Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rough Notes on Rick Burkhardt's (Excellent) Analysis of Maledetto

The Nonsense Company performing "Great Hymn of Thanksgiving"

For Maledetto recording excerpts, visit HERE.

In the past 20 hours since returning from seeing the family, two very different yet converging conceptual puzzles arrived in my inbox, so now chewing on: 1) how to think about a Jakobsonian analysis of one section of
Occultations, "modular arterial cacophony," since a semiotics scholar emailed me with some questions pertaining to this text which he's using for said analysis, and 2) the performance- and other implications of Rick Burkhardt's astounding short analysis of Maledetto, which is available as pdf here.

One of our collaborative performance group members (Ben Michaelis) sent me the link to Rick's essay, which I'd seen a long time ago when I was writing on his group's, The Nonsense Company's own (wonderful) The Great Hymn of Thanksgiving, written by Burkhardt as Andy Grecivich pointed out to me in the comments, but inevitably totally forgot about it. The essay. That it existed.

E e/-----> EAT, as in:

Here's a Descriptive Level Quote. From Burkhardt:

Of the seven speakers, one (speaker A) delivers a comically protracted lecture, one (speaker B) furiously whispers nonsensical words and phrases (“inspired, wagtail, sweetmeat, tib, prancer, thing, bite, aphrodisian”) as if they were vile insults, one (speaker D) alternates between goading and drunken, incoherent ranting, sometimes shouting out disembodied transitional words like “But” and “Furthermore,” and the remaining four (speaker group C) form a “choir” that drones congregationally, murmurs, snickers, cheerleads, argues, and parties. It’s not always clear what they are all talking about, or if they’re talking about anything. But for the bulk of the piece, the main subject of discourse is the screw. (7)

I'll come back to this later.

1. Plane Realization

After reading the essay again, now in the midst of performing the work, I realized on the plane late last night that it's precisely what Maledetto does--or more precisely what it admits of, formally calls attention to, and what we do along with it--that exposes the deep lacks in Jakobson's structuralism, which in itself isn't particularly newsworthy. The realization, however, lends itself to the further realization that Maledetto, as one of the major works during a particularly important period in poetry, performance (-art), and music, torques questions central to identity, agency, and aesthetic production as having a social function(s). The work asks us to consider the social function(s) of art under (at this point neoliberal) capitalism, i.e., as situated within a coercive environment, perhaps determined by it. It does so by poking at what some of us mean when we make use of the term "meaning-making," and more specifically, when we use the term "meaning."

Maledetto so far is an under-studied work of praxis-driven art that challenges us to suspend any presumption that "meaning" needs be determined by what is said, let alone that meaning needs be (even) quasi-propositional, that meaning and saying are necessarily bound up with one another. The work is more than just a complication of medium and genre (music? theater? poetry?), but it is that. The performance of the work goes beyond the performative speech act, as the performative and the constative are arguably collapsed (score, especially for two of the speakers, is both a string of constatives regarding "to screw" and "the screw" and a performance, where the performance's lecture--speaker A--is just that, and taken to be so quite often, interestingly, by listeners/participants). Maledetto also arguably collapses or at least complicates the oft-made distinction between pragmatics and semantics, use versus meaning in language. Think: this is a work for "seven virtuoso speakers," where the "speaker," as a normative freely self-conscious entity who communicates via strings of useful propositions and other linguistic constructions, is challenged. Or as Gaburo writes for the work's inception:

LINGUA speaks out for language as my compositional concern and thus reflects the expression: Compositional Linguistics (i.e., language as music, and music as language). In this regard the range of LINGUA extends from nonverbal communication to structural linguistics (e.g., generative grammars). from explorations beyond concr6te poetry and text-setting (e.g., What is constituted by the expression minimal intelligibility?) to contextuality (e.g., the structure of a composition is looking at you), from sound for its own sake (e.g., the acoustical properties of language) to perception (e.g., What is constituted by the expression: observer?)

