Jörg Piringer’s Soundpoems

After browsing Vol. 2 of the Electronic Literature Collection for a bit, I stumbled across these nifty things:

"gravity and reflection"

“gravity and reflection”

"predator vs. prey"

“predator vs. prey”

 

"food chain"

“food chain”


They are Jörg Piringer’s
Soundpoems, titled “gravity and reflection,” “predator vs. prey,” and “food chain.” Unlike most poetry, there’s not much to actually read. Also, what is there to read (letters) are moving around on the screen. Also, they make noises, sometimes their phonetic sound, sometimes not. Also, the reader has to interact with the soundpoem for it to function. So. They’re really… different. And a lot of fun. In each poem, the letters act, and interact differently. In the first one, “gravity and reflection” the letters appear when you click, then fall and bounce around a little bit. When they hit the sides or the bottom of the square, they’ll make noises. This is the only one where the letters don’t make their phonetic sounds. Compared to the other two, I thought this was the least interesting. In “predator vs. prey” you click on one of the letters at the top, causing that letter to appear and start roaming about. It makes its own noise as it moves, for example, E will be all like “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” When you release a lot of letters, the sound is primal and overwhelming. And, when two letters run into each other, their sounds momentarily get louder, as one devours the other. In the second image above, the “S” and “M” just ran into each other and are starting to fade.  It’s incredibly interesting to watch the letters move around. They remind me of animals or insects, which is appropriate considering the title. Finally, the last one, “food chain,” was my favorite. Essentially, you feed various consonants with accented vowels (which appear where you click). As the consonants run into the vowels, they’ll eat them, and grow a little bigger. They’ll also make a sound: the consonant + the vowel (ie. T + ō = to). Eventually, the consonants get as big as they can, then they’ll start to fade and soon disappear. And since you can’t make more of them appear, their disappearance serves as an ending for this soundpoem, which is something that the other two did not have. And as weird as it sounds, it’s surprisingly devastating to watch them slowly fade. It made me feel a little helpless, since I couldn’t do anything to stop it. And once they were gone, I felt a little lonely (so weird), and a little useless, since the only thing I could do, place vowels on the screen, no longer served a purpose.

At first, I was thinking about only writing about one poem, but after interacting with all three, it’s obvious that they play off of each other. I think the order that I viewed and interacted with them made a huge difference. Going from having control over what appears on the screen to not really made an impact. I also think it’s interesting that the titles all allude to things in the natural world that we, as humans, don’t have control over: gravity and the food chain. Seeing something man made (letters/ language/ and literally the noises in the poems) mimicking wildlife made for a thought provoking contrast. It makes you question ideas about control and our place in the world. In each poem the reader has a different amount of control. In the first, you dictate where the letter falls from. In the second, when the letter appears. And in the third, when and where letters appear, but they don’t move, making them feel less important. Gradually, the reader loses control. This suggests that control is just an illusion. Something we think we have over other things, but ultimately don’t. Even though humans are more capable? intelligent? creative? than other creatures in the world, we’re still subject to gravity and even the food chain, just like everything else.

 

  12 comments for “Jörg Piringer’s Soundpoems

  1. patcrosmun
    January 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Hey I really liked your point

    This is really cool considering the fact that “Gravity” and the “food chain” are natural processes that have be emulated here through artifice.

    This too is fun to consider if we think of the poems as emulations of natural phenomena.

  2. egajeton
    January 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    This is a really interesting post. After reading what you wrote, I went to the site and looked at the poems in the opposite order. Like you said, I think they definitely play off of each other, and even though I viewed them in a different order than you, I was still able to see their similarities and how they relate. I especially found “predator vs prey” to be my favorite. One thing I tried to do was release letters that would spell a word, and I wondered if I could remotely get them to “speak” the word. In retrospect, of course, I don’t know why I thought it might work, but it was interesting nevertheless. I also wondered about how the letters knew which way to go after being placed in the space, whether or not their paths are predetermined or not. From this perspective, I agree with you about the control aspect, and I wonder if anyone else might see it differently.

