer, among many others. Rather than simply presenting these sounds in the tradition of audio documentaries, I tried to create, during thirty days of intensive work at the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm, an audio experience that is at once a presentation of New York and a musical composition in the tradition of Charles Ives, Edgard VarÃ¨se and John Cage. My initial plan, curiously, was to write an audio chamber symphony comparable to Dylan Thomas's ~Under Milk Wood~ (l953), an affectionate portrait of the author's hometown; but this approach eventually struck me as clearly insufficient for this new age of audiotape and multitracking. It would be more appropriate, I decided, for me to collect sounds, including voices, that are characteristic of the city in which I was born and raised, where I have lived my entire life, and from these to compose on audiotape my own ~Under Milk Wood~ that proceeds wholly as itself, without introduction or other commentary. Another esthetic model in my mind at the beginning was, of course, the poetry of Walt Whitman, with its encompassing sense of the unprecedented experience of this city, and I often thought about a certain 1920s photograph by the Dutch artist Paul Citroen. Entitled variously ~Metropolis~ or ~The City~, it is a vertically arrayed montage composed mostly of images of vertical buildings; but rather than setting these buildings against a skyline (and then revealing primary nature), Citroen stacked the buildings atop one another, filling the rectangular space from bottom to top, thereby creating the image of urban life as a comprehensive entity, much as my own composition would be wholly about this second man-made Nature. Typically for me now, I began with a literary concept and a literary model, but both my means and ends turned out to be indigenous to media other than print. Westdeutscher Rundfunk initially commissioned my ~New York City~ as part of a series of four sixty-minute programs on the world's great cities (along with Pierre Henry's ~Paris~ and Alfred Doblin's historic ~Berlin Alexanderplatz~). Nonetheless, since I am from time to time asked to give concerts (and object to public performances of audiotapes alone), it occurred to me, as a sometime maker of visual art and photography, to produce thousands of slides of images that were likewise particular to New York City, and to project these images through a brace of synchronized slide projectors to fill up the audience's space visually, much as the sound on my tape fills up the acoustic space. As several passages I made for the original WDR version turned out to have too many subtleties for radio broadcast in Germany, it seemed appropriate to restore them to this ~American~ concert version that would then be two hours long, and thus an evening-length work. Later it occurred to me that if this fusion of sight and sound were successful, my ~New York City~ could even become a continuous installation in either a museum or a public setting (and in the future perhaps a historic document about the City as it sounded and looked in the early 1980s). ~(1985)~
* * *
~A COLLABORATION WITH THE COMPOSER PAUL LANSKY~
Paul Lansky is a distinguished musician, a professor of music at Princeton, who has established himself over the past fifteen years as one of the principal American composers of computer music. His works are available on CRI, Nonesuch and Columbia-Odyssey records. He is a former member of the Dorian Wind Quintet (French horn) and a current member of the editorial board of ~Perspectives of New Music~. He has received a Bearns Prize, the ISCM-League of Composers Electronic Music Award, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composers Award, an award from the Koussevitzky Foundation, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Among his extraordinary techniques for speech composition is "all-pole linear prediction, in which the original source material (a recording of a single reading of the poem) is analyzed in small 'frames,' each 1/112th of a second, and the information gained allows reconstruction in which pitch, rhythm and timbre may be controlled almost at will."
Richard Kostelanetz is an experimental writer and broadcaster who has developed an interest in writing texts appropriate to the unique styles of contemporary composers. For Charles Dodge, he made ~He Met Her in the Park~, which was translated into Swedish to fulfill a Dodge commission from Swedish Radio and subsequently aired as ~Motte Henne i Parken~ over Swedish radio and in concerts. A version with the original English text was later realized by Dodge at the Center for Computer Music at Brooklyn College to fulfill a commission from Voices (Everett Frost-Faith Wilding), which had received commissioning funds from the NEA. Voices expects to broadcast ~He Met Her in the Park~, along with a Kostelanetz-Dodge conversation, as part of their series of four programs of Audio Art. It is expected that both ~He Met Her in the Park~ and ~Motte Henne i Parken~ will eventually appear on two sides of a long-playing record. Otherwise, Kostelanetz remains an unaffiliated writer/artist.
Kostelanetz and Lansky began a correspondence about collaboration early in 1985. When Kostelanetz heard (through the New York City composer Joseph V. DiMeo) that Lansky had developed a computer-assisted technique for apparently altering the body quality of a voice, without destroying its individual identity, Kostelanetz offered his text "Wasting," which portrays through a first-person narrator the changes in height and weight during the life of an unusual human being. This was submitted to Lansky, who accepted it as suiting his current designs, and then asked Kostelanetz to record the text in his own voice. In part because of the challenge of creating so many unique acoustic settings of essentially the same phrases, Lansky is involving his Princeton graduate students in designing a multitude of appropriate solutions. If "Wasting" succeeds, Kostelanetz and Lansky expect to be involved in other collaborations as author and composer. ~(1985)~
* * *
~A COMPOSITIONAL "PARIS" COMPARABLE TO ~NEW YORK CITY
The composition, during an extended residency in Paris (under the US/France Exchange Fellowship program), of an evening-length tape of "music concrete" of and about the unique sounds of Paris, similar to the earlier composition, likewise evening-length, initially commissioned by Westdeut|scher Rundfunk, of and about sounds unique to New York City. Once field recordings in Paris are made, probably in collaboration with Radio France, with which I have worked before, they will be mixed not through an analogue tape system used for ~New York City~ but though a more sophisticated, acoustically superior digital system either at IRCAM, where I have contacts, or at the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm, where I have worked several times before and have, for all practical purposes, a standing invitation. ~(1985)~
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People talk about criminals being the result of their environment, but they seldom speak about artists being victims of ~their~ environment, though in fact they are.--Philip Glass, ~Music by Philip Glass~ (1987)
~RESIDENCY IN EAST BERLIN FOR THE PURPOSE OF LEARNING GERMAN~
May I propose spending two months in East Berlin, ideally May-June 1987, studying German intensively. In my spare time, I plan to continue my research, hopefully with growing linguistic competence, into the Great Jewish Cemetery of Weissensee, East Berlin. In my judgment, this graveyard ranks among the most extraordinary visual-verbal historical artifacts known to me. To quote myself in an earlier essay, "One reason perhaps why the cemetery is such an evocative artifact now is that it remains unfamiliar to Berliners in both the East and the West, each predisposed to forget about it for different reasons, and unfamiliar as well, as I've discovered, to many prominent scholars of the period." What I incidentally want to do during my stay in East Berlin is continue photographing the cemetery, with slides toward an exhibition/installation and black-and-white images toward a projected book. The best reason for doing this in May-June is that the cemetery stays open later during those months, when light sufficient for photography extends into the evening.
The paradox of my linguistic history is that in working so much in German, for German audiences, I never really learned to speak or read it. Instead, I learned many German words and, perhaps more important, how to think from the German point of view, as shown in several features written and produced for German radio, mostly about the singular qualities of American radio culture. Given all this work I have been doing in German, my inability to speak it has become, in truth, a sort of standing joke among my colleagues, not just there but here as well. My own calculation is that I can learn it better in East Berlin than I did in West, if only because distractions will be fewer; and then, unlike before, language-learning will become my principal mission. Given how much German I already know and sense, a competence in reading and speaking should come quickly, and it would be useful for further work, not only on the cemetery, but in German media, surely in the West and perhaps, once I live there, in the East as well. ~(1985)~
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~AUDIO ART: "FENCING"~
An extended composition of and about the sound of fencing as the most acoustically resonant sport. Recording matches from a variety of acoustic perspectives, I want to make a radio piece that would fuse my earlier interest in compositions ostensibly about the sound of their subjects (~Invocations~, ~New York City~, "Baseball" in progress) with a newer notion of creating fictional narratives exclusively with sound apart from speech. The resulting program will probably have neither introduction nor narration; as it will not need translation, it will be available for broadcast, as is, around the world. ~(1985)~
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~AN EXHIBITION OF "LITERARY HOLOGRAPHY"~
Richard Kostelanetz has produced two holograms which differ from other holography in that their entire visual content is language. The first, ~On Holography~ (1978), is a revolving cylinder containing five syntactically circular statements about holography itself. One technical detail that makes this film hologram puzzling is that the five lines appear to revolve in unison, even though they are of demonstrably different lengths. By itself, ~On Holography~ has previously been exhibited in group shows at New York's Museum of Holography and elsewhere; it was also included in Richard Kostelanetz's traveling retrospective, ~Wordsand~ (1978-). The cylinder is 16 1/2" in diameter, 9" high and rests on a revolving stand that is itself 17" high. Accompanying it is an audiotape of the same words in continuous loops; but while this audio complement can aid comprehension, it need not be played constantly, if at all. The second hologram, ~Antitheses~ (1985), is a two-sided framed glass, 10" x 16", hung in space, that contains opposing fields of complementary words, one side suggesting warmth, the other cold, with antithetical words in typographic pairs; and in each field, the words fall into four planes projecting forward from the plate, optimally to points two feet in front of the plate (itself a current state-of-the-art achievement). Although this pure hologram is ideally laser-viewable, it can be displayed successfully with a halogen (white) lamp, requiring at least ten feet of viewing space on each side; it is presently installed in a structure of short poles, chains and Plexiglas mirrors that is easily transportable. This will be exhibited at the Museum of Holography in 1987. "Literary Holography" will be a small exhibition, easily installed, that would inhabit a darkened space of roughly four hundred square feet. Possible sponsors (museums, galleries, libraries) seriously wishing to consider photographs or slides of the two extant holograms, as well as an extended five-thousand-word essay about them, are advised to contact Kostelanetz. These letters will accompany grant applications for initial expenses of crating, catalogue production and perhaps the purchase/rental of a laser. ~(1985)~
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~AN EXTENDED RADIO PIECE OF/ABOUT JAMES JOYCE'S ~FINNEGANS WAKE