Speaking--in and through a performance of itself--is shown to be unnecessary for meaning-making, although how else linguistic items and other language enactments mean, I think, remains in question by the end of the work. And the degrees of freedom we have to re-imagine and behave otherwise viz the manufacture of meaning (agency), and (less interestingly) to make theories about making meaning, is left ambiguous at best. In this regard Maledetto is a rethinking of older musical arguments about the meaning and/or social function of pure music--the Schoenberg-Krenek correspondence during the 1920s-30s about what "musical meanings" are appear to be called up from the depths (See, Krenek's New Music and Old Objectivity, eg).

Bored yet? As in: screwed.

In its overall negative articulation as a "successful intervener" in normative ascriptions of agency (hence new ways of making meaning), or at least in its lack of (musical and extra-musical) resolution, Maledetto presences prosody, typography, and synaesthetic event (among other sensuous enactments of live human voice) as meaning-bearing and meaning-making. The saying or speaking moves from predominantly functional/rational to predominantly non-rational, though potentially differently functional. The movement is from sense to sound generally, where the movement is not quite linear but epicyclic, and so "speaking" in any normative way is backgrounded later in this score as something central to a potential future (or even present) aesthetic sound-text language, one that is importantly not static but malleable, always becoming. In this regard Maledetto flies by Wittgenstein and flies over semiotics on its way into, dare I say it, postmodern concerns.

nip. niggle. NEVERMIND.

But to what extent, and in what ways, does the work, as both Burkhardt and I agree it does somehow, intervene in existing social orders viz. meaning, and related, agency? Late capitalism and rationalism (functional analyticity)? Does Maledetto presume "meaning-making" by end to be inescapably ensnared by the residue of "saying" and the ectoplasm of rationality, or does the work detach more completely from the late capitalist mothership, "end" not at the point seven people playing entities are finished with the score, but with you, the audience (community of "speakers"), doing something with the final lines and all else--where a sort of aesthetic logic making use of prosody is, in some ways, still in its infancy? Is there a shadow text (even opus) here, one that's in-progress after the score-as-performed has been...performed? If so, stakes are high for poetry (aesthetic production) and generally for behaving and becoming.

To turn the screws. So he can tell me what I want to know.

A reading of Maledetto as using failure as internal and overall device--the apparent failure to definitively oppose meaning and rationality, on my reading--gives the work its forward propulsion, would mark the work as fully dialectical, in fact a more utopian work. Where, as so often in poetical works (cf Beckett's later plays), a dystopianism-as-enacted negatively articulates utopia: the work hopes to prompt us into thinking of counterfactuals, ways in which this aesthetic logic will not have failed. Into thinking of circumstances needed for this aesthetic language to rather "succeed" as (some sort of) intervention into normative ascriptions/assumptions/ sociopolitical and linguistic conventions. Conversely, if the work completes itself, fully sheds propositional language as a necessary condition for meaning, then we are left with nowhere else to go, nothing else (not much else, anyhow) to say. We have what we have when the two are decoupled (the normative definition from "meaning"). The work fails to some extent in its own logic's success.

2. If Music Means, Then What of Meaning Makes Performing?

Burkhardt's analysis, as a largely "formal" analysis of the score, makes for a nice contrast between older critical conventions and contemporary ones. Not that Maledetto is alone in what ostensibly gets counted as post-modernism--that'd be weird. And not, of course, that Maledetto's value is bound up in how or whether it undermines older paradigms in literary criticism. Yet, a serendipitous couple of emails/links. Hence I want to start my thinking about Burkhardt on Maledetto by thinking about structural and other semantic analyses of text--my blog post's (interesting to me, anyhow) foil and springboard for more Gaburo musings.

scaffold. GO:

| Jakobson, who I haven't really read since grad school, is no doubt incredibly important to any critical poetics, any poetics critical of Jakobson's work itself (and other modernist structural theories), from Lacan to Agamben to Silliman to Bergvall and so on. His work lends itself to a critique that retains some elements of the analysis, even if on instrumental grounds. Which is what I understand the scholar who emailed me is doing in constructing his own interesting critical framework for part of Occultations. |

