Week 7

1. Close Listening (manual/graphic)

In literature, we are accustomed to thinking of the printed page. But if the prime literary genre is poetry, then literature has always been about listening

We can approach listening through many avenues. The simple (as in fundamental) practice of attentive, deliberate listening is one road to the poem. It is perhaps the traditional mode of consumption of the literary art. We may have enjoyed poetry readings; fewer have reflected upon or thought to analyze, historicize, or theorize it! As non-oral students, we can perhaps intensify our ability to listen attentively by enlisting our literacy skills. In music theory classes, one learns to notate pitch and rhythm by ear; we can make similar graphic transcription as a way to focus our ears (to mix figurative domains).

What are the most salient features of a poetry performance? Is there a standard answer? Does it depend upon the place, period, or even individual poet?

  • Pitch? Intonational contour; inflection
    • pauses
    • tempo
    • volume
  • Tone (in literature - convey attitude, mood, the pscy)
    What are some fruitful ways of notating these features?

Aside: consider this Transcription. What is captured? What is omitted? How does it work?

1.b Comparing Freestyle Graphic Transcription and "Standardized" Markup

This Is Just to Say.

Let's listen to William Carlos Williams and then attend to the pitch, pause, tempo, and loudness patterns.


2. - Stein Transcription

Let's choose a Stein recording to practice some old-school close-listening and notation.

Stein at Pennsound

If I told Him, Pennsound . See text, audio, aligned audio. See also Brian Reed on listening to “If I told Him”

(How) She Bowed to Her Brother

3 Drift

Using computer-aided audio analysis to assist in attending to some audio features of a poetry performance. There is a merit in transcribing through repeated listening. It can also be interesting, and perhaps more precise, to enlist a tool which helps us pinpoint certain paralinguistic features of an audial text. Note that some of the same qualifications from above (regarding questions of how we define what is “notable”) pertain with computer-assisted analysis as well. It's only that, here we are sometimes subject to the decisions and frameworks that seemed most salient to the programmer.

DRIFT is a join project of several scholars (humanists and programmers) from across the country but based at Northwestern. We can use the web based demo to generate an analysis of intonation contour and tempo/pausing. (Gentle is useful for making transcriptions and creating a time-track for words, but that must be installed on a Mac or Linux to be used – as the web service is currently inoperable).




Tip: Screen captures in Windows

3b - Gentle

Gentle has some features that overlap with Drift. See Text In Performance, Northwestern UnivIt produces a transcript from uploaded speech audio. Then it aligns that transcript with the words – producing a timeline. There is time data in the Drift csv and json outputs. Gentle is much easier to use. But Gentle is currently offline; Mac users can install it on a home machine. I will run a Gentle transcription for you if you wish.

Upload a short (5 min or less) audio file.

I will process it through Gentle and share the results here.

Quantitizing Tempo and Pauses

I used Gentle to dive deeper into the relationship between aural-pauses and the lines/stanzas of a print poem. Here is an Excel Template representing a William Carlos Williams reading. You are free to choose your own poem and use or adapt these formulae.

4.- Scholarly Applications Discussion

You've read several of my pieces as well as two by Marit MacArthur. What are some critical/interpretive approaches that you can envision exploring with audio analysis?


Read William Carlos Williams. Write Audio Analysis 01.

Audio Analysis - Close Listening. Preferably focus on one poem, unless you have a comparative thesis; more than 2 poems would probalby be too much. Use minimal or no external (1-3; draw on writing about sound as much as anything specific to the poet). Incorporate at least one visualization; give focus to elements of the poems phono-text – though obviously you may relate this to theme, meaning, form, print structure, performance context, etc. Close listening to a poem has some parallels to close-reading, in which there is an assumption of some underlying unity and significance to the relationship between what we hear, see, feel, and think . Like any essay, it necessarily includes some type of thesis/conclusion (however provisional), and a meaningful title. Max 5 pages (1250 words)