  3. mstange
    January 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I think these are pretty fun poems, particularly “Predators vs Prey.” I like how all the letters just do their thing after you make them, sort of like how it is when someone writes, they don’t have any real control over what the thing they wrote means.

  4. Bekka
    January 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I had a lot of fun messing with these – what a great choice for the first blog post of the class! I like the idea about control or lack thereof in these poems. I also really liked the ideas in Predator vs. Prey and Food Chain with certain letters eating others and started thinking if letters and words had some sort of “food chain” of their own. I enjoyed seeing how the letters interacted when they came together in Predator vs. Prey and watching their paths across the screen.

  5. patcrosmun
    January 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Hey I really liked your point

    “the titles all allude to things in the natural world that we, as humans, don’t have control over: gravity and the food chain”

    This is really cool considering the fact that “Gravity” and the “food chain” are natural processes that have be emulated here through artifice.

    “This suggests that control is just an illusion. Something we think we have over other things, but ultimately don’t. ”

    This too is fun to consider if we think of the poems as emulations of natural phenomena.

  6. nbemis
    January 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    These were incredibly fun. I especially loved watching the “Predator vs. Prey” letters stalking each other around the screen. And I agree with your assessment of “Food Chain.” I looked through all of the Soundpoems before actually reading the post, and when I started to notice the consonants beginning to fade, I thought it was because I wasn’t feeding them enough vowels. So I started putting vowels right next to them in the hopes that they’d stay alive. I thought that otherwise they’d starve. I became emotionally attached to animated letters with the artificial intelligence of insects. Imbuing letters with that kind of capacity to be loved is no easy feat.

  7. kdiemer54
    January 20, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    I love how you pointed out that these poems relate to natural events humans can’t control, just as the reader has no control over the direction the letters take. It took me a while to understand the meaning behind these poems. However, I wonder if Piringer also wanted to demonstrate that humans had some effect on these events. After all, the poems don’t start until the reader clicks on the letters. Humans tend to set objects in motion and influence food chains by changing the environment. However, this may just be a technical choice by the author to make things more convenient for the reader.

  8. patcrosmun
    January 20, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    Ega I like your idea about trying to get the letters to “speak” that’s a clever approach I never would have taken. I don’t know if its possible to say weather or not the paths taken were randomly generated with out digging extensively into the code. To that end the argument could be made that entirety of this piece is an emulation of things beyond man’s control and as such an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

  9. patcrosmun
    January 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

    kdiemer I really like the idea that you raised of humans as prime movers of the world around them. This is really interesting because we obviously can’t control natural processes and the things that set them into motion. We do however tend to re-structure and manipulate natural processes or emulate them through artificial means.

  10. patcrosmun
    January 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

    kdiemer I really like the idea that you raised of humans as prime movers of the world around them. This is really interesting because we obviously can’t control natural processes and the things that set them into motion. We do however tend to re-structure and manipulate natural processes or emulate them through artificial means.

  11. Mary
    January 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    These pieces confuse me a bit, but in a god way. It makes me wish I knew code so i could try to figure out what is happening or what each one is supposed to mean. I like how “Gravity and Reflection” lets the reader control when the sounds are coming be clicking to release a letter. It can be a really slow and erratic piece or the reader can do what I did and click the mouse a million times causing them all to fall at once and destroy your ears with discordant noise. I wish there was more to read with these though, it would make it easier for me to get what the author is trying to say

  12. Cameron Hodge
    January 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    These are really interesting, but I always have trouble trying to figure what the object of analysis should be: The algorithm or the output. If we’re trying to apply something like New Criticism to electronic literature and scrutinize authorial intent and context, the code itself is the only way that can be reliably achieved (especially granted the output is transient and contingent upon the system running it.) On the other hand, if we’re going for a postmodern approach, the output is the only thing to bring into consideration even if the output is altered by the computer ‘reading’ it.

    In the case of Food Chain and Predator vs. Prey, the output implies a relationship between the text and an evolutionary/naturally selective system, but the similarities or differences between the text and evolutionary principles can’t easily be intuited without looking at the algorithm determining the behaviors of each character.

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