In any case, Maledetto, Burkhardt immediately points out, also takes as its materials the problems of meaning. But now "meaning" is admitted to be much fuller (or anyway, messier) than a formal model like Jakobson's can fully articulate, i.e., becomes inextricably tied up with the social-political, where Jakobson's "context" can't be the box into which all that the social-political (the radical confrontation with prosody, for example) implies and acts on is put. All 7 entities in Maledetto--"virtuoso speakers"--are arguably performing several failures, which, I'll discuss a little below, enact the potential failures of Maledetto and aesthetic production generally: failures of rationality and also sensuous nonsense as meaning-bearing (or in Adorno's terms, "truth"-bearing), failures of late capitalism, and of an ability to know whether it is possible that any gesture (aesthetic and otherwise) can truly intervene in late capitalism, as I hinted at in an older post. The failure to intervene and the failure for non-normative devices to mean I take to be pointing out the socio-political lacks, now, under late capitalism, that would give us the conditions for these aesthetic alternatives to otherwise flourish. As Burkhardt shows, Maledetto nonetheless performs, through Speaker A (the lecturer on screws) and through the Chorus (Group C), failures of normative notions of meaning: taxonomic failure, the failure of localized sign-systems, of naming-as-understanding, of referentiality. These are insufficient terms for "meaning." But are they also unnecessary? Burkhardt's analysis gets down to brass tacks (pardon the pun), occurs with a level of admirable detail and attention to the musical semantics and politics of the work, does so in ways that inspired me to write on a finer level about this piece.

speaKKers are old skool. or: heteronormativity at its finest

What is interesting about Maledetto in relation to theories of meaning and of agency/subjecthood, and I think Burkhardt's analysis suggests this, is that the work acknowledges the problems of meaning-making within systems of (potentially total) coercion (on the tactical, strategic, and meta-linguistic levels), but doesn't then make the tactical leap to the parodic, the meta-poetic, or the fully found and re-framed seen in much contemporary poetry (and other artistic media). The parodic in contemporary poetries, e.g., has been seen as one way of responding in good faith to the totalizing effects of mass cultural economic processes, hoping to do something like intervene in language while yet taking seriously Watten's (among countless others') skepticism about agency and authorship in a constructed, coercive social environment. Maldetto, both visually as a score and audibly as performed, expresses an inventiveness of forms that can be said to be emancipatory of and resistant to mass cultural tropes while yet using some conventions--borrowing from topical/current discourses in a general economy for speaker lines, borrowing directly from the OED--that allow the work to be starkly deviant from normative communication (and aesthetic object) while yet obviously relevant to current social circumstance. Gaburo's scoring language has nonetheless, in fact, no precedent. Marginal notes are precisely ambiguous (parts of the performance, one might say), relied upon heavily, as are the shape of sections (or movements)--taking on S, C, R, E, and W shapes, as are typographical (and handwritten) differences denoting which speaker(s) is speaking and when. As a whole, Maledetto, as I mentioned in an older post, makes use of the screw as both metaphor and narrative device. From Burkhardt, the work's parts break down thus:

Of the seven speakers, one (speaker A) delivers a comically protracted lecture, one (speaker B) furiously whispers nonsensical words and phrases (“inspired, wagtail, sweetmeat, tib, prancer, thing, bite, aphrodisian”) as if they were vile insults, one (speaker D) alternates between goading and drunken, incoherent ranting, sometimes shouting out disembodied transitional words like “But” and “Furthermore,” and the remaining four (speaker group C) form a “choir” that drones congregationally, murmurs, snickers, cheerleads, argues, and parties. It’s not always clear what they are all talking about, or if they’re talking about anything. But for the bulk of the piece, the main subject of discourse is the screw. (7)

Still Bored? I mentioned I would cum back to this later.