Since Joyce's classic is composed of words from many languages, the initial idea is to have the text read by superb readers native to various languages, either in the original version or in "translations" published in their languages; and these readings in various accents will be interwoven into an aurally seamless rendition that will represent an ~international acoustic interpretation~ of the ~Wake~'s unique style. As I now envision it, for most of the work's duration, only one or a few of the many readers will be audible at any time; they will fade in and out of one another. At certain climaxes, many voices will join together. For convenience, it would be best to have all the participating readers recite the complete "Anna Livia Plurabelle" section, which runs twenty pages in the book and thus, in this aural format, would take perhaps an hour. As Joyce himself recorded part of this text, it would, of course, be good to incorporate his reading, if it can be made available, into the final mix. I hope that participating radio stations in England, Canada, America, Germany, Holland, France, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Israel, Spain, etc. will record their own best readers. These solo tapes will probably be mixed at the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio of Stockholm, where I have worked before, perhaps using its VAX computer system. In the history of my own work, this proposed piece descends from ~The Eight Nights of Hanukah~ (CBC, 1983), in which laymen native to two dozen different languages (and accents) are heard reciting the same Hebrew prayer, and ~Invocations~, which reveals through sixty ministers speaking twenty-four languages the unique sound of the language of prayer. In this proposed ~Wake~ I expect to discover the international sound of a text so multilingual it cannot be feasibly translated--a text whose aural eloquence has universal, almost musical appeal. Since this project cannot be completed overnight (and the work of analyzing the solo readings will take at least a year), I hope now to marshal sufficient support to have the solo tapes in hand by 1987 and the work complete by early 1989, when, remember, we should celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ~Wake~'s initial publication. Producers at stations wishing to collaborate in this program of literature/radio drama/speech-music (or to hear previous pieces, or to initiate a correspondence) are invited to contact me. ~(1986)~
* * *
Around leading personalities, it is true, judgments collect and create a reputation independent of the paper file. But this comes late in the day, usually when it is no longer needed; and reputation is hard to establish after middle life, especially if the person is not a native and yet already on the scene. I remember a foreign scholar, whose works were well known and whose residence in this country for some ten years had made him many distinguished admirers. He wanted after his retirement to finish a three-volume work in an important branch of philosophy. The combined efforts of a dozen or more high-placed American scholars were unavailing to obtain for this man the supplement to his pension which would have given him three or four years of peace of mind to finish his work. Every foundation was interested; innumerable letters were filed. But when it came to the disbursement of twelve thousand dollars, half a century's alienation from intellectual man interposed its veto.--Jacques Barzun, ~The House of Intellect~ (1957)
~A BOOK ON LITERARY GRANTING IN AMERICA~
My projected book on literary granting in America, in progress for nearly a decade, attempts to understand, in a historical and critical way, the new world of publicly funded support of literature. Even though government funding of the arts has blossomed from nearly nil to over $200 million within the past twenty years, there has not been much systematic critical examination, or even elementary demystification, at least in public print. This manuscript has an introduction, an abridgment of which is enclosed, and then long (but dated) chapters on the literature programs at the National Endowment for the Arts and the largest state arts council (New York), in addition to critiques of literary funding at the National Endowment for the Humanities and the former principal subcontractor of NEA's literary funding, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. This manuscript has been written by someone who has not only applied for grants from these organizations (and received support from most of them) but also served as a grants panelist; for one assumption is that the critic of granting is not likely to know what actually happened--is not likely to understand either detail or nuance--unless he or she has applied and judged, asking questions all along the way. People who regularly consult me know that the processes of funding for the arts are no more mysterious than art itself; they ~can~ be understood.
My critical method depends largely upon the analysis of public evidence, beginning with annual reports and including applications and internal documents, rather than interview and rumor, and then upon illustrative contrasts, not only because the examination of one agency or department often illuminates another, but also because comparisons are entwined with my ultimate theme: literary funding in the United States is ~not~ a monolithic operation, dominated by a single "establishment." In fact, these agencies differ from one another, and even within a particular agency individual departments can operate quite differently; and a change in leadership can often bring drastic changes in granting policies. It can also be said that I scrupulously avoid confusing politics with literary politics and granting policies (e.g., the principal effect of Ronald Reagan's regime, for instance, has not been a favoring of politically conservative artists, as feared, but budget tightening that favors those who have previously succeeded, regardless of persuasion, to the disadvantage of newcomers).
My second theme is that these literature programs fail (and succeed) in perceptibly different ways. The problems at the literature program at the New York State Council on the Arts, for example, are not those of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, which in turn sometimes has problems not evident at NYSCA. Some problems endemic at NYSCA-Literature, in turn, are not present in other NYSCA departments, which in turn sometimes have problems not known to its literature department. Even though I have found blatant deficiencies of all sorts, some more serious than others, my conclusion is not that governmental cultural funding is inevitably corrupt but quite the opposite: Unless a corruption is evident in all of them, it need not be present in any of them.
A manuscript was completed in 1981; however, the small commercial publisher contracting it the year before had folded by early 1982. As I had meanwhile received the first of several stipends to work in Europe, this "grants book" languished. Chapters appeared in ~ACM~, ~Smoke Signals~, ~Contact II~, ~Soho Arts Weekley~, ~Home Planet News~, among other magazines. Constant queries from colleagues (who have come to regard me as an authority on the particularities of various funders), along with completion of that European work, prompts me to return to the subject. That earlier manuscript needs updating, as well as revision; its evidence and issues need to be reexamined, undistracted by remunerative needs. No one known to me is examining these agencies as thoroughly and critically; and perhaps because the results of such original research will inevitably be controversial, it is not likely that anyone else will. (Professional invulnerability is not common now.) May the resulting book advance current understanding of American literary philanthropy as much as the first half of my earlier book reportedly advanced our sense of native literary politics. ~(1986)~
* * *
~BOOK: "AN ABC OF CONTEMPORARY READING"~
It began as an extended critical essay, conceived and written as an update to Ezra Pound's classic ~ABC~. Aphoristic in style, general in pitch, it intends to define precisely and vividly certain innovative, remarkable characteristics of contemporary experimental writing--a literature that is considerably different from the "new writing" that Pound had in mind several decades ago. Parts of this essay in progress have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies over the past decade (e.g., ~NER/BLQ~ and Donald Hall's ~Claims for Poetry~). Earlier versions of the whole have appeared in the periodicals ~Precisely~ and ~Poetics Today~, along with my anthology ~Esthetics Contemporary~ (1978); and these have frequently been acknowledged in writing by others.
For the definitive book-length version, I expect to revise the entire text once again, now on my word processor for final publication, reconsidering each sentence, mostly with respect to recent writing, and probably adding new sections. I long ago learned that my very best essays, especially about literature, are those rewritten over several years (e.g., the introductions to ~Twelve from the Sixties~ [on innovations in short fiction], ~The Yale Gertrude Stein~, ~The New American Arts~, ~Possibilities of Poetry~). However, the final ~ABC~ book will differ from the essay in this crucial conceptual respect: while my text runs continuously on the right-hand (odd-numbered) pages, on the left-hand (even-numbered) pages will continuously appear epigraphs, examples and other relevant material as a kind of extended counterpoint to my text. As the recipient of awards and fellowships for book-art and book-design, I will design the final manuscript, which will run at least two hundred pages, probably preparing camera-ready copy. I'd like to think that my ~ABC~ would be particularly valuable not only to students of contemporary literature but to aspiring writers, and that it might well be used in sophisticated courses in these areas. Given its avant-garde thrust, may it perhaps be read for as long as Pound's book has been read. ~(1986)~
* * *
~ANOTHER RESIDENCY IN HOLOGRAPHY~
On one hand, I know my material is language. On the other, I want to discover in residencies what might be possible with those technologies, sometimes abetted by the technician, made available to me and to realize within these possibilities a language structure unique to that medium (or impossible in any other). Since I've already done a film hologram and a transmission hologram, this time I should like to make a reflection hologram.
One conceptual idea in my mind now, given the description of material available in your laboratory, would be an image broken apart into smaller pieces, probably square or rectangular in shape; so that the viewer would discover through different perspectives upon language the holographic truth about each part containing the whole. Another theme (exemplified in my recent hologram ~Antitheses~, 1985) worth pursuing in another way would be that of forcing the viewer to move his or her eyes, from side to side as well as up and down, in order to see words initially visible only as indecipherable lines or words hidden behind foreground words--to utilize structures of verbal-visual revelation best realized in holography (though not so unique to it). I also look forward to discovering, albeit with anxiety, what might be possible for me now in holography working, unlike before, ~alone~ (mostly). Since I now have in my studio considerably more audio equipment than before, I might also create a complementary audiotape comparable to the one produced for ~On Holography~ (1978). ~(1986)~
* * *
~PERIODICAL PUBLICATION OF "SHORTER STORIES"~
Each of these sentences is meant to be a complete autonomous fiction, without any intentional connection to any other story in the manuscript. Thus, editors are invited to select as many as they wish, and to publish those selections in any order they wish, ideally separating one story from the others through extra space (as here), hairlines, different typefaces or some other design device(s). (Inventive design will be rewarded, surely in heaven, perhaps on earth.) ~(1986)~
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Something similar occurs whenever marginal peoples come into a historical or ethnographic space that has been defined by the Western imagination.--James Clifford, ~The Predicament of Culture~ (1988)
~"BERLINERISCH": A MULTILINGUAL AUDIO COMPOSITION~
In the course of making our prize-winning film(s) about the great Jewish cemetery of Berlin-Weissensee as the principal surviving reflection of pre-War Berlin [titles listed], Martin Koerber and I have interviewed on audiotape (with an Uher 4200, or a Sony D-6, accompanied by first-rate microphones) elderly Berliners speaking about pre-WWII life in German, English, French and Swedish, and we will interview soon in Hebrew and Spanish. Since the footage we shot at the cemetery is silent, we selected from these audiotapes off-camera testimony to produce different twenty-one-minute films in each of those languages. (We did not overdub or use subtitled translations. Instead, we reproduced the film in each language, using authentic testimony by Berliners speaking each language.) From the German tapes alone we joined Michael Maassen in producing a seventy-minute radio feature, ~Nach Weissensee~, initially aired in 1974 on RIAS (West Berlin).
What we now propose to do is compose more unusual, experimental multitrack audiotapes that would incorporate interviews in all these languages into a grand mix not only about prewar Berlin but about the ur-sound of Berliners speaking. The work would have the linguistic density of my composition about the sound of the language of prayer, ~Invocations~, thus combining our initial documentary purposes with imaginative-acoustic values. We could construct a hypothetical score now, but think that inadvisable, as we have not yet gathered all the testimony and, in truth, want to experiment with various mixes before putting together the whole, which is how I customarily work with speech and sound on compositions fundamentally about the unique acoustic qualities of their subjects (e.g., ~New York City~ and ~Baseball: Americas' Game~). On one hand, for instance, we want to present people saying complementary things about Berlin in different languages, from different points in the stereo spectrum; on the other hand, we want to explore semantic and sonic counterpoint.
