Joseph Noble has somehow tinkered a radio out of words, and tuned it to receive transmissions from a lost paradise of music

Antiphonal Airs

Joseph Noble, Antiphonal Airs, Skylight Press, 2013

Read it at Google Books

Antiphonal Airs is a mixilating series of poems from poet-musician Joseph Noble.  Some are improvisational riffs on specific composers, their lives and work, and some imitate the sonic movement and aleatoric rhythm of music itself.  Noble works between polyphony and monody, his poetic lines mirroring the development of the seconda practica of the Baroque, in which the form of vocal music was made reflect and fit the meaning of the words.  He follows the Orphic muse through music’s different phases and stylings, from the primal to the ornate, always following Hazrat Inayat Khan’s dictum that the world and its language come to us through sound and vibrations.  Antiphonal Airs follows An Ives Set, which explored mercurial compositions of Charles Ives, and about which Andrew Joron wrote - "Noble has somehow tinkered a radio out of words, and tuned it to receive transmissions from a lost paradise of music. Yet Noble's line is listening, not to sound alone, but to pure pattern. Here, writing itself is graphically recast as a rhythmics of perception.”


A sumptuous collection by poet-musician Joseph Noble.  The certainty of his pitch & intonation reveals a distinct tender voice.  Measured, graceful, his work sustains its depth throughout.  The first section on "early music" is revelatory in its range & insight.  Rich in historical acumen, musical heart, Antiphonal Airs an impressive body of work.— David Meltzer

In Joseph Noble’s Antiphonal Airs, the reader perceives form meeting form,each shaping and naming the other  in “aural geometries” that are simultaneously “recognizable and strange/at the rim of/summoning and leaving.”  Noble’s keen ear certainly endows the language of these poems with lyricism and lushness, but below that enticing surface are patterns “silent and/only seen/erased and/only heard.”  Such confusion of pattern, Noble reveals, makes possible the genesis of new meaning, new form.  This he discloses through the attention and responsiveness that the antiphon of his title suggests.  These poems make us aware of correspondences flourishing in interchanges that are no less powerful for their ephemerality: “sound at the edge/ of note and naught.” — Elizabeth Robinson


 “What is wonderful about music is that it helps man to concentrate or meditate independently of thought. Therefore music seems to be the bridge over the gulf between the form and the formless. If there is anything intelligent, effective, and at the same time formless, it is music.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Spiritual Attainment by the Aid of Music”
 “One must side with Brahms or with the sun.” — E.M. Cioran, All Gall Is Divided