The speaker-message-receiver taxonomic system of Jakobson (and other structuralists and semioticians similarly aligned) is perhaps so complicated by what Maledetto performs, e.g., that it's unsalvagible as theory. This specific failure isn't really my concern here either way, but is telling with regard to what we take an agent to be now, what we take ourselves to be capable of, and as artists. Certainly experimentalists in poetry have done similar to theory for a long time now, in countless ways and for countless reasons. But Maledetto specially suits us to ask what the terms "meaning" and "speaker" desire--speakers, especially of the "virtuoso" sort. Contra formal systems like Jakobson--no less "formal" of course--the "speaker-receiver" relationship, even updated or morphed after Barthes into a more contemporary semiotics, still desires for more, more failure. Recorded voices put through speakers can be virtuosic in ways Maledetto appears to demand. But the opus, notes composer William Brooks (who performed the work many times in the 70s) requires:

that seven voices be perfectly synchronized with respect to even the most transient phonemes, that the speed with which text is delivered be precisely monitored, that different voices begin and end exactly together despite different densities, that individual voices change instantly and convincingly between different characterizations on successive words, that the dynamic level of each voice in a complex texture be precisely regulated. (2)

And recorded voice can do this all day long. So Maledetto desires something more from speakers and meaning-making, or additional, or beyond, which gets us to ask how the work deals with meaning as itself lexical item--how one means and what other speakers think Maledetto means by meaning. William Brooks advances on this question by way of noting that any communicative act demands a kind of self-consciousness, where:

Being self-conscious... a collocutor (aSSSpeaker, perhaps) can stipulate classes of suitable interactions. Being a collocutor, such a collocutor requires that there be at least one other comparable collocutor; this Other, being comparable, can also stipulate. Being an observer, observing the Other, such a collocutor may stipulate that the Other is also an observer: then the Other, being an observer, may analogously stipulate that the collocutor (who is, for the Other, an Other) is an observer. Tempted by such convergence, such a collocutor may then stipulate a code: a language which he ascribes to the Other and which, preserving symmetry, he stipulates the Other to have ascribed to him.(4)

But not so fast. Here again there is something arguably Jakobsonian (or in any case deeply structuralist) about this: here "meanings" as part of a language, are stipulated. Which is to say that the organism--this one, say--is free to ascribe to self and other a code, with some symmetry in some way assured. But by whom? And for "natural" (read: evolving, everyday) languages? Or for aesthetic objects that take meaning making to be a kind of ongoing labor?

More on Brooks in a minute, as his analysis of the musical semantics of Gaburo is invaluable. But for now: Burkhardt complicates any notion we might have of the necessary conditions for meaning-making (in an object or meta language), and relies on Silliman's New Sentence to clarify how Gaburo's score operates as non-closural, how even A contains sets of lines that "need filling in" or that include "blanks" in ways that defy a prima facie coupling of meaning-rationality for this particular voice (critical discourse, cf poetry criticism, can take a cue here... finally?...). Related, in Conduit, Barrett Watten writes (in response to Jakobsonian systems):

Any ‘statement’ is blanked, negated, made into the form of an encompassing void — from the perspective of the reader, it indicates only the limits of the writer’s form, as incoherent and various as that might be. It is not by any means what he is ‘saying.’ Nothing can be compelled from the medium of the speaker except the outline of his form. (Conduit 9-10)
That is, communication simpliciter not only detaches signifier from signified quite often every day, sure, but the possibility for us to make linkages is narrowed every day too: communication is an alienated/ alienating experience, since "speaker," "message," and "receiver" are social constructions, constructed by interrelated systems of coercion, the form of the poetic work, at least for Watten, is necessarily "reduced" to the transmission of the coercive system's form within which that utterance was/is made. Narrowed indeed. So new tactical strategies need be tried. How Gaburo does this is my concern here and especially below.

3. Agent-See

Without a robust notion of agency, the Jakobsonian thesis, or anything like it, easily falls prey to a critique like Watten's, that it assumes a free agent in false consciousness so that "message" can match intention; and that, by doing so, it assumes that "speaker" and "receiver" are unitary beings with self-knowing intentions that issue forth "freely;" and that we are not only free to utter and receive utterances, but are not multiple, potentially fractured, constructed by various systems and politicized contexts, are not always a paradoxical and contradictory multitude, or as Gaburo himself beautifully puts it, "Each human [is] contrapuntal" (1973). In other words, assumptions about freely operating selves would have to be made at the expense of failing to acknowledge sociopolitical realities that even the smallest, most "removed" community of speakers--poets, say--are bound up in.

