Self-taught Dutch composer, poet and sound artist Jaap Blonk took the Kelly Writers House on a sonic adventure last night, performing a number of historical and self-composed sound poems.
Sound poetry is an eclectic blend of musical composition using the phonetic components of speech, with less consideration for semantics than in more traditional poetry. Though the genre has been around since the 20th century, Blonk has been contributing to the growth and development of sound poetry by using more contemporary media forms and pre-recorded sounds.
Blonk was brought to campus by fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in English Danny Snelson.
“The world of experimental poetry is rather small, and it’s not hard to get in contact with someone you admire,” he added.
Blonk opened his performance with a selection of what he called “historical” sound poems, the first of which was titled “The Ringing of the Bells of the Spirit.”
Through a combination of words and sounds that recreated the deep, shrieking echoes of clanging bells, the audience got a feel for the unrestrained intensity for which Blonk is famous.
With a sound poem called “Nightmare,” Blonk introduced the clever use of a game console that produced a different sound effect with each button.
After a few more pieces in this vein, Blonk engaged the audience with an African sound chant, asking all attendees to repeat his sounds as he progressed through the piece. The audience members laughed and grew lively upon experiencing first-hand how difficult it was to imitate the wide range of sounds and intonations that Blonk seemed to make effortlessly.
Afterwards, Blonk took a break from his vocalizing to use an “instrument” all humans have but hardly use: cheeks. With a vigorous shake of his head, Blonk used his cheeks and lips to create flapping and blubbering sounds. The motions were altogether free and childlike.
Overall, Blonk gave an inimitable performance using a broad range of sounds that included tongue clicks, hissing, moaning, humming, croaking, puckering, panting and bellowing — to name a few.
During a Q&A session following Blonk’s performance, College sophomore Gabriel Ojeda-Sague posed an important question.
“How do you construct mood when not allowing for language with semantic meaning?”
Blonk responded, “I never want to induce a mood or feeling in an audience. For me, it’s just about sound.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.