We could produce one tape of our "Berlinerisch" or, with sufficient time and production budget, compose different polyglot versions, each emphasizing one or another of the available languages, so that in one multilingual tape French predominates, in another German predominates, in a third Swedish predominates, etc., without eliminating the presence of five other tongues. (The technical capability of "mixing down" from multitracked material makes this feasible.) As these tapes will all be twenty minutes long, they could also be shown with our film as a compositionally more sophisticated alternative to the four (plus two) sound tracks already supported by Inter Nationes.
It would be appropriate to complete this audio "Berlinerisch" for the 750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987, perhaps as a ~new~ contribution to WDR's Metropolis series, and for broadcast around the world at that time, initially by stations previously airing Kostelanetz's audio art. In the course of doing the original interviews, we obtained signed permission from the interviewees. Enclosed, as samples of testimony, are the sound tracks of the English and German films. ~(1986)~
* * *
~MULTITRACK SLIDE ACCOMPANIMENTS FOR CONCERTS/INSTALLATIONS OF AUDIOTAPES~
For the past decade, Richard Kostelanetz has composed complex extended audiotapes integrating speech and sound, including ~Invocations~ (60 minutes, 1981, NEA-funded; 1984) and ~New York City~ (87 minutes, 1983; 60 minutes & 140 minutes, 1984), that have been broadcast around the world. Invited to give presentations and museum installations of these works (and objecting in principle to live public concerts of tape alone), Kostelanetz has developed for the latter tape, entirely on his own, a limited complementary slide accompaniment of only three hundred images. (This has already been presented at venues in Belgium, Germany, Mexico and Puerto Rico, in addition to the U.S. The most common criticism is that the visual component hasnâ€™t yet equaled the acoustic.)
What is proposed here is funding Kostelanetz to prepare the two thousand-plus slides necessary for a multitrack visual component as rich and complicated as his audio ~New York City~, and a thousand additional slides to accompany similarly his other major audiotape, ~Invocations~. It is expected that these slides will initially be used in the concerts and "readings" of his work that Kostelanetz as an artist/writer/composer is frequently invited to give around the world. They may also be used, with more sophisticated projection techniques, in installations.
Simply, the artist will try to find an abundance of images, everywhere in his visual experience, that accompany his audiotapes. Remembering acoustic episodes, he will seek out visual equivalences; other times, the visual element will evolve thematic counterpoints. This could be compared to the filmmaking process of preparing a visual track to a sound track that already exists (most notably in Joseph Strick's production of James Joyce's ~Ulysses~); but since the artist is initially interested in enhancing his ~live~ presentations, filling up the performance space with several simultaneous and continuous projections, much as his multitrack audiotape can fill the space acoustically, slides would be the more appropriate (and more economical) visual medium. The slides themselves will be both individual images, like those in the sample, and photographic sequences like those in his book, ~Reincarnations~ (1981), and his book-length fictional "Recall," parts of which have appeared in several magazines. Ideally, several tracks of imagery will be as rich and complicated as his multitrack audiotapes. Though the work of photography could be assigned to someone else, Kostelanetz thinks it important that, at least for concerts of his work, he, as a multimedia artist, be responsible for the visual accompaniment. To do it right he needs funding, because just as it isn't worth doing unless it can be done right, so he shouldn't be continuing his live ~New York City~ presentation in its present inferior form.
It is possible that this work will lead to similar visual enhancements of other extended audio tapes of his, including ~Relationships~ (1983) and ~Americas' Game~ (1986, NEA-funded) and, beyond that, perhaps to the creation of new performance works that from their beginning would be for both multitrack slides and multitrack audiotape--presentational pieces that, in his case, would extend and combine his work, for over a dozen years now, in visual fiction and acoustic narrative, which is to say, as he frequently does, for literature other than printed pages. No other electro-acoustic composer known to him is working in this way (though more should, while his friend Reynold Weidenaar is setting a strong example for video complements to his tape compositions). ~(1986)~
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In sleep every dog dreams of food, and I, a fisherman, dream of fish.--Theocritus, ~Idylls~ (c. 270 B.)
~PERIODICAL PUBLICATION OF "MORE OPENINGS & CLOSINGS"~
These single-sentence stories are meant to be, alternately, the opening sentences or closing sentences in otherwise nonexistent fictions. In this manuscript, openings are in normal type, closings are in boldface. They should be similarly differentiated in print with, say, the openings in italic type and the closings in roman type, or the openings on the left-hand pages of two-page spreads and the closings on the right-hand pages. (Inventive design is encouraged.) As these fictions are autonomous, not all stories need be used, and they need not be used in the order presented here, as no opening is necessarily connected to any closing. This text supplements, without duplication, the "Openings & Closings" written a decade ago and like its predecessor could also become the stuff of a book.
* * *
~AN INTERRELATED SERIES OF VIDEOTAPES BASED UPON AUDIOTAPES OF SACRED TEXTS~
including ~Invocations~ (funded by NEA-Media in 1981, 60 minutes), ~The Gospels~ (also NEA-backed, 1982, 120 minutes), ~Die Evangelien~ (commissioned by Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 1983, 60 minutes), ~The Eight Nights of Hanukah~ (commissioned by the C.B, 1983, 5:30), ~The Gospels Abridged~ (1986, 60 minutes). My wish is to explore the creation of kinetic imagery indigenous to video and yet appropriate to the sacred texts (abstract, rather than anthropomorphic, because of the proscription against graven images), and to assemble the pieces in ~hifi stereo videotapes~ running from six hours in continuous length, thanks to the capability of 1/2" technology, down to shorter forms more appropriate for television broadcast, initially by stations here and abroad that have previously aired my work. Since the tapes themselves were produced in sophisticated electronic music studios, their videos should be hi-fi stereo. In my opinion, they would best be viewed, especially in exhibitions, on the first-rate video projection system, such as the Kloss 100 or new Kloss 1000. A supplementary plan is to make eight separate realizations of ~Praying to the Lord~ for eight small-screen monitors.
Out of the realization that concert performances of audiotape alone were not sufficient, I became interested in adding visual elements to my sound compositions, initially of slides for ~New York City~ (in presentations at Pro Musica Nuova in Bremen and the University of Puerto Rico). Since I've made films and videotapes apart from these audiotapes, it seemed appropriate to produce visual tracks directly for these tapes, working initially in video, but later in film, with the elements observing similar esthetic principles. These proposed works would also extend the position, established most prominently in our prize-winning polylingual films about prewar Berlin, about the value of nonsync sound in the production of both films and videotapes. Incidentally, the next films I would like to do would involve composing more representational visual tracks to ~New York City~ and ~Americas' Game~ (1986, NEA-funded), sound tracks to U. S. military aerial footage of Berlin in 1945 and, if appropriate rights can be obtained, a video synthesis to James Joyce's historic recording of passages from ~Finnegans Wake~. ~(1987)~
* * *
~AN EXTENDED ARTICLE ABOUT THE BERLIN WALL~
Though I've written about Berlin before, I have an idea for a piece I've not done in the past (and haven't seen from anyone else). That would be an elaborate discussion of ~Der Mauer~, which is the local name for the Berlin Wall; it would at minimum touch upon the following topics:
1. Its origins, evolution and and reasons for being, from both Western and Eastern perspectives. (Remember that the East claims it was constructed to prevent an invasion from the West. That accounts for why the uniformed soldiers in the guard towers are constantly training their binoculars on the West.)
2. What the Wall looks like, from both sides, with barbed wire and then open space on the Eastern side and graffiti on the Western side. (I have marvelous photographs of the latter.) In a recent ~Insight,~ you should know, was a photograph captioned "East Berliners Walking Beside the Wall," but that would be impossible. East Berliners can't get anywhere near their side of the Wall.
3. Where it goes (and why), including its passing through the middle of a lake or under an elevated subway. Here I would describe Steinstucken, which is an enclave a few miles outside West Berlin but legally tied to it. Once physically isolated from West Berlin, it is now connected by a road surrounded by high walls on both sides.
4. How to pass through it, both legally and illegally, from both West to East and East to West. This would include a summary of the procedures for three categories of Western visitors--West Berliners, West Germanys and "andere staten"--as well as the East German rules on different categories of their citizens traveling West. Here I would describe the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie which documents some of the more elaborate escapes.
5. How it is experienced, with testimony from both sides. My sense is that West Berlin has been rebuilt to eliminate experience of the Wall. I know from having lived there for nearly a year (in snatches) that you must be reminded of the Wall's existence. Most West Berliners go about their daily business without thinking about it and in general are scarcely affected by it, except for certain subtle anomalies--in midsummer the city's streets are filled with people, because nobody in West Berlin is ever invited to spend a boring weekend at a country home.
6. The mechanics of maintaining the Wall. Since it is on East German property, they from time to time send over two guys with whitewash who clean off the graffiti in the presence of two armed East soldiers, all of whom return to the East. Also, not long ago, East policemen came through to arrest and take back a West Berlin graffiti artist, and I heard that since he was captured defacing East German property on East German territory there was nothing West Berlin could do about rescuing him.
7. I would like to do something with Heidelbergerstrasse in Neukolln, which is one of the few places where West Berliners and East Berliners live in sight of each other and, indeed, hang out on their windowsills talking to each other over the East German protection space.
8. The foolishness of Ronald Reagan's demand to "tear down the Wall." This gets us into legal differences on how each regards the other. To the West, East Germany is a lost province. To the East, they are separate countries, now and forever. Therefore, a telephone call from West to East is billed at the same rate as a call within West Berlin. By contrast, a call from East to West is billed as "international." Therefore as well, East Germans emigrating to West Germany are entitled to employment and welfare, without discrimination. Were the Wall to come down tomorrow, there would be a flood of East Germans expecting jobs and thus the probability of massive unemployment in the West!