For Brooks the formal relations between A, B, Group C and D occur (largely, not wholly) as pairs. Where, for instance A marks the end of movements while D marks beginnings, hence an A/D complimentarity. Group C musically compliment A and D, too, however, since A and D are soloistic while C always behaves as chorus (round, fugue, etc). So since there are more than one pair of compliments, there are also binary opposites, also a kind of complimentarity (or dialectical opposites extra-musically). Besides complimentarity there is also suppression (A over C and so forth), and extraction (B emerging from A during duets). It's Brooks' fourth paring relation that Burkhardt and I are here most interested in: what Brooks calls the political evolution. (12-13)

Burkhardt quotes from one of my least favorite (to perform--I always screw it up) parts, showing how through years of research in the writing, Gaburo finds "kangaroo" "bounding" texts from a heteronomous market he can use for A's lecture and in the service of trying to surmount said market that, without A's knowledge, are fully laced with double entendre (from a medieval text on screws):

These pressing instruments are easy to work. They can be moved and put up any place we want, and there is no need in them for a long straight beam of a hard nature, and there is in them no hindrance from stiffness. They are free and press with a strong pressure, and the juices come out altogether, and we have to repeat the pressing again and again until no more juices are left in the pressed substance. [Gaburo p. 6]

Burkhardt points out the obvious double-entendre here, the sexual violence of these lines, especially as Group C echo them with overtly violent, oppressive whispers and chants--thus the feminism of the piece that I wrote about in an older post (a reading of the political thematics of the work). Burkhardt further notes via Silliman that much of Maledetto's lines, even A's apparently absurdly rational dronings, are maximized for torque, e.g., at very beginning where the first spoken lines begin without an operator: "Screw is..." as opposed to "THE screw is..." Other conventions, especially polyvocalism, interruption, and tempo, the auctioneer-like speed (denoted by words per minute) at particular points, turn sense into sound in ways that only by mentally doubling back (as audience) can one re-construct what had just been heard as meaning-bearing. And, perhaps most prevalent, use of unusual pauses and (often) resultant syncopation, make for increased ambiguities. You dear listeners, are active makers--Speakers E-Z and again 1-?...

4. Meaning Penned In

All in all, argues Burkhardt, Gaburo masterfully makes use of both poetic and musical conventions (the fugue, but torqued, or the round, but not fully rounded, eg) such that the work starts out with the familiar premise that rationality = meaning, and ends dialectically with the two not only decoupled, but turned into binary opposites. Meaning versus rationality. It's Group C, the "dark underbelly of rationality" (see, for example, lines quoted in Burkhardt, 3), along with D (a sort of drunken goading of A), who as entities chip away at A's lecture (as does A herself by way of simply going on and on absurdly), such that the aforementioned are experienced as enacting something significant, important, weighty even as emitting sensuous nonsense. These lines feel meaningful, notes Burkhardt. All while the latter, A, ends up neutralized, exposed as oppressively irrational in her rationality. Late capitalism seems to kill itself off in the last part of the lecture, where screw-making and delivering processes are detailed, wherein the screw is continually made obsolete along with its makers by the invention of "new screw types." A nearly realizes this best kept secret failure, then quickly recovers. As I mentioned to my collaborators when we first started working the score, this piece feels like, in many ways, a sensuous, abstracted enactment of Federici's analysis of early modern capitalism in Caliban and the Witch, where initial landgrabs and expropriation of the laboring body are needed to keep an unlivable and inevitably failing system going.

Ultimately, for anyone interested in Gaburo's work, or work by composers during a wildly diverse period of American experimentation in cross-genre and cross-media art--late 60s through the late 70s--Burkhardt's essay is essential. I have very little to disagree with here, save for how Burkhardt interprets the "end" of Maledetto, which, though the disagreement is a matter of degree, the degree to which meaning and rationality as decoupled are now redefined as opposites, the different stresses on how the work shakes out has a lot to do with what we take "agency" to amount to in light of Gaburo's work, and coming into it. Not surprisingly, part of the difference in reading also has to do with how one treats Gaburo's use of lineation in this particular part of scoring. Burkhardt quotes from the last lines of the work, as put by D very slowly (40-19 wpm ritardando, the slowest the score gets), and so thus:

If we:

dipped rather deep.

rather dipped deep.

deep rather dipped.

