When I was little I used to do nothing but play with action figures.
Do you still have them?
Yes, I am a huge fan. This was before there was an online community of people who were obsessed with action figures. When I was six or seven, if they didn’t have just the right amount of points of articulation I would have nothing to do with them. Like any action figure that already had their arms posed like this (poses), forget it, throw it away. Anyone that had one of those things sticking out of his back so that you push it and his leg goes up… I can’t play with that. It’s telling me how it wants to be played with. The ones that I loved were the ones that had positions of articulation, like the fingers that could move, or the hand or wrist could move, and I could enact scenes that I wanted. In a lot of ways I think my notation may be just that, taking the sound intangible and forcing it into a position that people can play with. Now I can tell someone, “Hey play this.” I heard this sound. The sound is now my action figure. I forced these points of articulation on it and everyone else can play it.
You’ve a couple of projects in the works. I remember early summer you were telling me about taking a group of people and recording noises with them. Can you tell me about that and other projects you’ve been doing?
That one specifically was to document onomatopeia. The When With Goes. It’s a template or mad lib: The *blank*, When *blank*, With blank, Goes *blank*. It’s up to the person to use their ears and fill in the blanks according to the sounds it makes so that we can come to a better understanding of the environment when they’re acted upon stuff. So Scrunchling, When pet, With a hand, Goes “purrr”.
When we’re in kindergarten, we learn so much about what sounds things make and then we stop, and it breaks my heart. As soon as you get to first grade you stop. Even in Kindergarten it’s all animal-based sound. There are so many things that make sounds besides animals and it’s so important that we learn what these sounds are and our own interpretation of these sounds.
How long does it take to write a single haiku?
Hours. That’s the best part. It’s an oasis. It’s that meditative state of making the work and not being at the end of it. It’s the journey, not the destination.
So do you have to choose your moment carefully?
I used to, but I learned to choose moments that I don’t care about, because then I’d have an experience that’s outside of myself that I can learn something from rather than me being the person that picks it. I mean, I’m only going to pick what I pick, so I’d rather pick the stuff that I don’t pick. (laughs)
Chicken or egg?
Egg. Organic. Scrambled. There’s enough artifice as it is. When I was younger I realized I had built up a lot of artificial things around me. There’s a point where you have to let go or be dragged, and I just let go. When I let go I realized I had been the one doing all the talking and then everything else started to speak more loudly. I realized I didn’t have to say a thing for everything to be in constant harmony. Just speaking as if everything were as right in the world as it had always been. I was free to be a non participant and to just celebrate everything else. Maybe I am giving back to the thing that set me free in a lot of ways. The everyday, the banal, the things we take for granted. I’m celebrating them for what they are.