Waveform Prosody
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Charles Bernstein

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Waveform Prosody

Using a waveform display (sonogram or voice spectrograph) of audio amplitude to chart the a poetry performance offers a way to visualize rhythm and dynamic volume. As such, waveforms provide a radical and necessary alternative to traditional prosodic markings. As Reuven Tsur argues in his recent work, prosody taken from performance is very different that prosody based on idealized metrics. Tsur has been working with a "Perception-Oriented Theory of Metre" and has so far made the most sophisticated of waveforms. (Waveform displays are part of any digital audio production software.)

If you are not familiar with waveform, play this Quicktime demo of a color waveform and look at t this primer, both from Comparisonics. While black and white waveforms only graph amplitude, the color waveforms also graph pitch. The related search engine "Find Sounds" begins to suggest a kind of audio vocabulary of common or iconic sounds that could be stitched together like words in writing.

One of the extensions of the PennSound project would be to find ways to search sound file, both through embedded tags and text-voice alignment. Text-voice alignment has its other uses as well.

Steve Evans has started to post waveforms as part of his longing project of close listening to recorded poetry. Among the poets under consideration in his new posts: Edwin Denby, Adrienne Rich, Jayne Corez, George Oppen, Lydia Davis, Fanny Howe, Nicole Brossard, Ted Berrigan, and Joe Brainard. For two of these poets, he provides the waveform, putting the words under the graph—

Jackson Mac Low

Adrienne Rich

link    |  08-10-06

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