I would expect this piece to be at least three thousand words long, preferably five. Drawing upon my experience of Berlin, in addition to friends living in both the West and the East, I want to write a rich picture of a unique situation whose ramifications and implications can hardly be imagined until you are there. Should you like to commission, please let me hear from you. ~(1987)~
* * *
I'm so involved in trying to get things done, working or trying to move things away from the clogged situation that exists now that I'm not really involved with that issue.--Robert Morris (1971), interviewed by Lucy R. Lippard, ~Six Years~ (1973)
~AN AUDIO COMPOSITION "BUENOS AIRES" SIMILAR TO MY ~NEW YORK CITY
What I hope to do during my Argentine Fulbright is compose an extended audiotape of and about the sound of Buenos Aires similar to the one of and about ~New York City~ (1984). This contributes to a series of extended audiotape compositions of and about the sound of its subject--the language of prayer in ~Invocations~ (60 minutes, 1981), baseball in ~Americas' Game~ (60 minutes, 1986), the Jewish Diaspora in "Kaddish" (in progress, on commission from Westdeutscher Rundfunk).
This project would involve taking my own microphones and recording machines around Buenos Aires to tape sounds that are as unique to that city as those in my ~NYC~ are unique to my hometown, and from these Buenos Aires sounds to make an equally elaborate audiotape composition, at my own expense, on my own time, probably at studios elsewhere. (The most likely places are the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm and the Center for Computer Music at Brooklyn College, both of which have awarded me residencies in the past.) I would draw upon contacts made in the initial visit to Buenos Aires this past June, as well as the advice of Francisco Kroepfel, the director of a Buenos Aires electronic music studio, who has been officially commissioned to compose a Buenos Aires in the same Westdeutscher Rundfunk series that commissioned my ~NYC~. I expect that my portrait would fundamentally differ not only from his but from my earlier work in that this time I would be approaching the city as ~an outsider~. That last fact also makes the proposed project conceptually more interesting to me. The "Buenos Aires" tape would become available for broadcast and for concerts and, like earlier works of mine, for release on disc or cassette. I would also probably write an extended essay about the work, as is my custom, and thus about Buenos Aires; in that sense, the project extends my earlier interest (also evident in the films about Berlin) in the culture of cities. My title is tentative; the material, when complete, might suggest another. ~(1987)~
* * *
~AN ORIGINAL INSTALLATION COMBINING THREE EXTANT ELEMENTS ABOUT NEW YORK CITY~
The ~first~ would be a 90-minute audiocassette composed of and about sounds unique to New York City. It draws upon a 60-minute work commissioned in 1983 by Westdeutscher Rundfunk for its "Metropolis" series. This "International Version" of my ~New York City~ was broadcast the following year, rebroadcast over public radio elsewhere around the world, and subsequently included in the Audio Art section of Documenta 8 (1987). Approximately thirty minutes of excerpts from it ran, in alternation with another tape, as a continuous sound track during an exhibition devoted to 42nd Street at the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris in 1984.
What I propose to do for the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage is compose, during my next residency at the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio of Stockholm (May 1988), a 90-minute hi-fi (metal tape) stereo ~American~ version, including new elements, some based upon the sound of the Brooklyn Bridge. Back at the Anchorage, this tape would be run continuously from a cassette player on the premises, its sound channeled to two loudspeakers installed on opposite walls (~not~ opposite ends) of the most southwest vault--a space so resonant acoustically that I figure two speakers would be sufficient. My principal reason for selecting that vault, among the available spaces, is that it has not only the greatest acoustic resonance but also the largest amount of ambient N.Y. noise, creating the preconditions for an aleatory "mixing" of my composition of natural sounds with not only echoes of itself but the real "outside" stuff, so to speak. This vault is also sufficiently distant from the other vaults not to disturb them.
A ~second~ element for the Anchorage installation would be two sequences of 240 slides of photographic images unique to N.Y., each projected continuously (but nonsynchronously), one sequence above the other, onto a large cloth, taller than it is wide, on the west wall of the vault. These were prepared as a visual accompaniment for concerts of the tape and already have been shown several times outside NYC.
A ~third~ element, made specifically for the Anchorage installation, would be a continuous projection onto the east wall of slides of eighty images from "Recall," which has twenty-image and forty-image sequences of systematic recompositions of a single classic photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge. Parts of this last work have appeared in cultural magazines, but never before has it been exhibited in New York City. ~(1987)~
* * *
~BOOK ANTHOLOGY: "THE LIBERTARIAN TRADITION: AMERICAN ANARCHIST THOUGHT"~
When a colleague told me that there were no anthologies of anarchist-libertarian thought currently in print, it seemed opportune to propose to do one that I've been thinking about for years, an anthology that would differ from those available before, and be perhaps more relevant now, precisely by (1) focusing wholly upon American thinkers and (2) combining proponents of the libertarianism ("right") with anarchism ("left"). Remembering Peter Kropotkin's comment that Josiah Warren's brand of anarchism seemed peculiar to America, I would try to establish in my extended introduction the Americanness of the selections and of the mix. Otherwise, I envision a book at least 320 pages long, and among the historical contributors would be Henry David Thoreau, Josiah Warren, Benjamin R. Tucker, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Adin Ballou, Lysander Spooner, Albert Jay Nock and Emma Goldman. From contemporaries I would expect to select choice works by Dwight Macdonald ("The Root Is Man"), Kenneth Rexroth, Paul Goodman ("The Black Flag of Anarchism"), Karl Hess ("The Death of Politics"), John Cage, Robert Nozick, Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand, Thomas Szasz, Murray Rothbard, Dorothy Day, and Murray Bookchin ("Post-Scarcity Anarchism"). The book would close with a bibliography of further readings. In structure and polemical thrust, "The Libertarian Tradition" would resemble the anthologies of futuristic social thought (~Beyond Left & Right~, ~Social Speculations~, ~Human Alternatives~, ~The Edge of Adaptation~) that I did for commercial publishers over a dozen years ago. If only because we are reaching in America now the edge of widespread change in our ways of thinking about politics, I'd like to believe that 1988 would be a propitious time to publish "The Libertarian Tradition." ~(1987)~
* * *
~A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ON "THE NEW POETRIES AND SOME OLD"~
This would be a direct sequel to ~The Old Poetries and the New~ (Univ. of Michigan, 1981), which was by far the most radical contribution to Donald Hall's series "Poets on Poetry," and also a supplement to ~The Old Fictions and the New~ (McFarland, 1987). The proposed book would collect essays of mine on poetry, most of them written in the past decade--essays that, but for a few exceptions, have not appeared in any other books published under my name. It would begin with extended comprehensive profiles of two major North American poetry theorists, Northrop Frye and Kenneth Burke. Next would come a short appreciation of Marianne Moore (as a precursor), a laudatory review of Grant Webster's masterful book on American criticism (~The Republic of Letters~) and two devastating reviews of conservative poetries, exemplified by the academics collected in Stephen Berg's anthology ~Singular Voices~ and then by Joseph Brodsky. A final piece in the opening section would be my long retrospective consideration of anthologies and anthologizing. The second part would begin with a short general introduction to "Avant-Garde Poetry in America Now," distinguishing those who would purify the materials of poetry from those who would mix it with concerns and materials from the other arts. Along the first theme would be my introduction to Harry Polkinhorn's ~Anaesthesia~ and my extended interview with John Cage about his ~Finnegans Wake~ project. Next would come "The Literature of SoHo," a reconsideration of text-sound in North America (extending the much-reprinted essay in the earlier volume), and "Literary Videotapes," in addition to the texts of two symposia moderated by me: one on visual poetry, the other on sound poetry. The final section would have statements about my own poetry, including the prefaces to ~Turfs, etc.~ and "Duets, Trios and Choruses" and the manifestos "Why Audio Drama Now" and "Literary Holography." I'd like to think that these essays establish not only the most substantial radical foundation for regarding American poetry today but sharp understanding of specific issues. Contracting it soon would no doubt inspire further writing and rewriting. ~(1987)~
* * *
Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness.--Baltasar Gracian, ~The Art of Worldly Wisdom~ (ca. 1647)
~ONE DOZEN BOOK-ART BOOKS LONG IN PROGRESS~
Support would go toward the completion, design and production (all by the
artist, working by himself) in modest editions of several ~book-art books~
long in progress, including, among others:
1. Two more books of constructivist short fictions (composed of line drawings that metamorphose in systemic sequence).
2. A constructivist novel with 392 images in systemic sequence, to be entitled "Symmetries," to be printed in a format 4" high x 14" wide.
3. A novel composed of interwoven constructivist sequences, titled "Intermix."
4. A concluding collection of poems and fictions composed entirely of numbers.
5. "Epiphanies," which are single-sentence stories meant to be the climax moments in otherwise nonexistent stories and would be published in a spacious format of only a few to a page.
6. "More Openings & Closings," which are either the opening sentences of otherwise nonexistent fictions or the closing sentences and which would thus be a sequel to the earlier book of the same title.
7. "Shorter Stories," which are single-sentence stories different from the others already described in that they are meant to be read as complete stories.
8. "Minimal Fictions," which are stories no more than three words in length.
9. "Strings," which are extended linguistic structures composed of overlapping words, designed to be published on continuous paper, such as adding machine tape.
10. "Portraits from Memory," a sequence of 192 visual poems.
11. "Recall," several sequences of a systemically recomposed photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge, most of which have previously appeared in art and literary magazines.
What distinguishes my own book-art oeuvre, I'd like to think, is the variety of materials (words, numbers and photographs as well as lines) and the resulting variety of formats. ~(1987)~
* * *
~A CRITICAL BOOK ON "SPECIAL SOUNDS: THE ART OF RADIO IN NORTH AMERICA"~
There have been several histories of radio in America, but what distinguishes this book, in progress for most of the decade, is an emphasis upon ~artistic achievement~ by Americans, from the 1920s to the present. "Special Sounds" will have an introduction, yet unwritten, about issues and problems in radio criticism, in part to praise such distinguished books as Rudolf Arnheim's ~Radio: An Art of Sound~ (1937) but also to lament the absence of the kind of extended considerations we've come to associate with a mature art. Otherwise, the chapters will be drawn from talks initially done as features for European radio, some of which have appeared in print here in literary magazines:
1. The American Tradition of Radio Drama, which suggests that in contrast
to Europe our best radio theater is vernacular (e.g., radio comedy).
