AN INTRODUCTION (WELL, TWO INTRODUCTIONS)

 

01.intro / Dear DIAGRAM faithful and those just joining us,

This is something of a departure for us, an all-audio issue. You've seen us do audio before, but on a much more limited scale. This is a whole new kettle of excitement. Very weird—filled with much loveliness and exhilaration, as well as a bit of theoretical goodness and surprise—I hope that you'll give this work the attention it deserves. Below, you'll find a brief introduction for those uninitiated in how to listen to this kind of thing. And a quick rundown of our editorial criteria/biases used to select the works herein.

We expect to incorporate more audio content as a regular feature in DIAGRAM through the ears of our new Sonics Editor, Shannon Fields. The new guidelines page reflects this.

For this issue, we recommend (1) a high-speed internet connection (or patience) since these files are generally large (2-5 megabytes); (2) a good set of headphones, as these benefit from attentive and serious listening. More on this below.

— Ander Monson, Editor

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02.intro / "Damn. I am all noisy-warm kinds of elated and jubilant to have the chance to present the inaugural sonic edition of DIAGRAM. I feel like I'm taking you to my favorite restaurant, and I'm both nervous and excited, as you should be. We have a broadly set table but it does not entirely avoid prescribing a territory of interest. What we have chosen to present is sound work with an exploratory and diagrammatic relationship to tongue-and-mind, the prescriptions of syntax, ululation, and articulation. Sonic measurements of linguistic measurements of the sense we make of the world. While the work here runs from blatantly conceptual to direct, self-evident, or even intentionally and tacitly naïve (in the way some of the best 'sound art' is), I think every piece here respects and privileges its own medium, its own method of inquiry, while simultaneously shedding light on the way we use language to expose, confound, and make sense. The work we have chosen for this issue successfully measures and explores the poetics of language (broadly defined) in a sound medium. What else is there to say?

Like the schematic/diagrammatic work we present, these pieces are intended to function as poetry, rather than addressing poetry, or (god forbid) relaying it. They describe and illuminate and confuse and thresh and hum and re-read and snowmelt and annotate and re-describe. They do not illustrate or translate (though some pieces attend to illustration or translation as a subject of inquiry or soft pink plaything). This collection is everything I hoped it would be and I am honored as heck to present artists and work of this caliber right out of the starting gate.

Some of our readers may find the lack of 'spoken word' surprising/off-putting/disappointing. It's my fault. I find myself rarely convinced that a musical setting for spoken word prose dignifies the text. This does not mean I'll never choose to present such work in DIAGRAM or elsewhere, or that I have not found much to respect in such work. But it would be cheating not to acknowledge and address its absence in this issue. It seems only fair to lay my own editorial biases on the table, so I'll say it: the poetry I love is quiet, it is not staged, it is not shouted in your ear, it is not mediated by a personality or a song. I tend to get excited where I get stuck: in accidental congruencies, inexplicable structural mappings, territorial failings, feelings without soundtracks, silences. It's a failing I feel DIAGRAM provides a home for. And so I seek and find work that does not present or pretend to other forms. And I am fully willing to recognize that I'm rationalizing my own love of steamed broccoli over your distaste for it.

Like my favorite poetry, much of the work here is slow to unfold and won't yield much when treated passively as a background series of characters. This work demands immersion, and I am confident you will find much to reward your patience. Find a quiet room and a big nerdy pair of headphones, preferably with a big spirally chord and those puffy rim-things around the edges. Go somewhere you won't be disturbed. I strongly recommend downloading the pieces to your desktop or mp3 player or whatever. It's unfair to you and the artists to have to deal with buffer interruptions and (unintentional) digital hiccups. Some of the work needs no explanatory statement but includes one to assist you in understanding the artist's intentions. Other pieces have a close relationship to the accompanying text or even depend on it for their poetic resonance. Keep this in mind. Clear your head. Send us postcards, let us know what you find there.

— Shannon Fields, Sonics Editor