a phoetics: fragment 1

I began working with voice recordings on finding one summer morning of 1996 an abandoned, Sony voice recorder - an objet trouve - on the steps of the brownstone at 127 West 78th Street in Manhattan. The hand-held recorder was on the second step up from the sidewalk, to the left near the base of the handrail. It is customary in New York to leave out on the street things of use you no longer need, though no other items were near-around. This recorder was a working unit, but absent a cassette tape inside. I assumed it was there for the taking.

Of course it was, but I hope consciously by whoever had owed it. I long ago abandoned that unit myself - it gave out in the fall and I bought another, smaller devise - but I have come to wonder if, like Poe's narrator in "A Man of the Crowd," I hadn't been unawares tailing this loser through those years recording in New York. I wonder, too, if this line of poetic development was not how I rewrite what Mario Puzo cribbed off Balzac: "Under every great fortune is sunk a deep crime." Of course, I question the "fortune" of this find with its sprinkling of schizo dust.

At the same time the seeds of working with sound recording had already been planted in me, as in the last years of the 1980s I had worked as a Utility Sound Technician (Hollywood Local 695) on motion pictures and in the early 1990s as a private investigator, which required making case notes on a voice recorder. The former experience involved in part walking around sets recording ambient sound, such as insect noises, wind and the gurgle of water in streams, which put me in touch with - attuned me to - the multitudinous sound layer of non-human planetary events, our sonic context. The PI work involved describing on tape different things - how a house or subject looked, for example - and narrating times and movements, which also included description - particularly of a subject's range of movement. As most such cases involved insurance fraud related to a purported work or automobile injury, I also shot video of subjects.

one: "I began working with voice recordings..."

two: "The week Robert Creeley died..."

three: "'Thing,' from the Anglo-Saxon..."

four: "While I mark the beginning of my interest..."

five: "After transcribing 'the wells at the mouth of itza...'"

six: "The distinction”and so mental distance..."

seven: "The PIE *wel- also means "to turn, roll...'"

eight: "Contrary to the fix in which Eliot lost and found..."

nine: "My relationship early on with ESB meta-intellect..."

ten: "It is absolutely important to remember..."