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Ellen Zweig

Gender: Female
Country: United States
Poet / sound artist.
Info from Ellen's Site

I started as a poet, and like many American poets of my generation, I wanted the poem to be oral. I wanted it to be a kind of music. English is a language that pays a good deal of attention to stress. It's not a musical language in terms of tone, but more in terms of the rhythms of spoken language. I wanted to make music from the rhythms of ordinary American English. I got involved in the sound poetry movement; text-sound composition or poesie sonore as it was called in Europe. I was influenced by the minimal music of composers like Steve Reich, Harold Budd and Philip Glass. I experimented with repetition ­ because when you hear a poem out loud, you need the phrases repeated over and over in order to take in the complexity of the language. But I also wanted to do with words what these composers were doing with music. Repeating phrases with small changes, playing with the words so that they made patterns of sound. I used a technique I call the "human loop." Instead of electronically looping a repeated phrase, I recorded several voices saying the same phrase for up to a minute. When these are played together, the different speeds of the individual performances cause the voices to chorus and separate.

I began to perform these compositions in the 1970s. It was a time of great interchange between all of the arts in the U.S. and I soon found myself performing in spaces in the visual arts world, music world and poetry world. I began to use projections ­ slides and Super-8 film ­ and I performed live with audiotape in order to multiply my voice. In 1986, I created my first camera obscura ­ a dark room which takes in images from the outside world and projects them on a screen. For New Music America in Houston, Texas, I made a camera in a stagecoach.