This week, if:book Australia is proud to publish a series of remixes from its 24-Hour Book, Willow Pattern. The source material for the remixes goes well beyond the finished text of the book to include the entire database of edits collected over the project's duration. More about Willow Pattern, the 24-Hour Book.
Pascalle Burton has created a sound collage called I Will Say This Only Once, featuring all 3,500 words used just once in the book's text.
An interview with Pascalle Burton
The piece uses every word from Willow Patterns that features only once in the text. How did you arrive at the idea for exploring those words?
I often consider how frequently we use words or what types of words we use, particularly in writing. How many times have we read the word ‘the’? What are the words we least use? When I was navigating the Willow Patterns website, there was an abundance of information — coding, drafts, commentary and so on. My mind was already working around duplication and simulacra, then when the data page seemed to be able to extract this kind of information, that’s just where my mind went.
Obviously you can draw themes from the work by looking at words used frequently, but did you find any patterns or themes from the one-time words?
That was so interesting! I could have organised the words alphabetically but I wanted to record them in the order that they appeared in the book because they would retain, to some extent, the chronology of the novel and also keep words isolated to the author who chose to write them. This did two things: it ghosted the narrative of the book and it ghosted the writing style of the author. Curiously, while I was recording the words, I could sense when the next chapter had begun because the style or types of words changed.
The words were often surprisingly poetic, too. Here’s a few words that appeared together:
fetishised urban postcode scope traipsing innermost extension
psychotic spouting terrified squats
How lovely are the sounds of these word combinations? There were many examples of this throughout the work. That got me to thinking about how many words were removed from the text to bring this poetic essence.
It also made me consider the weight and worth attributed to words. These were the words that only made one appearance in the whole book. Whether they were unusual and exotic words or seemingly functional words like numbers or days, these were ‘the ones’. It triggered all kinds of musings for me and I hope it does the same for those who encounter the piece.
Were you surprised at what you found, at the words used or the sheer number of words in the list?
Oh my goodness, there was a huge divide between the concept and the outcome! I did NOT expect there to be roughly 3500 words that had been used only once in the book — that was my first surprise! I loved the concept though, and wanted to see it through, no matter where it took me. Having to layer so many tracks turned this project into a monster and it was tough even to limit it to eight and a half minutes. I also found it astonishing how exhausting it was to record them all. I used a click track so I could use the vocals musically and every part of me that I used to record the speech – breath, muscles, voice, brain — were drained by the end!
I consider the piece an exercise in endurance, both in the making and in the watching!
How did you choose the music and visuals to accompany the words?
The piece is quite cavernous, like wandering around the hollows of a mind or exploring the digital terrain of the Willow Patterns website, and I wanted the music to marry with these ideas. I chose archival footage that built on this as well – astronomy, a woman speaking, a hand removing different kinds of implements from a medical bag and nature. I like the effect at the end where it looks like the implements are being removed and replaced out of and into the woman’s head.
Obviously we have to reduce the piece to fit in a browser window online, but did you have in mind an optimum viewing experience? Surround sound would be pretty cool.
Yes, when my boyfriend heard it through loud speakers, he could barely stand it and said it was the sound of madness! When I was making it, I had to listen to it over and over in headphones and that was a fairly intense sound as well. So either surround sound or enclosed headphones are a bit of a trip!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.futureofthebook.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Burton_Pascalle.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pascalle Burton’s manoeuvres with word, sound and artefact are usually founded in cultural theory and conceptual art. She’s performed at venues and festivals in Australia and overseas, with projects such as The Stress of Leisure, Letter.Box.Stamp.Collect., Poems by Telephone, The Outlandish Watch and Flight. Her debut collection, A Vast Laugh, was released through Small Change Press in 2008. pascalleburton.wordpress.com[/author_info] [/author]