Time And Sound – 3 (Aristide Bruant – 3)

Aristide Bruant – photo by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (Nadar)

Allen Ginsberg on Aristide Bruant continues from here

AG: So now what I’d like to do is play a little more of it (the music of Aristide Bruant), other songs, but listen for the… that sense of firmness of his voice..the sculpting sounds in space so it can be heard, with the realization that if you sculpt your sound clearly enough, it will then be heard through all space, like to the end of space, the next universe, through aeons, through, like..  through the next blow-up of the big bang (to) come out the other end, maybe.  In other words, you can conceive of your vocalization as using the empty space that we have here (as in the room, or in the universe), using the big bowl of the universe as a large sounding board, the vast space of sunyata, of emptiness, as a kind of sounding board for your skull, so that you can project, calling into that big hole, realizing that the big Einstein-ian universe will come back and you’ll hear it again yourself, next aeon, next time, next universe. In fact, at moments of high inspiration the great thing about poetic vocalization is that you’re basically calling into time and space, appealing, crying, or, you know, like, lamenting, praying, praising, but calling out word into the big horn. In other words,  the whole universe is a big horn. It can be conceived of as a big horn for the poet to sound through.

So Robert Creeley has a poem  “They are taking all my letters… (it’s called “The Dishonest Mailmen” – does anybody know that poem?) – “They are taking all my letters ..and they.. [Allen attempts to remember the poem] – “they’re taking all my letters, and they’re stealing everything I have, but I don’t care, etcetera.They burn everything I have, or what little I have, but I don’t care etcetera. The poem supreme, addressed to emptiness, This is the courage necessary. This is something quite different” [Editorial note – the exact wording of the poem is – “They are taking all my letters, and they put them into a fire/I see the flames, etc./ But do not care, etc./They burn everything I have, or what little/I have. I don’t care, etc./The poem supreme, addressed to/emptiness – this is the courage/necessary. This is something/quite different”]

That’s.. same idea actually ,” the poem supreme addressed to emptiness”.  That is you have to have the interest and faith and clarity of your own statement to be able to call out your poem in all its seriousness into the vast megaphone horn of the space of the universe without worrying who will hear it, knowing it will be heard, in this generation, or the next generation, or in China, or in Russia, or in Nicaragua,  or over NBC, or over television.  That was sort of what was interesting, I  guess, about the… what was that? the concert the other day?  what do they call it? – Live Aid?  Yeah – Because those guys were calling into the entire noosphere, so to speak, the entire envelope of earth ether. I read in the paper they thought a billion and a half people would hear them.

Student: (I didn’t..)

AG: Well I missed it too, but I heard a couple of fragments of it. Probably a billion and a half people heard one or two notes, and probably (it) would affect more, might affect the whole planet, some little vibrations go through the whole planet. If one out of four people on the planet heard it, it means that almost everybody in the planet except perhaps the most remote tribes in (the) Amazon, or Mato Grosso, (or) Borneo, had been affected by it. and probably would be affected by it if it altered at all attitudes ever so slightly, by one molecule in the nervous system of… Reagan going into his operation  maybe?, some little note of mercy or pity) [Editorial note – contemporary news story, President Reagan had been taken to Bethesda Naval Medical Center for the removal of a polyp, major abdominal surgery]

Anyway, there’s that notion of calling. But, so, if you call, you’ve got to be very clear then. If you’re going to call for the whole universe and expect yourself to be heard by every atom in the universe, expect the vibration of your voice to go out and alter the wave pattern of every single individual atom in the entire universe (since it’s going to bulk, you can push it out, it can bulk a little. So every atom will clink against every other one There’ll be all these infinite number of little clinking and clanking by the billion-fold, till the energy that you send out, the vocal wave pattern, will be absorbed by the rest of the mass. So everything you say will have some effect somewhere. So then therefore when you open your mouth you really want to be definite and, you know, have a really pretty thing going on, something that is clear and symmetrical and harmonious within itself. And the only way you could make it harmonious (because nobody could design it in advance to be harmonious, you never know what would happen, I mean your ideas might be completely wrong). But one thing you can do to make it harmonious is to be definite enough in the pronunciation that it has to straighten out your mind a little bit, and straighten out your body, and straighten out your back. and your head and shoulders, and propose a sound that’s like a Brancusi sculpture, a little bit, something that has its own definite shape.  So let’s hear his (Bruant’s) next number, whatever it is and see how he does in terms of pronouncing definitely, clearly, enough, so that there’s some taste of intelligence in the very syllables, whether or not you understand the French.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately ten minutes in and concluding at approximately seventeen-and-a-half minutes in]

One comment

  1. Apollinaire loved Aristide Bruant the balladeer too. He hoped that when WW! ended there’d be an Aristide Bruant singing in very cafe concert in Montparnasse. & I noted when he [and Paul Fort] ecorded poems in 1913 Apollinaire remarked on the weak vocalization of some of the other ‘Symbolist’ poets when they recorded. Lanny Quarles told me about Aristide Bruant’s 3 disc of recordings.

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