2. Audio Comedy in America Today, which argues that since 1952 the best radio art, including comedy, appeared first on record;
3. New York City Radio, which explains narrow-casting and appreciates variety;
4. Glenn Gould as a Radio Artist, which introduces the compositions of speech and sound that the great Canadian pianist produced from 1967 to his death;
5. John Cage as Horspielmacher, which traces his involvements with audiotapes and radio from ~Williams Mix~ through the famous ~Roaratorio~;
6. American Sounds in Germany, which introduces the extraordinary, and extraordinarily successful, radio produced by Americans working in the 1980s for German stations;
7. Tony Schwartz and One-Minute Audio Art, which elaborates the thesis, mentioned elsewhere, that the best art produced nowadays directly for radio, rather than record, appears in abbreviated forms (i.e., commercials);
8. Orson Welles as an Audio Artist, emphasizing his development prior to ~War of the Worlds~ and the acoustic bases of his two earliest full-length films;
9. Norman Corwin, the "Poet Laureate" of radio, emphasizing programs he wrote and produced in the early 1940s;
10. The funding of quality radio in America, which explains to Europeans how radio art is produced here by stations lacking funds;
11. ~Texts and Proposals for Radio~, which is a survey of my own work.
The essays appeared here in magazines ranging from the ~New York Times~ to ~North American Review~. Any book publisher wishing to know more should contact the author. ~(1987)~
* * *
I existed through the tough winter months of my profession as a physician only for that. So that scribbling in the dark, leaving behind on my desk, often past midnight, the sheets to be filed away later, at the end of the year I had assembled a fairly bulky manuscript.--William Carlos Williams, ~Kora in Hell: Improvisations~ (1920)
~COLLABORATION BETWEEN NOAH CRESHEVSKY (MUSIC) & RICHARD KOSTELANETZ (TEXT)~
Noan Creshevsky is a composer, now associate professor of music at CUNY's Brooklyn College, who has worked creatively with texts for over a decade. Among the recent acknowledgments of his significance has been a personal entry in ~The New Grove Dictionary of Music in the United States~, a copy of which is enclosed, as a kind of resume. Enclosed also is a copy of the score of his recent work, ~Crosstalk~, which is based on a text by John Cage. Creshevsky's radical notion here is that the literary text provides not just the source but the principal score for exclusively musical interpretation. As Creshevsky advises, "Syllables and words appearing in the parts indicate precisely synchronous rhythmic and inflective instrumental sounds. In rehearsal, sentences should first be read in the style and tempo selected by the group. Players then match sounds to the syllables and words appearing in his/her part. No words are heard in [final] performance; they are a 'ghost text' for rehearsal purposes only." He continues, "The eventual subtraction of text neither detracts from the players' familiarity with the stories' contents, nor with their continuing obligation to reproduce sounds which remain, rhythmically at least, faithful to the original text. Among [the performers'] principal aims will be the wish to demonstrate the versatility and beauty of their instruments in conjunction with their own skill and ingenuity as performers."
Richard Kostelanetz has produced experimental fictions and poetry for nearly two decades now. This work has been included in many anthologies, among them the ~Norton Introduction to Literature~ (1973) and ~The Treasury of American Poetry~ (1978), and acknowledged as well in standard histories of American literature. One of his continuing interests is providing unconventional texts for experimental composers, including so far Charles Dodge, Paul Lansky, Bruce Kushnick, Francis Schwartz and Philip Glass; and the results of these collaborations have been broadcast around the world. Here he regards his contribution as not only providing the text most suitable to the composer's designs, but also collaborating on the work's realization and then its distribution, to radio stations, on records and in concerts, which will probably include the display visually, via slides, of the "ghost text" acknowledged in Creshevsky's plan.
What is proposed is supporting their collaborative realization of a new audio work, based perhaps upon a new Kostelanetz text written especially for the collaboration, in which the stylistic tastes and artistic backgrounds of each will have a determining effect. ~(1986)~
* * *
~A BOOK OF ESSAYS "ON INNOVATIVE ART(IST)S"~
Autobiographical Introduction: Writing Among Artists (to come)
HISTORIES: The Arts in America (from ~The New American Arts~, 1965)
Visual Arts and Contemporary Music (from ~Music of Today~, 1967)
Avant-Garde (1966) (~Twenties in the Sixties~, 1979)
American Architecture, 1945-65 (~Bennington Review~, 1978)
American Painting in the 1960s (~North American Review~, 1970)
American Sculpture in the 1960s (~Studies in the Twentieth Century~, 1971)
The New Arts and Their Scenes (~Arts in Society~, 1970)
The Arts in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972 (~Reader's Digest Almanacs~, 1969-73)
Mixed-Means Theater (~Contemporary Dramatists~, 1977)
Print-Out on the New Art (~Kenyon Review~, 1968)
The Cast of American Painting (~Denver Quarterly~, 1969)
INDIVIDUALS: Precursors of Polyartistry (~Arts in Society~, 1968)
Moholy-Nagy: The Risk and Necessity of Artistic Adventurism (~Salmagundi~, 1969)
Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered (~American Book Review~, 1986)
Merce Cunningham (~Michigan Quarterly Review~, 1974)
George Rhoads (~New York Times Magazine~, 1987)
Don Celender (~New York Arts Journal~, 1980)
Andy Warhol (~New Art Examiner~, 1988)
The Anarchist Art of the Polyartist (Wesleyan University, 1988)
Art Autobiography (~Leonardo~, 1986)
POSITIONS: The Artistic Explosion (~The Book of Predictions~, 1980)
Artists' Selfbooks (~Ballet Review~, 1969)
"Artists' Books" (~Art-Rite~, 1976-77)
Books by Artists (~American Book Review~, 1983)
Book-Art (~Artists' Books~, 1985)
The Opiate of the Intellectuals (~Art and Artists~, 1986)
On Holography (~New Orleans Review~, 1978)
Literary Holography (~Holoblad~, 1985)
Architectural Criticism? (~Commonweal~, 1967)
The Arts Biz (~New Art Examiner~, 1988)
All will be revised (but not updated) for inclusion here. None need expensive illustrations. Publishers desiring further information, or interested in considering sample chapters, are advised to contact the author. ~(1987)~
* * *
~AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL VIDEOTAPE ABOUT "WRITING IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL AGE"~
Having done a traveling retrospective exhibition for university galleries and also written illustrated retrospectives about my writing in several media for magazines like ~Leonardo~, in addition to producing a survey on audiotape about my "Audio Writing" for broadcast around the world and both writing and narrating a video introduction to sound poetry and visual poetry for CBS Camera Three (1974), I've thought much and long about the use of media in portraying innovative literary evolution. Since my own "writing" by now includes not only poetry, fiction and experimental prose for print, but the use of language in silkscreened prints and canvases for gallery exhibitions and then in book-art books, in audiotape compositions, videotapes, films and even holograms, it would be appropriate for me to compose a self-retrospective for videotape, not only for broadcast over public television stations, but for private viewing in libraries and similar venues. Whereas the previous retrospectives have been organized around my explorations, the new one would focus upon my involvement with a succession of technologies for inscribing language, beginning with the pencil (which is more useful than pricking one's finger for making marks on paper) and progressing through the typewriter, the electronic typewriter, the word processor, large format paper (for silk-screened prints) and then the new technologies of audiotape, videotape, film and holography. Tracing the evolution of my use of language in these media, I will describe the problems posed by each, identifying advantages and disadvantages, while showing examples along the way. (I may use the work of others, in addition to my own.) Since my work involves both image and sound, and includes time-based media, it seems obvious that the most propitious medium for documenting all this would be one-inch videotape; and since my arts include video production, I would produce this myself. Not unlike others involved with radical innovation in writing, I've always been my own best popularizer.
Since my creative work itself represents such a drastic departure from what other "writers" are doing (and has been commonly regarded as unique in this way, for well over a decade now), this documentary should be similarly different from other literary documentation on film or videotape; and since it will be done by the artist himself, I will be free to eschew all concessions to convention. The first departure will be an emphasis upon the work, and the history and sensibility behind it, even to the point of excluding the author/artist from appearing full-face on the screen. There is no convention of documentary filmmaking I despise more than the talking head (because it confuses work with personality and lends itself to the making of untenable and egotistical claims); and since this film is controlled by me, I can assure in advance, not just the artist but everyone else, that that will not happen. Instead, there will be an emphasis upon creative process and upon perception. One model in my own mind is the portrayal of "cut-up writing" in Howard Bookner's recent ~Burroughs~. Though I will hire a professional videographer, whose ideas for filming I intend to respect, I will write the film and do the narration, in addition to recording colleagues talking about the work. (They're likely to be more specific and critical with me than they would be in addressing a fawning filmmaker!) Need I say that I know of no precedent for this, neither conceptually nor stylistically; and that fact alone should earn it attention. Given the amount and variety of work to be covered, "Writing in the Technological Age" should be 57 minutes long. Since most of the visual track would be made apart from the sound, it would be easy to overdub for television abroad. As most of work will involve only two professionals, and travel will be minimal, my estimate for a total budget would be less than fifty thousand dollars; the project should take at least six months to complete. ~(1987)~
* * *
Men never cling to their dreams with such tenacity as at the moment when they are losing faith in them, and know it, but do not dare yet to confess it to themselves.--William Graham Sumner, ~The Banquet of Life~ (1887)
1. "The Olympics of Sports Talk": The original idea for ~Invocations~
was to record an international collection of sports announcers: to discover
whether they could be heard to sound alike, notwithstanding differences in
whether there is a sound unique to the profession and that kind of communication. That hypothesis fell away in favor of ministers articulating sound indigenous to the language of prayer. Nonetheless, the original idea is still a good one; and given the success of ~Invocations~ (broadcast around the world, available here on record), it would be opportune to return to it for the Olympic year of 1988. Westdeutscher Rundfunk has expressed interest in sponsoring this; but since other commissions from WDR are unfinished, a grant from the NEA would have the practical advantage of getting them on the stick over this. (A precedent for this would be their support of ~The Gospels/Die Evangelien~, in response to NEA funding in 1982.) "The Olympics of Sports Talk" would probably be produced at the twenty-four-track analogue installation of the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio of Stockholm, where ~Invocations~ was made. Like its predecessor, which has so many languages it need not be "translated" into any of them, this is designed to be broadcast, as is, around the world.