dipped deep rather.

deep dipped rather.

rather deep dipped. [p. 26]

Burkhardt points out that D in her goading of A is interruptive, combative, and (I'd say further) nearly representative of the poetic, the non-linear, the emotive lines with gaps to be filled in and with the floating connector words is the marginalized voice of anti-rationality, or in any case anti-rational in the sense that A is rational, where the rational here is clearly (on my reading) the language of late capitalism, where words mean what they say, mean in the saying, and to the extent that they are useful as utterances. D is trying out different ways not only to interrupt but to "sound," to make meaning in a new language, which amounts to trying to detach from existing social orders and make way for a new social order, one where contra Hegel, rationality gives way to art, or aesthetic logics of some sort. Burkardt argues that these last lines suggest that here, by end, D

...takes a coherent thought (or half of one) and applies a clear, audible, rational procedure to it, permuting three words until all six possible orderings have been heard. The procedure, clearer than the matrix of words that results, seems to comment on all the prior “rationality,” its glossiness, its arbitrariness; the words themselves perform a balancing act on the edge of meaning, never to attain any particular meaning, but never to escape its aura — these words, unlike most of Speaker D’s (and in a different way, unlike most of Speaker A’s) feel like they mean something. The piece ends with meaning and rationality thus redefined: as opposites. (8)

This is an elegant argument and not one that I wholeheartedly disagree with. But I do think the shape of the text is indicative of a further ambiguity that for me suggests Gaburo's writing into the score the potential of its own failure to intervene, specifically an inability for the liquidated subject (Adorno) to do anything much more than reactively and mimetically riff off A, and that further, the only way for alternative (aesthetic) languages to mean if for there to exist the social-political conditions (room) to support them. Because the piece as scored is not clustered as paragraph, Burkhardt's shorthand (and I think he's written it out this way because there is no great way to keep fidelity to the actual score). But the lines here look more like this:

dipped rather deep.

rather dipped deep.

deep rather dipped.

dipped deep rather.

deep dipped rather.

rather deep dipped.

A subtle enough difference, but that the center of the group is the couplet and that the "stanzas" diminish by one line per I take to be significant. Not just because it adds the regular prosodic pausing of the lineated poem read aloud. Too, I take the "end" here to be deeply ambiguous in relation to the rest of the work. On one reading, these last lines represent an ending in that, as per Burkhardt's observation, all the permutations of "deep," "rather," and "dipped" have been tried, the possibilities have been exhausted. Nowhere else to go, D can do what D is capable of, to perform a critique at the edge of meaning of all the "glossiness" and "arbitrariness"of the rationality that's come before it. This is either a minor success (as witness to history) or a deep failure (the art can only take the form it's given by a coercive environment a la Watten). That is, this holds if the last lines here mark the end of the work, and the work is considered in a kind of isolation of its real-time performance, away from people and conditions that may not be ideal for supporting D's paralogic, but it's at least something.

I do think at this point, and probably quite a bit sooner, that rationality and meaning have been decoupled, i.e., that rationality as necessary condition for meaning (rationality: strings of propositions that follow one another logically, well formed formulas, or otherwise normatively defined functional enactments of language) has been shown to be deeply problematic if not false. But I'm less convinced that a dialectic has been completed, that meaning and now rationality are now opposed. I'd take Burkhard'ts feels like further: if D's lines here feel like they mean, then they are somehow meaning--what they need is some sort of life support. Because "meaning" here is still in question, i.e., we still have very little to go on--D's just now broken away with repetition, lineation, and prosody presenced. What does it take to mean with these terms for which we, especially in the west, have very little interpretational vocabulary? How do we "make" meanings in ways other than normative theories or assumptions have allowed for? How can we make meanings within such a circumscribed, narrow field of mobility, where D, A's frenemy, is "given" so little to permute? Or is this field of mobility as narrow as it appears? Certainly there's little room here, but how little? The small amount of room afforded D before the work closes (or appears to close) heightens the paradoxical line of questioning, and in this regard, my reading and Burkhardt's are quite similar. Only, now decoupled from rationality, "meaning" becomes a floater--becomes sheer possibility within a narrow field of constraint. Were meaning and rationality opposites here by the end, we could say that by definition what means X, where X is defined against the definition of rationality instanced by the score. On that reading, we have very little room indeed--the work ends where it ends on the page, and, arguably, with it, linguistic and social possibility.

