Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Frolic Architecture

by Susan Howe & David Grubbs

Susan Howe & David Grubbs

Frolic Architecture (2011) is the third collaboration from poet Susan Howe and musician David Grubbs. It follows Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007) and Thiefth (2005), both of which were released on CD on the Blue Chopsticks record label. Writing in Artforum, Bennett Simpson described Souls of the Labadie Tract as "a confrontation with history, community, language, and sound that is truly harrowing."

Where the previous works began with prose introductions that contextualized the poems' embeddedness in history, Frolic Architecture drops the listener into a soundworld that germinates wildly from this most multiple and heterogeneous of Howe's celebrated collage poems. Looking at one of Frolic Architecture's poems on the album's cover, it's apparent why Howe initially thought the poem to be unperformable. For long stretches, it is impossible to separate Howe's real-time performance of her fragment-strewn text from Grubbs's further deformations, scatterings, and layerings. These aberrant vocalizations are placed in a landscape in which individual pitches pulse autonomously within thick chords, gravel, and cicadas duet. There is no foreground, no background. Frolic Architecture is the most radical and abstract of Grubbs's and Howe's work together.

Susan Howe is the author of over a dozen books of poetry and literary criticism, including Singularities, The Non-Conformist's Memorial, Souls of the Labadie Tract, My Emily Dickinson, and, most recently, That This (New Directions). She held the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities at the State University of New York at Buffalo and has recently taught at Princeton, University of Chicago, University of Utah, and Wesleyan University.

David Grubbs has released twelve full-length solo albums, the most recent of which is The Plain Where the Palace Stood (Drag City). He is the author of Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (Duke University Press) and is associate professor in the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, CUNY, where he also teaches in the MFA programs in Performance and Interactive Media Arts and Creative Writing.