2. An extended, yet untitled composition of and about the sounds unique to various sports, including basketball (with its squeaky shoes), fencing, squash, hockey, etc. Recording competitive matches from a variety of acoustic perspectives, I want to make radio art that would fuse my earlier interest in compositions ostensibly about the sound of their subjects (~Invocations~, ~New York City~, ~Baseball: Americas' Game~) with a newer notion of creating fictions exclusively with sound (apart from narrative speech). The resulting multitrack compositions, probably an hour long in sum, will have neither introduction nor narration; as they too will not need translation, they too will be available for broadcast, as is, around the world.
3. The reproduction of definitive sixty-minute ~English~ versions of five major features about radio/audio art initially produced for German radio: (a) "The American Tradition of Radio Drama," first done for the HÃ¶rspiel department of Westdeutscher Rundfunk in 1982 (and rebroadcast elsewhere in Germany), argues (with choice examples) that the best radio drama produced in this country has not been literary, on the European model, but vernacular, and then that the master radio comedians discovered the unique dramatic possibilities of radio. (This is the precursor to "Audio Comedy in America Today," done under an earlier NEA grant, and rebroadcast in Germany by WDR.) Since I've gotten better at producing such features in the past five years (and smarter about my subject as well), this should be considerably better than the German original and may hopefully become a persuasive reason for reproducing it. (b) "Rudolf Arnheim on Radio," reproducing in our original English an interview initially broadcast in German for WDR-HÃ¶rspiel (under an earlier NEA grant), about the prominent esthetician-psychologist's pioneering book, ~Radio: An Art of Sound~ (1937). (c) "A Portrait of New York City Radio," initially written for the features department of Sender Freies Berlin, focuses upon what distinguishes American radio from European, beginning with the abundance of stations across the dial and, also in contrast to Europe, the absence of a published comprehensive radio schedule analogous to ~TV Guide~. (d) "The Audio Art of Orson Welles," which will first trace his radio career as it leads up to ~War of the Worlds~ (1938) and then define the developments that presage his films, not only ~The Magnificent Ambersons~, which, don't forget, began as a 1939 radio play, but ~Citizen Kane~, whose sound track is so evocative it was recently issued here on record. (e) "Tony Schwartz's One-Minute Radio Art," initially done in a rough form for German overdubbing by WDR (1987), features the best work of one of our most prolific and distinguished independent producers of commercials, interviewing him about his extraordinary career and rich ideas. As I have realized in Europe a unique career of producing features about the very best American radio art, doesn't everyone think it would be nice to make them available for broadcast here? So far the intelligence behind these features has appeared in English mostly in (silent) magazine articles!
4. The production of wholly fresh radio features about (a) "John Cage as a Radio Artist," based upon a critical essay written on a grant from NYSCA Media Services and an interview to appear soon in ~The Musical Quarterly~. This feature would draw not only upon the interview but upon copies of Cage's radio pieces obtained directly from their principal producer--the HÃ¶rspiel department of WDR. (Most are not yet publicly available.) This will be a sequel to "Glenn Gould as a Radio Artist," likewise a commentary with examples, which was produced under a previous NEA grant and already rebroadcast in Germany, Austria and Australia. (b) "The Funding of Quality Radio in America," which stems from repeated attempts to explain to colleagues in European radio the American way of support (and nonsupport). There, stations produce and subsidize quality radio. Here, as most commercial stations recycle records, while public stations have limited production budgets and facilities, quality audio is mostly produced outside radio contexts, with funds obtained from sources other than radio stations (NEA, private foundations with special interests, etc.) and then largely distributed gratis. Further contrasts are developed, always with European examples in mind. Supplementing the commentary will be examples of quality radio and interviews with those involved. If category #3 here is for reproduction in English of what already has been done in other languages, this section requests support for the production of English-language masters that, as in the prior example of the Glenn Gould feature, would facilitate subsequent reproduction into other languages. My work in European and American radio should ideally run along a two-way street free of potholes and other barriers. Needless to say perhaps, what I've been patiently working up for the past decade, program by program, is a series, for broadcast here as well as abroad, about "The Art of Radio in North America" that would differ from previous surveys in emphasizing our highest artistic achievements.
What is requested, please, is sufficient support to complete ~all~, rather than some, of these proposals, most of which represent extensions of earlier successful work, some of which have been "in progress" for years (and years, alas). I hope there will be no need to offer them again, for in 1989 I would like to begin a new phase with an elaborate composition for the fiftieth anniversary of the initial publication of James Joyce's ~Finnegans Wake~. ~(1987)~
* * *
~A FILM ABOUT "THE NADIR OF THE CITY: BERLIN, APRIL 1945"~
The method of my previous prize-winning documentary, ~A Berlin Lost~ (made in collaboration with Martin Koerber in 1984), was to film a visual representation of a city's greatest years, in this case the Jewish cemetery of Berlin-Weissensee, and then compose a sound track about the life represented in the footage. Since the interviewees, all Berliners, never appear on-screen, we were able to produce fresh sound-tracks, wholly composed of authentic testimony, in German, French, Spanish, Swedish and Hebrew, as well as English. For a sequel about the nadir of a city, again Berlin, I wish to take the extraordinary evocative aerial footage that American airmen shot of Berlin in April 1945, showing, unlike no other footage known to me, a modern city in ruins. To this footage, which is available in both color and black-and-white from the U.S. government merely for the cost of copying, I may add footage and/or stills gathered from other sources and/or enhanced by optical processing. (I would avoid footage showing people, for they look like normal people, while Berlin at that time scarcely resembles any city we know.) Once the visual track is composed, I shall interview surviving Berliners about this brief period, after the bombing but just before the arrival of the Allied forces. Since these interviewees never appear on-screen, here, as in the previous film, authentic testimony can be gathered in any language that Berliners speak--German, English, Russian, French, etc. Thus alternate films can be made wholly in those languages, with a minimal of subtitling or overdubbing. In the course of making ~A Berlin Lost~, I heard several interviewees speak of this period in terms that were not only stark but unfamiliar to me, testifying as they did to human ingenuity in the face of devastation; and when I saw the aerial footage, I realized that the combination of the two would make of this unique historical moment a film that would not only echo its predecessor (in such stylistic characteristics as nonsync sound) but would be valuable in itself. The film proposed here would probably run between twenty and forty minutes; ideally, in tours it would be shown with the other. Since the moment portrayed was over forty years ago, it would be good to do it soon. ~(1988)~
* * *
~A BOOK OF ESSAYS "HOME AND AWAY: THE DIVERGENT TRAVELER"~
HOME: Living in Manhattan (1969) (~Twenties in the Sixties~, 1979)
The Harlem I Knew (~Congress Bi-Weekly~, 1966)
New York in Fiction (~Columbia University Forum~, 1966)
The East Village, 1969-70 (~I Articulations~, 1974)
SoHo: Mecca of Advanced Taste (1986)
Keeping Afloat in New York (~Menu~, 1982)
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Letter from Berlin (~Bennington Review~, 1982)
A New Yorker's Berlin (in many places; in its definitive manuscript form, 1988)
The Berlin Literary Scene (~North American Review~, 1984)
The Other (East) Berlin (~House & Garden~, 1987)
The Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin (~New York Times~, 1987)
Working in German Radio (~New York Times~, 1981; ~Exquisite Corpse~, 1988)
How To Live Like a New Yorker in Berlin (1988)
AWAY: Calexico: America's Berlin (~Boston Review~, 1989)
The Quietude of Stockholm (~MD~, 1987)
Austin, Texas (1977)
The unity comes from style and sensibility, both of which I take to be different from the normal run of travel journalism--at once more adventurous and exploratory and yet more skeptical of common claims. Publishers wishing to consider the manuscript should contact the author. ~(1988)~
* * *
Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.--Edward Young, ~Night Thoughts~ (1742)
~AN AUDIO REALIZATION OF "LOVINGS"~
"Lovings" is a collection of independent single-sentence stories about the variousness of love; parts have appeared in many literary magazines and the whole text will eventually appear as a book. Though the stories are meant to be appreciated separately, reading the entire text creates an aura of intense erotic experience. To achieve this last effect on audiotape, let me propose that the stories be read by several voices in a multitrack studio in the following manner. One story is recorded in a tape-delay system that allows for immediate echo, so that this first story is repeated continuously until its decay. Once this first story is heard for a second time,that becomes the cue for a second story to be read into the same tape-delay system, its echo decaying on a separate track of the multitrack. Once this second story is heard for the second time, a third story is read to echo on a third track. This painstaking system is continued for however many stories will be read, using as many tracks as are available. As the single-sentence stories tend to run between six and ten seconds; the realization of a hundred of them will take from twenty to thirty-four minutes. I should like to do as many as would produce a tape lasting nearly one hour. In the mixdown (to either two-track for record or eight-track for theatrical performance), there would be an attempt to separate successive voices across the stereo spectrum. It is also possible (if, say, this was composed in a foreign country where English-speaking readers were scarce) that all the voices would be mine. My sense of the experience of the piece is that new stories would be heard against a continuously recomposing background bed of previous stories and thus, that though the stories be different, the tone would be continuously and intensely erotic. ~(1988)~
* * *
~AN AUDIOTAPE COMPOSITION OF AND ABOUT THE SOUND OF NEW YORK CITY SPEECH~
People commonly speak of a New York accent, but those of us more familiar with the sound of my hometown know there are many accents indigenous to N.Y., each reflective of different ethnic groups, different boroughs, different social classes and different years of birth. For this audiotape composition I plan to record at least one hundred native New Yorkers who have lived here most of their lives, saying, "I was born in New York City in [year]" and then adding where their parents came from, in what neighborhoods they grew up, perhaps where they went to schools, etc. My expectation is that from these field recordings I will compose a piece of speech-music that will begin as a sequence of solos, ordered not only for chronological exposition and sociological intelligence but for sonic values. I imagine that voices will quickly come up over one another (as New Yorkers are wont to do) from different parts of the stereo spectrum; but before long, they will be heard speaking in duets, electronically mixed and stereophonically arrayed, and then trios, quartets and quintets, as I hope to find in choral arrangements a New York City sound that would not be so audible in one voice alone. There is no need to use any acoustic processing or any sounds other than native voices. I envision a multitrack piece that would be at least thirty and perhaps sixty minutes long. "I Was Born in New York City" will hopefully take its place beside other extended audiotapes of mine that were composed of and about the sound of a certain subjects--baseball (1986), New York City (1984), the Jewish Diaspora (1983) and the language of prayer (1981)--and if this new piece turns out as well as its predecessors, it should be permanently installed in the waiting room of, say, Grand Central Station, welcoming visitors to the kind of speaking they can expect to hear in New York City. I would need a few months to consider the raw tapes and perhaps forty hours in multitrack studio to compose it. ~(1988)~
* * *
One of the gravest responsibilities of the modern State that it has not maintained (but could it do so?) a class of men exempt from civic duties, men whose sole function is to maintain non-practical values.--Julian Benda, ~Betrayal of the Intellectuals~ (1927)
~TEACHING SEMINAR PROPOSALS~
1. A year-long seminar in the "Production of a Book," which would include not only the writing (or equivalent production) of a book-length manuscript but copyediting, design and production, by any means available to the student, of a camera-ready dummy. Since I believe that, once you think in terms of doing a book, certain problems are common, this course would be open to those wishing to produce book-length manuscripts of poetry as well as fiction, visual books (of photographs or related drawings) as well as nonfiction. Participants would make copies of works in progress available to one another for criticism and comment throughout the course of the year. (Now that I've produced some books, I wish I had myself taken such a course as an undergraduate.)
