STEREO ACTION (Sound Library Series, Volume 42)
by Bill Shute (KSE #135)
“Stereo Action is musical movement so real, your eyes will follow the sound!” So claimed RCA Records in the early 1960’s, when it introduced the fascinating avant-lounge series of STEREO ACTION albums. Put simply, these were albums specifically arranged and recorded to show off high-fidelity sound systems and, more specifically, stereo technology. The albums I’ve heard present a dizzying array of instruments swooshing from channel-to-channel; call-and-response musical lines bouncing back and forth as if one is listening to a musical tennis match; and a strange, vaguely futuristic feel among the pin-ponging and phrase-melting. It’s the music that George Jetson might listen to, cocktail in hand, during a romantic evening. You can see pictures of some of the albums here: http://www.groovytunesday.com/descriptions/music/stereo_action.html .
As regular KSE readers know, I often use formalistic elements from other art forms in creating form/structure for my poetry. About 18 months ago I did a series of chapbooks influenced by the visual arts where I attempted to somehow transpose the painting techniques of artists such as Tapies, Bacon, and Hopper to the poetic page. In terms of music, I’ve used all kinds of forms—-from the fugue to the listening-based free-improv of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble to John Cage’s time brackets and many others—-in seeking to extend the boundaries of my art and to find forms that can cast on the page what I see in my mind’s eye, what I hear in my mind, what I feel in my body. The doors were opened earlier by poets ranging from Blackburn to Wieners to Berrigan to Aram Saroyan to Creeley to Stein, and I feel as if I’ve walked through those doors and emerged into the light of day and the limitless expanse of the world, no longer cramped in a small poetic room. I intend to make use of the freedom of form, to create a new form for each work that is necessary to the full realization of that work, to take the work to the next level, and eventually, I hope, into the stratosphere. So what will expand on the page will expand in the mind and will thus expand the mind and finally lead to better and less-limiting ways of perceiving and experiencing consciousness and life, because in the end that’s what really matters. Yes, that’s a tall order, but as John Ashbery once wrote about Gertrude Stein’s Stanzas In Meditation,
“Stanzas in Meditation is no doubt the most successful of her [Stein’s] attempts to do what can’t be done, to create a counterfeit of reality more real than reality. And if, on laying the book aside, we feel that it is still impossible to accomplish the impossible, we are also left with the conviction that it is the only thing worth trying to do. “
In the tradition of the “Stereo Action” albums, this chapbook-length poem is built around two channels. The left channel (used on pages 1, 2, 3, and 5) consists of four three-line stanzas grounded in images from the mundane world of things and actions and physical sensation. The right channel (used on pages 1, 3, 4, and 5) is more in the philosophical/spiritual vein, offering a kind of meta-commentary on the details found in the left column. To create the alternating channel effect, the five pages have the following form:
page one: A B
page two: A
page three: A B
page four: B
page five: A B
And to further extend the channel-to-channel “melting” effect, I do have a few lines here and there that contain content that would belong on the left but is in the right, and content that would belong on the right but is in the left. Each page’s left and right columns have a counterpoint, yet the work does have a beginning, middle, and end; rising action; climax; resolution, etc. From toxic assets to akashic records, from air pressure in car tires to negative space, from children standing in the rain to unbleached undyed yoga mats…it’s non-stop STEREO ACTION!!!
hand-numbered, hand-assembled edition of 49 copies, 21 of which are already gone…
For ordering information, check out the AVAILABLE KSE CHAPBOOKS page to your upper right…
Soon I’ll have a write-up on Doug Draime’s fantastic new KSE chapbook KNOX COUNTY (KSE # 132), featuring beautiful photography by Lena Ozuna. That’s also available for order NOW.
Remember, orders need to be in by MAY 12 for me to ship them before I leave for the Northeast. Any orders that come in while I’m gone will be shipped on May 28th.