Outside Movement

Leslie Scalapino - another brief phrase from Can't is Night (0'11"). The utterance in the final eleven seconds of the Scalapino soundfile might be written "Is there a difference between the space of phenomena (phrase) and the space of planets (moon) outside movement?" Here's how it looks in a Praat TextGrid, with waveform in the top band, pitch in the middle, and lexical transcript below (click to enlarge).

Voice visualization

The semantic content of the utterance has an internally-nested structure abcb'c'a, where the c terms (phrase, moon) are offered as trunctated translations of the b terms (space of phenomena, space of planets), and the sets bc and b'c' are subjected to scrutiny along a difference/identity spectrum (term a) with a late-arriving condition ("outside movement," which I'm grouping as an a term because it assists in the framing of the question). An audible intake of breath marks the caesura at the midpoint of this six-part pattern (another, much quicker breath can be heard between a and b, where the poet inserts a pause between the article "the"—lengthened to "thee"—and the noun phrase "basic shape of phenomena"—another of those enjambment effects mentioned in my initial post on this track).

In the first 1.75 seconds of the clip, the poet races through eight syllables, virtually deleting two unstressed vowels and hitting a pitch peak of 248Hz at the transition into the second syllable of "difference" (here pronounced difrints). The next eight-syllable segment, by contrast, takes more than 3 seconds to voice and contains three stressed sylllables (written in all caps here): "BASic SPACE of pheNOMena." The long "a" in the first stressed syllable carries a pitch of about 218Hz, the second highest in the segment, with nothing comparably high heard again until the question-marking rise at the close.

What happens next is interesting because it shows us something about the conjunction of pause and pitch-lowering that allows us to hear that an item is being placed in parentheses by a speaker. On each side of the word "phrase" the poet leaves a pause of about half a second, and, while keeping her volume levels consistent (peaking in the 75 to 85 dB range), she sharply decreases her tone (creating that "U" shape in the pitch transcript, see below). Having established this pattern with her voicing of "phrase," she reproduces it for "moon," placing a .325 second pause before and a .465 second pause after it, and dropping her pitch by about 100Hz while voicing the vowel. By contrast, when she voices the very similar vowel in the first syllable of "movement" less than two seconds later, she holds her pitch in the 160-170 level (her norm), rising toward 220Hz on the unstressed final syllable to realize the interrogative pitch pattern operative in English.

Click image to hear a .wav file of the word:

Voice visualization Voice visualization

XML feed here. • Elsewhere on Third Factory: index, ensemble, nb.

Wednesday -- 30 May 2007 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.