Antiphonal Airs interacts with the musical vibration of “transforming what is unseen into what is heard / what is unheard into what is imagined.” These grandiloquent gestures soar through entirely agreeable intonations, creating an excellent sensory experience. Here the music of poetry is refracted through early Italian Baroque music. Noble explores little-known yet magnificent composers, such as Nicola Matteis, Marco Uccellini, Giovanni Legrenzi, and Sigismondo D’India, to name just a few. As a classical music lover, this is pure delight.
On the similarities between poetry and music, Noble writes, “they both use sound, both take place in time, both seem to move with a fluidity of association at times, both have a sensual dimension to them, both can be an outcry or a whisper and everything between, are articulations of vibrating air, and both are avenues of enlightenment.” Antiphonal Airs is full of rich and vibrant poems, their lyrical nature echoing and reflecting the work of master composers.
“uccellino,
air forgets its name
(water upon the sun)a fever fingers syllables
(ink spilling its reins)
uccellino,
harp in the street
(who turns the sun?)
song wheel in the iris
(swallow dilating sleep)
uccellino,
river flings itself into its reflection
(drum collides with the wind)
air is shaping the ear
(map on the tympanum)
uccellino,
angel climbs through the arm
(which finch in the ankle?)”
Encompassing a mirror of refraction and recognition through these two separate modalities of language, music and poetry, comes the realization that perception itself is a mirror. A reflection here is an echo oscillating a prismatic sonic ascendency, creating a kind of music of the mind –– an increase in the alpha, beta, and gamma waves that bring peacefulness to a finely tuned and more fully awakened mind. These vibratory pulsations conduct the contents of our mind as if it were a grand chamber orchestra.
Through the crystal of the psyche, this spectral enmeshment moves to a higher vibration closer to the ancient origin of energy, in accordance to the mastery of grand dimensions. According to Kashmir Shaivite philosophy, before the universe was created, the frequency of sound was a living intelligence coerced into negation and dreamt across the abyss –– dissolving into shadows and dreams, infiltrating everything seen and unseen. Here is sound recognizing itself. With the immediacy of clear vision, music is floating in and out of the text, like the melodies of Bach or Telemann weaving in and out of each other. The multifoliate rose appears here as a spectrum both encompassing and eclipsing the vortex of the known.
“the name’s melancholy
the name’s memory
before any extravagance of the future
the name softens the blowit realizes a dead language
its typography creates its own fantasia
the page’s delirium
the bee’s mouth
the name strikes out on its own
carries a honeycomb in its belly
pulls a string across the turtle’s shell
runs its fingers along the sky’s bell
the name calls what is unknown
out of what is known”
In his afterword to Invenzioni e Stravaganze, the first half of the book, Noble writes that “The poems are concerned with various topics, among them: memory, both personal and historical; the movement of love and of music; movement through time; movement through geography; rapture; truth; dialogue; articulation; silence; echoes; song; transfiguration; metamorphosis, identity, naming.” Antiphonal Airs also contains space, balance, volume, chiaroscuro, absence, presence, vibratory pulsations, and other ethereal things. This is a rhythmical modality, its dithyrambic axis blazing out of a deeper spectrum where THOUGHT is displaced by ECSTATIC BLISS. Through chromatic radiance, the energy of a crescendo attains spheres of sonorous pleasure. This feeling disregards mediocrity and strives for a harmonic ideal that really takes flight through the poetry and the sacred geometric frequencies of sound.
These poems explore the elevation of sonority, piercing actuality with their diaphanous vision and animated awareness. The pleasure I receive from listening to Purcell’s Fantasias and In Nomines may be different from reading Blake or Shelley, but there is an inner recognition –– the awakening principle tempered with the joy and formidable awe in interacting with the integrated psyche. This diffraction resonates at levels both harmonic and homologous –– bridging the space between historicity and timelessness, and leading me to a space for which there ultimately are no words. At this stage the substance of consciousness is either altered or it breaks down entirely. This is a rich ore mined admirably by Noble, and it’s something I’d like to see more of.
“within the song
are foundboth tone and word
and neither
read the strings
the ear listens
to their lines and
the spaces between
tongue clap thrown
hue heard and cried aloud
“Otsu! Play the bamboo flute.
It heals sorrow.”
sound enters the bone
created by sound
in a quark, the tiniest
filament hums
string quivering
with its own tune
from here to there
a leap between
coccyx singing
cuckoo
hopping from wire to neuron”
Noble’s poetry is exploring this transpersonal type of awareness enlivened by music that is both peaceful and energetic, this enriching specter of enmeshment where the very focal point of our energetic awareness is subsumed into the imaginal. Noble is wondering, “what will carry you / from here to there / from air to air / through the strings / over the table of memory?” This “aural geometry” fascinates by using music theory and musical language to embrace cymatics and sacred ancient theories on the relationship between sound and matter, where the energy, rhythm and harmony of Baroque music reflects the harmony and order in the Cosmos. Noble’s exquisite vision compresses melodies of sonorous air in ways that I found wholly resonant. Antiphonal Airs delightfully explores the modality of recognition –– sound and matter, the seen and the unseen, recognizing each other as both manifestations of the same ecstatic principles. - Chris Moran



