SoundMachine—an audio project produced in collaboration with sound artist T.K. Broderick—will be a separate but related iteration of Rachel Zucker’s tenth book, SoundMachine (Wave Books, 2019).
Part poetry, part memoir, part lyric essay, but not limited to any of these categories, this tragicomic, genre-non-conforming book about marriage, motherhood, depression, grief, love and sex arises out of a persistent feeling that voice is both a meaningless sound and the only way we know we exist.
Zucker and Broderick (and other guest collaborators) will use sound, voice, noise and silence to create a new kind of immersive-verse-audio experience aired as a series of podcast episodes and eventually available as a downloadable album. Each episode of SoundMachine: the Versecast will include a new “im-versive” piece, an artist statement about the piece and a short discussion between a leading contemporary writer or artist and Zucker about the audio piece and how it was made.
SoundMachine will attempt to create a sound space that accommodates the written word, the timbre of the human voice and the expressive possibilities of inarticulate sound—part audiobook, part sound art and a new way to experience language and narrative.
Today, as more poets from spoken word traditions are publishing groundbreaking books and MFA-pedigreed writers are exploring the possibilities of live performance, the idea that poetry is written for either “the page” or “the stage” is breaking down. But this binary, which limits our imagination of where and how language can live, hasn’t disappeared. We still tend to divide texts into two groups—texts that seem to demand the deliberate, contemplative work of solitary reading and performative texts that are brought to life by an embodied voice in a particular place and time.
So, how do we develop a new set of possibilities? What other forms might poetry take? What other spaces might language inhabit and transform?
Our present moment is dominated by the visual—even the sounds that accompany the videos that proliferate every imaginable surface are often accompanied by subtitles so they can be watched silently. Podcasts represent an exception to ocularcentrism, but interest in podcasts is often driven by the desire to consume as much information as possible in a way that drastically narrows the scope of what sound can do.
The airwaves are full of audio-storytelling. Podcasts like This American Life and RadioLab make sound-rich narrative experiences for listeners. And, of course, there have long been audio books wherein authors or actors read written texts (usually fiction or nonfiction). A handful of poets have put out audiobooks or created “soundscape” projects, but none of these are quite like what SoundMachine: the Versecast will be.
We want to create an audio experience that establishes the kind of intimate co-presence in time we associate with the stage, and one which, like words on a page, can travel to those imagined, imaginative spaces of the spirit, the original virtual reality, which is to say spaces where writer and reader meet.
How many episodes will there be? Well, we need your help. We are trying to raise money to pay for studio space, sound capture, producing, mixing, and expenses like paying the Hoover Archive for the use of the audio of Allen Ginsberg playing the harmonium on Firing Line with William F. Buckley in 1968. How much we raise will determine how many episodes we can make. If we meet our goal with this kickstarter we plan to make 10 episodes.
Rachel Zucker is the author ten books including SoundMachine, MOTHERs, The Pedestrians and Museum of Accidents, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. With Arielle Greenberg Zucker co-edited Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days and Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections. She is co-author (also with Arielle Greenberg) of Home/birth: a poemic, a nonfiction book about birth, friendship, and feminism. A graduate of Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Rachel teaches poetry at NYU. In 2016 she was a Bagley Wright Lecturer and wrote and delivered a series of talks on poetry, photography, confessionalism, motherhood, and the ethics of representing real people in art. Rachel was awarded an National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in 2012, a Sustainable Arts Fellowship in 2016, and residencies from the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center in 2018. Rachel lives in NYC with her husband and three sons.
T.K. Broderick is a sound designer, film composer, creative technologist, and educator. He is a graduate of USC's film production program and NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). As part of his fascination with creative interactive storytelling applications, T.K.’s work at ITP focused on developing real-time movement controlled sound, music, light, and image applications in order to explore how the body can become a media interface and controller for live performance. T.K. is currently an adjunct professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in ITP.
Other guest collaborators. Rachel and T.K. have a list of writers, musicians, visual, performance and sound artists they hope will participate in the project. Several of them have already enthusiastically signed on.
Why support SoundMachine: The Versecast
Nothing quite like it has been made before and we think it’s going to be incredibly cool.
Follow Rachel on twitter @rachzuck
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Risks and challenges
The fact that nothing quite like this yet exists is both an essential strength of the project and a risk. Unlike a finished manuscript that a publisher decides to publish or not, we need to raise money up front in order to make what we are imagining. And while we have made a short demo (that we love) and been sketching out ideas for episodes, we won’t know the full range of possibilities or challenges until we are actively making each audio piece!
A few things we can promise: Rachel and T.K. really like working together and each of us loves to work hard. Both of us are incredibly excited about this project and have brought many other (even more whack-a-doodle than this) projects into being. Both of us work at New York University. Rachel has also taught at many other places (Fordham, Yale, 92nd Street Y, Columbia) and has held various other jobs including labor doula, photographer, kindergarten-through-4th-grade poet-in-residence, and literary executor. Rachel’s podcast Commonplace just aired its 61st episode and sustains four part time employees. Both of us are self-motivated and organized from years of working as freelance artists. In addition to his work as an educator and freelance sound designer and composer, T.K. has worked as a program manager and recently co-founded the creative studio OMNIMONO. We are artists who dream big and dream weird but who also show up on time, meet our deadlines, thrive on collaboration and always honor our commitments.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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