Poetry performances by Jackson Mac Low and Tom Leonard. Starts with an introduction from Bob Cobbing, standing on a stage with a large curtain behind him, (possibly the rear exhibition space) talking about emotions affecting even McLow’s systematically generated poetry. McLow begins with poems which he calls ‘gotha’ - based on Buddhist mantras, followed by other sound/phonetic poems employing the use of chance and systems to break down inferred meaning. About 18 minutes in he does a piece sat at a grand piano where he says the words of the poem and plays corresponding notes along with them. After this, BP Nicol, Steve McCaffery, Jerome Rothenberg and David Toop are invited to the stage to take part in the performance of a series of ‘asymmetries’ - a mixture of phonetics, sound poetry and recognisable phrases. Following this there in an homage to William Empson. McLow’s sections last until about 43 minutes in, following which Bob Cobbing reads an introduction to Tom Leonard, talking about class, aesthetics and received pronunciation. ‘A Short History of Marianism’ is then performed, with a recorded audio section followed by Leonard bringing onto the stage a box of ‘Flash’ detergent flanked by two candles. He then dances a jig and two men hold up written signs to the audience (though it is difficult to make out what they say). After this, Leonard reads several sound/phonetic poems including one that considers different types of Glasgow cadence. The sound and image are fairly constant and reliable throughout, with little variation in the camerawork, although the image is slightly offset. The tape ends part way through another audio piece by Leonard, during which he sits on stage, smoking.
Sound & Syntax was an ambitious festival of sound poetry that included many of the key writers in that field. International in scope, it builds on the achievements in Glasgow of poets such as Edwin Morgan, Tom McGrath and Tom Leonard, while introducing the audience to a wider survey of experimental poetry. Jackson McLow was an experimental poet, composer and performance artist who worked with chance operations and other non-intentional forms of composition.
In 1969 he produced computer-assisted poetry for the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and he continued to work with voice and pre-recorded tapes into the 1990s.