Uncanny Valley

On October 2nd, Oni Buchanan and Jon Woodward (more about them below) will perform a multi-media sonic work entitled "Uncanny Valley". In this program (featuring a newly-commissioned concert-length piece by composer John Gibson), the piano performance of Oni Buchanan joins and reflects the spoken text of the poem "Uncanny Valley" as performed by its author, poet Jon Woodward. "Uncanny Valley" is a long serial poem in 16 sections, meant to be read out loud, with numerous optional repeats throughout the text. These repetitions act as accumulations of sound, maddening as well as hypnotic. Gibson's piece provides a sonic environment in which the text floats freely, with its pacing determined by the two performers. Digital samples triggered by both performers mirror and enmesh the piano and spoken text. Extending outward from the phenomenon of "semantic satiation" (whereby a single word loses all apparent meaning and identity when repeated for even a short duration), this program investigates whether or not the same satiation is possible with phrases, sentences, pairs of verse lines, or musical forms.

In 1970, roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the term "uncanny valley" to describe the emotional and empathic chasm between humans and imperfect human simulacra, a gap created by their imperfection. The piano work composed by John Gibson and the poem text written by Jon Woodward cooperate in a search for what is most uncanny, and most human, in both language and music.

Oni Buchanan's Official Website Poetry Performance Video Wikipedia Entry on Oni BuchananBuchanan Discusses An Influential Poem"The Mandrake Vehicles," A Visual Poetry Instillation Listen to Select Pieces by Oni Buchanan

Oni Buchanano

Oni Buchanan's third poetry book, Must a Violence, is forthcoming from the Kuhl House Poets Series in September 2012, selected by Mark Levine. Her previous books include Spring, a Poetry Honors winner of the 2009 Massachusetts Book Awards and selected by Mark Doty for the 2007 National Poetry Series, and What Animal, selected by Fanny Howe for the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series. Oni is also a concert pianist, has released three solo piano CDs, and actively performs across the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Boston with her husband, the poet Jon Woodward.

Jon Woodward's Official Website View Woodward's Mockingbird ProjectCopyleft, An Ongoing Poem Added to Daily Woodward's "Poems to Stare At," a digital collection with a twist Review of Woodward's "Rain" by Stephen Burt Quick Review of Woodward's Style in "Rain"

Jon Woodwardyo

Jon Woodward's books are Uncanny Valley (forthcoming from Cleveland State University Poetry Center), Rain (Wave Books), and Mister Goodbye Easter Island (Alice James Books). He lives in Boston with his wife, poet and pianist Oni Buchanan, and he works at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.




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