2. A one-semester (preferably spring) seminar in the Production of "Major Art Projects," open to practitioners of all arts, including writing, where the requirement is simply the creation of major artwork, representing the sum of all the student has learned, plus intensive labor. The emphasis will be on learning how to think like a professional artist rather than mastering the strategies of a discipline. I believe that though the techniques of the various arts may differ, the production of art involves common problems and that working alongside people in arts other than your own has two advantages--an increase in general intelligence about art and a decrease in feelings of specific competition. Readings and other research will be individually prescribed to suit the needs of each student.
3. A one-semester (preferably fall) seminar in "Experimental Writing," which would require students to produce work with reference to literature that is radically unlike anything they or I have seen before. This is designed to stretch imaginations, forcing students to produce work well beyond what they have done, or thought they could do, when they began the course. Readings will include anthologies edited by me: ~Imaged Words & Worded Images~ (1970), ~Future's Fictions~ (1971), ~Breakthrough Fictioneers~ (1973), ~Essaying Essays~ (1975), ~Scenarios~ (1980), ~Text-Sound Texts~ (1980) and ~The Avant-Garde Tradition in Literature~ (1982), which will function as catalogues of recent innovations that need no longer be done.
4. A one-semester seminar in the writing of "Arts Criticism," with an emphasis upon ~writing~ and thus open to critical aspirants of all arts. Different though the arts are, I find that, once you become familiar with one and develop esthetic principles, the problems of writing criticism are fundamentally similar. Students will be required to write different kinds of essays (monographs as well as reviews), with different approaches (description as well as opinion), making copies for one another to criticize, not only as editors but as colleagues; work will conclude with each student writing an extended critical essay. Here too readings for students will be recommended individually.
5. A one-semester seminar in the "Write of Arting," which would be for practitioners of all arts, requiring esthetic self-definition through the writing of manifestoes, program notes, autobiographical summaries, proposals, etc. Readings will include appropriate writings of artists who have written about their own work with especial perspicacity, such as John Cage, L. Moholy-Nagy, Ad Reinhardt, Paul Klee, Henry James and Merce Cunningham, with further selections designed to suit the individual ambitions of each student.
These are meant to supplement (rather than compete with) courses already given; no other university known to me has them (and nobody else could give them). None of them need a detailed syllabus; all of them require a large amount of individual work. ~(1988)~
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~CAMERA-READY COPY FOR A BOOK ABOUT THE GREAT JEWISH CEMETERY OF BERLIN~
The designs of gravestones, if read closely, can be seen as reflective of changes in collective self-perception and society. The graveyard I chose is the great Jewish cemetery of Berlin-Weissensee, founded in 1880, with over 110,000 memorials. In 1984, a West Berlin colleague and I produced a film, ~Ein Verlorenes Berlin~, that regards this cemetery today as the principal surviving evocation of the city's greatest years (1860-1940), and its sound track has since been wholly recomposed with authentic testimony in English, French, Swedish, Spanish and Hebrew. In this public place, which I take to be an exemplary modern urban folk artifact, the visual-verbal designs of the grand mausoleums from the late nineteenth century reveal group attitudes about Berlin and Germany that differ from those reflected in the more circumspect stones with modern typography of the 1920s, while the visual-verbal demeanor of post-WWII memorials reveals other attitudes. What I propose now is producing a book-length camera-ready dummy of photographs and texts; for while the film is good and true in regarding the cemetery as representing a lost city, it also suffers from that medium's limitations in presenting information and interpretation. Whereas R. Etlin's pioneering book about eighteenth-century Parisian graveyards, ~The Architecture of Death~ (1984, with support from NEA-Design) focuses upon cemetery floor plans, my emphasis will be on gravestones. My assumption is that once this dummy is available, my essay in design communication could be easily published (and printed) and thus advance understanding of gravestone/cemetery visages, not only abroad but here in the U.S., perhaps influencing future gravestone articulations.
Your program staff has not only a photocopy of my general introduction to the cemetery, as published in the ~New York Times~, but a videotape copy of the English version of our award-winning film, ~A Berlin Lost~ (1984), which has already been screened in such major international festivals as Berlin, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Oberhausen and should be viewed as a film introduction to my subject (as the film is less about design as such than the artifact as a surviving visual-verbal representation of a past society). May I advise panelists, in viewing the film, to regard closely such specific design details as the changes in gravestone architecture from turn-of-the-century mausoleums to more modest stones and in typography from Teutonic gothic to international sans serif, and then similarly chronological developments not only in the choice of visual symbols and stones but in characteristic inscriptions (and surrounding vegetation, some of it by now unintentional), as well as such significances as the high German character of the WWI cemetery and the use of Hebrew in place of German; for these issues will be more closely examined in my proposed book. One design detail better done with photographs than film would portray stones whose two sides have different languages, with German on the face and Hebrew on the back, and then sometimes different names as well--for instance, "Adolf" on the German face, and "Abraham" on the Hebrew backside. (Also notice in one shot a pathway whose tall trees implicitly indicate that this cemetery escaped the WWII bombardment that devastated so much else in Berlin.)
Two more facts that must be made clear is that Weissensee was a cemetery for the ~whole~ Jewish community, unlike here (and elsewhere) where most cemeteries customarily belong only to a particular congregation; and that because this communal graveyard, founded in 1880, now has over 110,000 graves, it represents a whole city of Jewish life with an historical coherence and cultural generality that is epistemologically distinctive, if not distinguished. That accounts for why the biologist Gunther Stent at the end of the film compares Weissensee with Ankor Wat: "a kind of funerary city. . . . It's giving the impression that I was visiting the site of some lost civilization that had existed in some distant past, and that by looking at all these things probably that would be the way to reconstruct the civilization that is no more."
In the proposed book, I expect to emphasize and interpret these details of design, in addition to drawing upon my own black-and-white photographs and color transparencies. Following Richard A. Etling's lead, I will also look for Weissensee's original floor plans, for I want to examine all dimensions of design within this single major cemetery. Satisfactory though the film is as an introduction, ~the design subject of the funerary representation of a city demands a book~. To facilitate further research and photography in Berlin, I have applied for a two-month renewal (which I understand to be automatic) of my earlier twelve-month stipend from the DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, which will also subsidize round-trip transportation there. Thus, the funds requested with this application are wholly for an American citizen working here in English. For this work, as well as the film before it, I have the cooperation of the Jewish community of East Berlin, which controls Weissensee.
Two other scholarly models to consider are Allen I. Ludwig's book about Puritan iconography, ~Graven Images~ (1966) and Dickran and Ann Tashjian's book about the art of early New England stone carving, ~Memorials for Children of Change~ (1971). Otherwise, since the critical literature on gravestone design is scarcely abundant, there is good reason to believe my book will be considered pioneering. Among its readers I initially see those seriously interested in three subjects: Berlin, Jewish culture of Central Europe and the evolution of design in modern urban graveyards. Beyond them will be those interested in graveyards elsewhere and in the culture of great cities. Among its subsidiary benefits might be greater future attention to issues and possibilities in the truly neglected area of gravestone design (which is rarely distinguished nowadays). In my own mind, let me add, the film especially, and the cemetery implicitly, is about a place that was once like my hometown, New York City, which is to say that both the cemetery, along with representations of its designs, reflect the makings of a great metropolis. ~(1988)~
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May I tell you about several presentations that I am doing nowadays:
l. A provocative, illuminating lecture on "Literary Granting in America,"
focusing not upon the achievements that are familiar to us all, but upon such
recurring problems as jury rigging, class exclusions, rule breaking, unfair
competitions, etc. Aiming initially to demystify, I typically compare in detail
the history and procedures of one agency, such as the National Endowment for
the Arts, with another, such as the New York State Council in the Arts (which
is especially scandal-ridden). After the talk I will gladly answer questions
and listen to stories, at least to place individual incidents in larger contexts,
perhaps to advise. This lecture draws upon articles published in various places
over the past few years and upon a forthcoming book, "The Grants Fix."
2. "John Cage and Moholy-Nagy as Polyartists," with slides and audiotape. As the descriptive title implies, this will demonstrate how works in various arts reflect common esthetic principles particular to each major figure.
3. "Home Movies Reconsidered: An Experiment in Autobiography," a live performance with silent VHS audiotape in which I comment critically on family home movies and upon larger issues of autohistoriography.
4. "Innovative Literature in America Today," likewise with slides and audiotape, focusing not only upon visual and aural literature but upon radical departures in language style and literary structure.
5. "Writing Extended," also with slides and audiotape, but in this case a comprehensive survey of my own work in poetry, fiction, audiotape, videotape, photography, holography, and film.
6. "Audio Writing," an introduction to my own work just with audiotape, with many short examples and live commentary. Longer works of my audio art available for concerts include ~Invocations~ (in twenty languages, for sixty minutes); ~The Gospels~ (in English, one hundred minutes, or in German as ~Die Evangelien~, 60 minutes); ~New York City~, which comes in three lengths--one 60 minutes international version, the second a 140 minutes American version, and the third an 87 minutes first draft, all composed of sounds particular to my hometown, which can be played in conjunction with an elaborate slide presentation involving hundreds of comparable New York City images. These works are particularly effective in sequence and in daytime venues. During visits, I can introduce each of these tapes and answer questions about them.
