Antosh Wojcik – Beyond The Voice In Spoken Word: How Soundscape Furthers Poetic Discourse

Apples and Snakes’ Poet of the Month for June, Antosh Wojcik, talks about the transformative power of soundscape in performance poetry…

I’ve always had the frustration of being incomplete in sound as a drummer. I can only be answered by other people, who react in melodies and tunes. I think this was one of my motivations for pursuing poetry and its performance; it allows me to enact the visual landscapes I have in my head into sound, for other people. It’s been through the process of developing my performance of poetry that I’ve become a soundscape-maker, working on how to infuse instrumentation, sound and music into poetry.

Antosh Headshot 2

‘I’ve never wanted to just bolt music onto words for the sake of it. Soundscaping is about finding hidden music in the poem…’

I’ve never wanted to just bolt music onto words for the sake of it. Soundscaping is about finding hidden music in the poem, bringing this to the surface and reflecting it to a listener. It’s in this that we can enhance or contrast or dampen the effects of the words, make them transformative rather than static. We can make the poems arena-sized or drop them in a glass of water, over and over again. Through music layering, inclusion of found noise, even the ambience of the room that the speaker is recorded in, we can further the possibilities of our writing in a whole universe of ways.

I find that this process helps me understand and anchor into a piece, having its effects latch onto me for longer. It’s so hard to subvert how transient the spoken word is; once a syllable is released, it’s gone and we rely solely on the speaker’s performance to coat that combination of syllables over us, to deliver us to their message, their experience. If we’re lucky or good listeners, we retain lines or moments to recall. But soundscapes can cement a performance and sustain our memory of the work in a live setting.

In Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill The Glitches In Memory, I am glitch-drumming beneath my performance of several narratives that explore my grandparents at the times of their life with dementia. Dementia acts as an invisible force that inhibits a person’s functions and is individual to the person. For my Mum’s Mum with Alzheimer’s, she became wordless and locked into loops of questions, would remember something from when she was three years old, but not what we’d said two minutes ago. For my Dad’s Dad, he became dislocated from his speech, could react to things we said but could no longer respond in a language we were familiar with.

‘Through music layering, inclusion of found noise, even the ambience of the room that the speaker is recorded in, we can further the possibilities of our writing in a whole universe of ways’

When I drum, I translate language into rhythms, and communicate them on the drum kit. Drumming allows me to remember vast parts of my life and people I’ve interacted with too. When combining drumming with my performance of poetry, it becomes an applied dementia, the two translations colliding and altering how they appear externally. My fluency, clarity and diction are all altered. Talking whilst drumming makes me drop rhythm and break what drummers should be good at; timekeeping. I feel this is my closest translation of my relationships with those I love who were affected by dementia. It’s only through the use of a drum-filled soundscape that I’ve been able to access this narrative and communicate it to others in the way that I needed to communicate it.

I’m also half of a sound-art duo called Post-Everything with poet and musician Will Tyas. We create podcasts as narrative soundscapes that are built from a collaboration with other poets. Our first production is titled The Burning House. We made a burning house from sound. The podcast follows five voices as they salvage all they can from the wreckage. Our second production, Notes We Should Have Left, is a collage of notes read aloud, noise and cut-up accompanying soundtracks, all exploring the title theme of a note you should have left for someone. When arranging a podcast, we’re out to find the clash of voices, to make the differences and similarities between them build a narrative. We imagine a different soundscape for each podcast. We want the images in our heads conjured by the words to burst into noise. We believe aesthetics should shift, not rest. We run various recording and writing sessions with the poets we feature, in order to get to know them and create a soundscape that captures their process, as well as their final performances of their work.

It’s through soundscaping that a poet can really explode the dynamics of their writing. It allows an audience to wash and drift into an unfolding journey that solidifies a speaker’s imagery, truth and experience. It can lock in a crowd of listening. It can open a derelict building-full of doorways for you to walk through. It can change the way you write, the way your writing sound, the way your writing looks direction, the way your writing reaches into the world.

post-everything.com | soundcloud.com | @antoshwojcik

Antosh Wojcik is a poet, writer, performer and facilitator. He is half of Post-Everything, a sound-art duo. He is a Resident Artist at The Roundhouse. He has performed at events around the UK. He has received live literature commissions from Penned In The Margins, Free Word and Apples and Snakes. He lectures in poetry at University of Winchester and leads writing workshops in schools and other contexts.