Saturday, April 26, 2014

Glitch is never more than an extension of content: An outtake

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As I work on sifting through and segmenting recordings of the poet Vachel Lindsay for PennSound, I came across an amusing, if unfortunate, audio error in the recording of Lindsay reading his poem "How Samson Bore Away the Gates of Gaza." Toward the end of the poem, Lindsay enters into a refrain of sorts that interacts with the biblical story of Samson and Delilah (and perhaps Milton's Samson Agonistes):

She cut off his hair,
She put out his eyes

The recording of Lindsay reading the work, though, well...cuts off on the words "cut off":

[MP3 link]

Perhaps one could read/hear this as the recording device allowing us to hear the dead being parallel to Samson's hair: with it, so too goes our power, the power to represent that which is no more. Or we could just call it a kind of funny (in its irony), unfortunate (in the damage to the recording) happenstance.

One thing worth noting, though, is that this is one of the first instances (1931) that I know of where we get an interaction (even if unintentional) between the content of recorded poetry and the potential for glitches in the materiality of its medium (its sonic form). The next one that I know about is William Carlos Williams' recording of the "The Defective Record" (1942), wherein the poem ends in a mimesis of a skipping record.

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