Media Rhizome: How Voice Can Transform a Composition

The other day, Tanya posted a poem as part of her Rhizomatic Learning inquiry. Entitled Agree/Disagree, the poem explored some of the dichotomies of learning. Tanya’s post itself, including the poem, is a real thoughtful look at what she has been pondering when it comes to online learning spaces, and I felt inspired by leave her a poem as a comment, referencing some of the phrases in her original poem.

What kind of mailman puts your letters
in the tree?
I wondered as I stared up at the blue sky
of the sea
thinking again about how you communicate
here with me
across these spaces; such silent faces,
we rarely see
finding threads that we bind together
in community
while down here on the ground we spread
rhizomatic seeds

I also used Vocaroo to leave my poem for her as a podcast, and suggested that she podcast her poem, too.

Audio and voice recording >>

I often suggest that folks podcast small pieces of writing. Poetry works best, I think. For me, the words get transformed when I can hear the voice of the writer — the inflections, the phrasings, the timbre. I can’t say that many folks take me up on the offer, but Tanya did, although she used the opportunity to ponder more about podcasting.

Audio recording >>

What I found interesting is her observation about voice and reading, and how, for her, the listening might impinge up her enjoyment or understanding of a text. That words on paper, or screen, give her more agency. That in the silence of physical voice, the voice of the writer comes through even clearer. (I am now making assumptions about what she was saying but her thoughts sparked some interesting questions in my head).

Tanya’s insights and comments reminded me of a recent “album” by Beck (who has a fantastic new album coming out, by the way). Instead of recording his music and releasing it as musical files, he published it via McSweeney’s as a collection of sheet music. Manuscript files. Silent notes on the page. He wanted others to the ones making the music as they saw it, and not be influenced by his sounds. Thus, Song Reader. Tell me that isn’t cool? Lots of folks did record his songs, as featured on Beck’s Song Reader site.

Which brings me back to our poems. Tanya’s and mine. As I listened to her podcast, which ends with her reading her poem, I realized that I could not let her voice just dangle in the air. Knowing she would not mind, I grabbed her audio file and together with my own poem file, I began a remix of our poems, weaving stanzas of her in with stanzas of mine.

The result? A shared poem.

I then put out a call to others via Twitter, asking who might take the shared file a step further, adding perhaps a visual element. Mariana heeded the call, and proceeded to create this:

Would this have been the same if I had put her words and my words together on the static page? No. I don’t think so. It was her voice and my voice, and later Mariana’s images, that transformed our work together, and made it something very different than the words on the page. Would it have worked as a poem on the page? Yes. Just not in the same way.

Our voices are powerful means of communication, and we don’t use them nearly enough.

Peace (in the thinking),