Tuesday, July 27, 2010


direct link: Drumbeat

I wrote this poem at the end of January in 2008, and have always wished to record it. Perhaps a year ago I found Chriss Onac's track, TRANSE, a drumming solo, on his album, Tribal, at Jamendo. But until yesterday I lacked the courage to try a recording. It took all day and most of the evening, with one upload and an immediate delete too!

As I push further into experimentation, tweeking, playing, exploring sonic possibilities, I find I am moving from straight poetry readings to more of a performance piece, adding filters to each of the vocal recordings. While I usually layer the same takes with different filters, I also include other takes, which might sound like echoes but actually aren't. Whether this adds a richness to the sonic scape of the piece, I don't know, but that's what I'd like to aim towards. Multiplicities, oh yeah!

In this recording, I did not want a cerebral reading, as is so often the case with poetry, but something primal, with emotion.

Recording it over and over, my window shut tight against the outdoor noise, fans turned off, in the Summer heat I began to sweat, and then let go, shimmying, shaking, drumming with my hands, fast in the air, reciting the poem. There is an emotional pitch in this recording  that I am not sure works, though it does incline towards an element of rock music, somehow (laughing).


The palm drops
on the inside
of the skin
animal drumming
beating on the drum
drumbeating the night
beating on the eardrum
drum drumming deeply
drawing the heartbeat drumbeat.

My body is the drumbeat
drumbeating my skin
sweating, hot,
drumbeating my body's
percussion, rub, snare,
pounding, colliding of
musical pulses
lyrical sinewy
or staccato modern
or wild shamanic
hair flying

Red shiny satin clinging,

The djembe hip bag that I scrubbed, suede dyed to emulate Holstein cow naugahyde, in black and cream, with a wild boar bristle brush and saddle soap because of the dark streaks, smells of animal hide.

I hold it to my nose, and smell. Animal. Hide.
The drumming of the jungle.
An animal skin.


Primal beat bounding
resonating, resounding.

You gaze at me, though you haven't looked at me.

I am in your gaze without your seeing me.

It is my hunger you remember feeding,
that you want to feed.
Our heat burns hotly.

the rhythms beating in us,
the African djembes
dance us.

(click for larger size)

Some of the layers in Drumbeat recording...

Addendum. July 29, 2010: Was up till 4am compressing and panning tracks in Drumbeat, with thanks to Robert A on Gather for his invaluable musical advice (read in comments below). Below is a photo of the 'new' waveforms:

Also, Jan wrote that my reading in Drumbeat is "natural force" rather than a "forced oratory in the rendition"... wow, thank you. Love you guys, your generosity is so beautiful. xo♡

Robert A writes, at Gather: "Brenda - Spikey; meaning very sharp edges where some frequencies really jump out and overwhelm and distract from the other tracks. Looking at the waveform chart, I'm not sure what system you recorded this on, but in most systems (ProTools, Ableton, Cubase, etc) you have the options of using plug-ins, like compression to run over the selected track when you're cleaning up your production at the end. Looking at the waveforms, it looks like you could also get some benefit from keeping some of your levels lower to prevent distortion and that way you can keep some headroom to decide how you want to make the relative tracks work together when you're done. Also, it looks like your panning is all in the same place except one track. If you move your panning to different locations you'll end up with a larger more 3D sound that will make your poetry and presentation more epic.

I'm not the greatest production expert in the world, but you can hear some of my recordings featured on my profile page.

And yes, Annette Peacock is very cool. I got into her when she worked with Bill Bruford."

So, back to the audio programs to see if I can clean up my recording a bit. :)

My response to his comment: "I will study what you've written like an arcane text of magical spells! I use Garage Band... lately into the various filters. I layer recordings, sometimes the same one, usually at least one other, too. I pull track by track into Audacity and work on the levels. Beyond that, I'd be lost.

Compression - meaning normalize? I've used levelator for the voice often, but didn't this time. It certainly boosts the inner, central sound and removes the spikes. And I've run Audacity's normalize too, only not on this recording.

I'll go back to it. Try Levelator on the voice, to see. I find it normalizes too much, and so nowadays I use it, while also layering with an original with its highs and lows. Emotion resides in the highs and lows, at least to my ears.

I've never used panning, ever. Scared to go near it, in other words.

Though delightedly I did use a 'Wandering Voice' filter on one of the tracks, which I really enjoyed. :-)"

Will work on it again over the next few days. What's nice about SoundClick is that you can upload edited versions into the same spot.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Sand Is On Fire, a stenographic poem

Sand Is On Fire: a poem ball
a steganographic, hidden poem, wrapped up in disguise
(you'd need PS to unfold, a layered version)

Sand Is On Fire, 15"x13", 38cmx33cm, india inks, soluble
pastels on archival paper, 2010 (actually just now, crazy
inking away on my bed, lucky the open bottle of permanent
ink didn't spill!)
The original -ok, I shouldn't give it away so soon, right?!
In the burning ocean. Where oil spills plumes drag through the world's gloom. Swoop of your feathers. Gloss the rocks. You can't know where we go at night. Or why the morning shines. Or the glimmer of gold before sunset. Relentless tidal cycles. Let me tear at the crests and troughs. Go in. GO IN. Shiver. Sin. Dark water, grey clouds. A rain of black ink falls from the sky. Drips. Rips, slashes the wet heaving page. Heat of sand on fire. Burn the slick, ocean on fire. Coral crevices. Grottos. Invite. Come in, why don't you. Open. Open. Open. Arms reach up. Seeds rain down. Wash the foam. Pray forests. Burning despair of illusion. Fruit of veils to burn in. They said GO IN.

Response to Big Tent Poetry’s prompt (where other entries are linked in the comments).

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Mandala Paintings, from the 80s


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Archeology of Water

This began with an image of memory scrawled in a notebook in April 2019 that I knew I would work with, either in a poem, or perhaps video. ...