7. "Video Writing," in which I present my video compositions, mostly based upon texts of mine, that exploit such capabilities unique to video as the charcter-
8. "The Radio Art of Glenn Gould," my introduction, with audiotape, to the remarkably unknown "docudramas" produced by the great Canadian musician.
9. ~A Berlin Lost/Ein Verlorenes Berlin/Berlin Perdu/Ett Forlorat Berlin~, our four twenty-one-minute films with different sound tracks (respectively in English, German, French, Swedish) of authentic testimony about the Great Jewish cemetery of Berlin as the principal surviving relic of prewar Berlin and its greatest years. These are best shown in sequence, as the imagery begs to be reseen. I can provide printed English translations for the last three, as well as a Spanish translation of the German only, and when I show the films myself, answer questions about the cemetery and these stylistically unusual documentaries. The films themselves are available for screening without me; videotape copies also exist in 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch VHS formats.
10. "Epiphanies," which is the collective title for a multimedia work of single-sentence stories whose text is available for an exhibition or theatrical presentation and on a film, a videotape, an audiotape, parts or all of which can be used in either a single presentation, a series or an installation.
11. "Numbers: Poems & Stories": My most popular show, with slides and commentary, of my art composed entirely of numerals--given in over fifty places over the past decade.
12. "Visual Poetry & Visual Fiction": Another traditional slide show, with voice-over narration, of my own early exploratory work--likewise given over fifty times.
13. "Gertrude Stein as the Great American Person of Avant-Garde Letters": The only utterly straight lecture, with neither slides nor tapes, that I can be persuaded to give.
I am in general willing to visit classes, particularly if I can discuss works I have done or am doing. For all concerned, a series of presentations, stretching over a few consecutive days, is worth more than just a single shot. My fees can be characterized as midrange and, of course, become less per day for extended stays; but bear in mind that just as some artist/writers teach so that they can do other things for nothing, the firmest base of my sporadic income, as well as exhaustive charity, is touring. Past sponsors of over two hundred presentations have included art museums, alternative spaces, cultural centers and university departments of literature, art, music, speech, media, intermedia, American studies and combinations of them, as well as student organizations. ~(1988)~
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~A BOOK ON "THE AVANT-GARDE IN THE 1980s"~
The book would have three sections: the first reprinting essays about others, the second theoretical statements, and the third considerations of my own work. In the first section would be my essays on John Cage as a Radio Artist (from ~Iowa Review~), the interview with John Cage about his ~Finnegans Wake~ writings (from ~Tri-Quarterly~), Glenn Gould as a Radio Artist (from ~Boulevard~), the profile of the sculptor George Rhoads (~Smithsonian~), Merce Cunningham-John Cage (from the Brooklyn Academy catalogue for Fall 1986), the profile of Kenneth Burke (from ~New York Times Book Review~), Don Celender (a major book artist, from ~New York Arts Journal~), the Special Sound of German Radio (~New York Times~), "Literary Videotapes" (forthcoming in ~American Book Review~), "The Literature of SoHo" (from ~Shantih~), "Avant-Grade Poetry Now" (from ~American Book Review~), "John Martin" (the publisher, from the ~Times Book Review~), "The Opiate of the Intellectuals" (about the appreciation of sports, from ~Artworkers News~), among others. The second section would have "The Artistic Explosion" from Wallechensky's ~The Book of Predictions~ and three manifestos--"Literary Video," "Why Audio Drama Now," "Book Art" (all widely reprinted, but here in their definitive forms), etc. Section three would have "Texts & Proposals for Radio," "Literary Holography," "Keeping Afloat in New York," and perhaps my retrospective on anthologies (from ~Contact II~). I can paste up a sample, should anyone like to see it; and I can also promise to rewrite from scratch, delivering the manuscript on discs to facilitate accurate and cheaper typesetting, if a publisher prefers. This book should attract everyone interested in the more advanced developments in contemporary arts, initially literature, but also including intermedia. None of them has appeared in any previous books of mine published here. There should be an introduction, a wholly fresh essay, about the 1980s as different from the 1970s and 1960s. ~(1988)~
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~AN ANTHOLOGY OF "HIGH-TECH POETRY"~
Eduardo Kac, my colleague in Holopoetry, as he calls it, writes from Brazil that he would like us to do together an international anthology of "High-Tech Poetry," which is to say a book of and about poetry made through (and ~not~ about) technologies made available within the past quarter century (video, holography, computer; but ~not~ audiotape). This book could include photos, descriptive texts and anything else that can be printed, in addition to, short of media examples, addresses where discs or videotapes or whatever can be obtained. It could also include theoretical essays and manifestos. The bias is toward poetry discovering what can be written directly for these media, realizing their unique capabilities, rather than simply reproducing what was originally on the page. The plan is to publish the polylingual book in both Brazil and the U.S., printing there (which is much cheaper), so that an English-language publisher wishing to collaborate with a Brazilian should contact me. Writers wishing to submit appropriate English-language material of any kind should send it directly to me; in other languages to Eduardo Kac. Then please be patient; not unlike other unprecedented things, this may well take a while to happen. ~(1988)~
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His life is the life of the artist, one disappointment after another.--Olive Cowell on her son Henry, quoted in Nicolas Slonimsky, ~Perfect Pitch~ (1988)
~THE COMPLETION OF "A SPECIAL TIME," AN AUDIO COMPOSITION ABOUT THE 1960s~
When a novelist friend, a few years ago, challenged me to write a novel, I thought first of the 1960s, not as a chronological period but as a cultural concept, and of writing a panoramic novel, roughly in the manner of Dos Passos, about the experiences of a variety of people at that time. However, once I made notes about narratives to include in my novel, I began to hear voices telling particular stories; and since I have recently been producing so much radio, I decided it would be best for me to work initially with authentic voices.
My initial themes were two: the 1960s was a special time as other decades were not, and then that it was special in more ways than we commonly remember or understand. While I did not want to neglect the political protest commonly associated with the period, my principal interest was episodes of "anonymous history," to use Sigfried Giedion's phrase--dimensions of experience that are now invisible or forgotten, even though, in this case, they occurred only two decades ago. So in selecting participants to interview, I looked first of all for individuals who had either personal experience or expert knowledge of some specialness in this period. Thus, I have a pharmacology professor talk about the last age of drug optimism, during which, in his most prominent example, Valium sales peaked at seventy-five million prescriptions, only to become by now half of what they were; a math professor to remember the rise and fall of the "new math"; the manager of an investment fund to talk about the stock market boom of the middle sixties and then about how, because of values predominant in the period, he felt more comfortable not displaying his wealth, again unlike now; a fashion writer to talk about the radical changes in female dress and the current persistence of these changes. And so on.
In selecting interviewees, I also looked for another quality--voices so distinctive that they need not be reintroduced. This was necessary because I wanted not to make a conventional radio feature, with an announcer (probably a celebrity) identifying speakers and making connections, but an informal symposium in which the remarks of various individuals would be interwoven as though they were participating in a continuous conversation. My assumptions were that the speakers would establish their authority not through an announcer's identification of their current positions (or even their names) but through the authenticity of their articulated memories and perceptions, and then that this authority could be extended, in a listener's mind, to their subsequent appearances on the tape. I also wanted to let sophisticated listeners, like those of public radio stations here, make their own connections from the testimonies.
For the pilot of "A Special Time," I personally conducted over three dozen interviews, initially with old friends, and then with new friends, such acquaintance accounting for why the speakers sound as though they are talking to someone familiar. These interviews were necessarily transcribed, because one disadvantage in editing audiotape, unlike film, is that there is nothing to see. Since words seen are easier to organize than words heard, the tapes had to be transcribed. Studying these transcriptions, I decided which passages to excerpt for the opening sixty-minute feature and then in which order those excerpts should go. My aim was to compose an associational flow, as though each new participant were extending what had previously been said, and then to introduce many of the topics that would be developed in individual hour-long programs later in the series. Many speakers were edited to sound clearer, more fluent and more interesting than they actually were; so that this testimonial from an early listener is partially an implicit tribute to our artifice: "There are a lot of people on this tape I wish I knew."
Once in a private eight-track studio, I decided to distribute these participants over the stereo spectrum; and since six separate tracks were available to me for speech, there were, so to speak, six seats from which they would speak: on a metaphorical clock at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30. In the remaining two tracks of multitrack tape, I placed music and historic sounds mostly from the period as a kind of counterpoint that could be acoustic or thematic or both. Most of these background sounds extend over at least two monologues, bridging the natural pauses between successive speakers. Since moments when music and speech pause together were rare, we had to mix in live time the eight tracks of sound down to the more accessible two tracks of a stereotape. All in all, we worked over thirty hours in this multitrack studio simply to produce the rough draft of an illusion of a fluent hour-long conversation accompanied by appropriate background sounds.
Though I already have enough testimony on tape to compose several more hour-
long conversations on individual topics such as politics, manners, values, enterprise, culture, learning-research and the Vietnam War, I expect to do yet more interviews, mainly during my tours as a visiting artist/lecturer, hopefully discovering yet more "hidden history." The plan is initially to remix the pilot, eliminating imperfections, and then produce either a dozen more hour-long programs or a single program several hours long (ideally for a special comparable to say, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the JFK assassination and then for release on a single hi-fi videocassette). One element I enjoy about this project is its reawakening my training in American history (M.A., Columbia University) and earlier curiosity about innovative historiography, now all at the service of my more recent interests in the artful organization of speech and sound.
Need I say there is evidence all around us of continuing interest in the 60s as the most significant of recent decades, as reflected in many areas of our culture: movies, popular music, fiction, clothing, and political debate. The critical and popular success of the "Vietnam" series on public television illustrates the continuing appetite for analysis and recall of this period in American life. Nonetheless, there have been no comprehensive oral histories of the decade since Walter Cronkite's contemporaneous updating of Edward R. Murrow's decade-by-decade ~Hear It Now~, a three-record set (CBS) of narrated news clips that by contemporary standards seems stylistically primitive. That is the vacuum that "A Special Time" aims to fill. ~(1988)~
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[The final section of the book, reprinting proposals from the late 1980s, is available only in the printed version.]