Emily Brandt collaborated with Eric Pitra to create this video for her poem “Experiments with Voice Encoder.” Brandt and Pitra recorded the poem on a 1970s vocoder, then ran the audio through an oscilloscope to visualize the sound. The intonations of the voice create a visual of sound moving, flowing. The first line goes, “There is a person speaking through the air / and the air is incapable of holding anything / or the air holds multiple dimensions / as in acid trip, as in nightwalk.” There is a beautiful rhythm to this, the poem as musical robotics. The voice encoder takes on the persona of the speaker. There is specific mention of the mailman walking by with a rolling device because “some part of the system loves him / and respects his knees and his shoulders.” This is an observation about the pattern of the mailman, the pattern of the day, the ebb and flow of it happening daily. But there is a person inside the voice encoder. And the voice encoder is a person. The poem goes on to describe other things: “The plants / are still dead like planets of another dimension. / If a woman kills plants, it symbolizes abortion.” The voice encoder sees the plants and knows they are dying, but can’t do anything about it. It also can’t do anything about patriarchy, though it wants to. This machine gives us notes on feminism, abortion, and work. This machine, whose credit report is perfect, whose observations are keen, who has a general sense of the failed system of patriarchy, signs off. There is nothing else to say, until next time.
“Experiments with Voice Encoder” was originally published here and is forthcoming in Brooklyn Poets Anthology (2017) by Brooklyn Arts Press.