Collaborative Poem Performance

2_Coca performance

In a way we can describe thoughts as rhythmic pulsations, and the way that we think is to leap from one rhythmic pulsation to another to create images.

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by | September 25, 2015 · 5:27 am

City Drift Portland (Maine)

1_Poemophone CityDrift

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by | September 25, 2015 · 5:25 am

Hewnoaks Residency at Kezar Lake

Hewnoaks Kezar Lake Score1

Score for Kezar Lake

Audio here:

More performance images

Poemophone_live on Kezar Lake1




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Thingamajig group performers

Peter, Lauri, Shannon, Mali, Josh,

Here are sound samples of the two group pieces that we will be performing:

songs of the bluebird

Newly Tonal Consonants

Each piece is performed in a unique manner with every performance and so these are meant simply to give you an idea of what we will be doing.  When we get together to rehearse we can experiment with duration and directions…

See you soon!



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sound samples for Thingamajigs

The following two pieces are performed on ‘Envoy’, a sculptural instrument that combines a typewriter and stringed apparatus.  Tracey is playing ‘Envoy’, the voice is that of Lauri Twitchell.


Labyrinth BubbleFish

This piece was composed by Ethan Rose and performed on seven poemophones by Jorn Ake, MC Boyes, Tracey Cockrell, Tim Cooper, Ethan Rose, Peter Suchecki, and Lauri Twitchell.

Newly Tonal Consonants

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Instrument profiles

For those interested in knowing more about the individual Poemophones I have created a separate page for each.  Black Royal, BlueBird, Cosmos, Model 5, Noiseless, Optima, and Quiet de Lux are each featured in images and audio recordings with descriptions of the keyboard layout, tuning voice, characteristics of playing the instrument, and details on the construction of each.

A series of audio recordings playing each instrument using a set pattern of keyboard strokes allows the listener to compare the voice of each instrument with others.  The patterns include the following:

  • playing the alphabet
  • playing the word ‘poemophone’
  • playing rows of the keyboard from left to right, first playing the bottom, then playing the middle, and lastly playing the top row
  • playing a random cascade of tones first on the left side of the keyboard, then on the right side of the keyboard
  • in some instances there is also a sample of playing a random cascade in the middle of the keyboard

Some of the poemophones are louder than others as the pliability and thickness of the keys, type of woods used in construction, and resonant quality of the typewriter bodies vary for each instrument.

Most of the instruments use the QWERTY keyboard layout, but a few are scrambled, in which case the ease of typing specific words is thwarted.  Composing using language on these scrambled keyboards requires a patience in relearning the location of letters and/or challenges the dominance of language composition over tonal relationships.  These non-QWERTY poemophones are the best for making cacophonous compositions.

Tuning for each poemophone is the result of the physical alignment of the crossbar and bridge relative to the soundboard.  In most cases there are two sets of crossbar and bridge per poemophone.  This allows for greater variation in configurations among the group of instruments and thus greater variation in tuning voice for each.  The soundboards also vary in scale, proportion, and wood type, all characteristics that lend to the personality and volume of the instruments.

The keys are hand-forged from steel (other than hunting the typewriters, this is my favorite part of making each instrument).  The key shape is based on the standard key shape of the mbira.  The thickness, width, and length of each key all contribute to character of sound the key will produce.

More details can be found on the pages for each individual poemophone.

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Thingamajig recordings

In September I took 3 poemophones: Optima, Cosmos, and Black Royal to the 14th Annual Festival of Music for People & Thingamajigs.  What a GREAT festival!

Here are two pieces from that performance:

Tracey performing collaborative poem at Thingamajig Festival

Tracey performing Found Letter at Thingamajig Festival

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