On one level, this last part of Maledetto serves, I think, to ask through iterations of its performance, whether the work, and by relation any aesthetic object, can intervene in existing social orders that are so thoroughly coercive (the larger linguistic context in which Maledetto gets performed). So while Maledetto as a whole presences the possibility for meaning to be awash in only the residue of rationality's aura, the fact that these last lines are written out in "stanzas," where the couplet is the midline, introduces an ambiguity: is D "finished"? Is she given so little space within which to essay new social relationships, a new language, having 6 permutations to work with over and again? Or is the line and stanza also given weight as variation such that we can imagine D not yet finished or "done" permuting? The shape of these lines in stanza (a typically "poetic" form) suggests the possibility that D is in mid-stride, that she's got more stanza variations to go, that we've just now driven through the gates of an alternative meaning-making ecosystem, despite having only 6 permutations of word order to work with. What we do to support this fragile ecosystem, or how we treat its emergence, becomes another long (the fifth) long, active silence in the work. Only now instead of A picking up from that silence, audience must somehow do so. Whether it be in the language of A or otherwise is up to us. And this is indicated, I think, by the ambiguity of just how little or how much room D has (we have) to move within a system that is, overall, coercive, a language that's pervasive and that we can't help but in some sense parrot.

So the possibility for that double reading is, I think, another torquing, affords for another filling in moment for the audience, or, more precisely, the reader-worker. Getting back to Brooks' figuring that what, in part, binds the music, poetry, and theater codes of Maledetto together is pairs of pairs, specifically getting back to Brooks' "political evolution" relation, Gaburo arguably closes the work as it begins, with just such a pairing. Or as Brooks writes:

The hiss is a constituent of MUSIC (articulated quietly, contrapuntally, beautifully), and also a constituent of ENGLISH (the first phoneme of the keyword). Both ways, it contributes to a logic: it’s the first of four constituents, the key-phonemes /s, k, r, u/, which punctuate the whole and which all but A articulate; proceeding from unvoiced to voiced by way of plosive and semi-vowel, these four suggest a scenario: in Maledetto, B, C, and D gradually acquire a voice, establishing parity with A only at the end. Yet another relation, then: political evolution. (13)

There's both a not enoughness and a what's nextness to the end that as I read it has a sort of paragone quality to it--the possibility for two equally justifiable readings that are at odds with one another (so, in Brooks' terms, the political relation is paired, too, with a compliment by opposites relation). Hence, while rationality is decoupled from meaning, the dialectic unlike a Hegelian dialectic isn't complete, can't be if meanings are made as well as given. The tug and pull of making and inheriting haunts the work. To what extent is this reading of Maledetto, e.g., compromised by a sort of pernicious mediation, a coercion that obliterates not just agency as so often construed, but even an agency of interactivity, reactionism, or patiency (to name a few more deeply considered ways poets have thought about and written on what agency means absent older, insufficient claims for unitary being, freedom to do and to say, and the like, ways that would allow for setting the conditions for a new resistance)? Well, depends on which fork in the road--which of the pair of readings--one chooses to act on. Where, paradoxically, the question of choice falls back on Maledetto, on we who perform it, leaving us finally with questions not only about interpretation, but whether the work itself--or any work--can break away from the shorn predicament of pernicious normativity, coercion. Where that small but significant question heard lately in poetics forms this works wake: if we have yet to pick up where D ends, to, in other words, "try out new behaviors" as poet Robert Kocik has aptly written, then how could we know what the score or the poem, what we, as becoming subjects are even capable of? To take that question as challenge (as Kocik does) is to try setting the conditions for the flourishing of Maledetto, among myriad other potential and deeply necessary meaning-making ecosystems so far excluded by late capitalist instrumentalisms.

*William Brooks, Competenza Maledetta (1980), loaned, from Arun Chandra
**just found out that poet Holly Melgard is writing on Gaburo's work now, very exciting given how little is written, or at least published!

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