"sound remembered
beneath the sound board
within the fingers
recognizable and strange
at the rim of
summoning and leaving"
Antiphonal Airs is a mixilating series of poems from poet-musician Joseph Noble. Some are improvisational riffs on specific composers, their lives and work, and some imitate the sonic movement and aleatoric rhythm of music itself. The sheer scope and range of the collection has been summarised poignantly by fellow poet, David Meltzer:
"A sumptuous collection by poet-musician Joseph Noble. The certainty of his pitch & intonation reveals a distinct tender voice. Measured, graceful, his work sustains its depth throughout. The first section on "early music" is revelatory in its range & insight. Rich in historical acumen, musical heart, Antiphonal Airs is an impressive body of work."
Noble works between polyphony and monody, his poetic lines mirroring the development of the seconda practica of the Baroque, in which the form of vocal music was made to reflect and fit the meaning of the words. In the opening segment, Invenzioni e Stravaganze, Noble is inspired by early baroque Italian composers, both major and minor, from Monteverdi to Frescobaldi. He weaves in and out of compositional minds, mirroring their musical creativity with an astonishing variety of compositional forms (explained in a short afterword) "from call and answer to dramatic monologue, from riddle to sonnet, from story to list to song, and many invented types." Through the twin acts of listening and imbibing the poet recovers a number of composers that have been lost to the general listener but recently revived by the `early music' movement.
In At Sound Noble follows the Orphic muse through music's different phases and stylings, from the primal to the ornate, always following Hazrat Inayat Khan's dictum that the world and its language come to us through sound and vibrations. As the author attests, the piece is a requiem for his parents in which he allows himself to take creative liberties with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In attendance are Edgar Varese, Ferrucio Busoni, Claudio Monteverdi, Dino Campana, John Adams, as well the composers that wrote operas based on the Orpheus and Eurydice story, Monteverdi, Haydn, Gluck, Offenbach and Peri. After an astonishing grouping of poems Noble provides a little insight as to his intentions:
"I tend toward a belief, along with Orpheus (or, rather, what Orpheus dramatizes through his many cultural manifestations) and Hazrat Inayat Khan, that the world comes from sound and vibrations, manifests itself through vibrations, that each being has its own vibrations, that particular beings come into existence through vibration. Whether it's Orpheus travelling down through the levels of the spheres and learning music, which can be taken as a correlative to beings moving as vibrations through the spheres and eventually taking physical forms, or Hazrat Inayat Khan discussing how sound and vibration are the origin of this world and the source from which beings spring, I am fond of this idea of forms and flesh coming from sound and vibration."
A truly ground-breaking work, Antiphonal Airs demonstrates how a poet can speak as both the receptor and creator of music, all the while inhabiting the places of its ambiance - Venice, Brescia, Neuberg, Milan, etc. The work follows An Ives Set, a poetry collection that explored mercurial compositions of Charles Ives, and about which Andrew Joron wrote - "Noble has somehow tinkered a radio out of words, and tuned it to receive transmissions from a lost paradise of music." In the final sections of Antiphonal Airs, Noble plays Hide and Seek with his voyeuristic ear, intones the deep lyrical poetry found in wordless Songs, and explores the Correspondences between sound and ephemera - from classical to jazz to the avant garde. Perhaps fellow poet and friend, Elizabeth Robinson, sums it up best:
"In Joseph Noble's Antiphonal Airs, the reader perceives form meeting form, each shaping and naming the other in "aural geometries" that are simultaneously "recognizable and strange/at the rim of/summoning and leaving." Noble's keen ear certainly endows the language of these poems with lyricism and lushness, but below that enticing surface are patterns "silent and/only seen/erased and/only heard." Such confusion of pattern, Noble reveals, makes possible the genesis of new meaning, new form. This he discloses through the attention and responsiveness that the antiphon of his title suggests. These poems make us aware of correspondences flourishing in interchanges that are no less powerful for their ephemerality: "sound at the edge/ of note and naught.""






- F. Productions



Joseph Noble, An Ives Set, lyric& press, 2006.

"In AN IVES SET, Joseph Noble has composed an intricate musical vision, a tribute to Ives, and a dedication to the dynamic nature of sound. This is a book which listens adroitly and reminds us that hearing is also a re-framing, a reconfiguring of residence and a paradoxical profound mode of address"-Laynie Brown. "Noble has somehow tinkered a radio out of words, and tuned it to receive transmissions from a lost paradise of music. Yet Noble's line is listening, not to sound alone, but to pure pattern. Here, writing itself is graphically recast as a rhythmics of perception. By tapping into and upon the head of the ex-centric American composer Ives, Noble's poetry retrieves and retries the truth of a voice in resistance to its own (social as well as sonic) medium. And like the composer whose work is poised and recomposed in this work, Noble is an American original"-Andrew Joron.


calcium light night

to sing and to speak
the alphabet begins
fife type tones bones
signals with hat in hand
thinking in the cell
tramp tone
makes you free
sound round
the few days
we shall breathe


Naslovnica

Joseph Noble, Birds, Fruit, and Ashes: Poems, 1973-1982Minstrel Press, 1986.

 

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