Music For Writers: In Not-So-Dire ‘s_traits’

Image produced by Bill Seaman and John Supco's "s_traits" project for release as one of several posters with physical CDs on November 4, 2014, by Cotton Goods.
Image produced by Bill Seaman and John Supco’s “s_traits” project for release as one of several posters with physical CDs on November 4, 2014, by Cotton Goods.

‘A Sentence Swimming In Uncertainty’

A generous and “generative” heart beats at the conceptual center of composer John Supko and media artist Bill Seaman’ssweetly addictive new release, s_traitson the Cotton Goods label. The work is among the most writerly studies yet in our series on contemporary composition for authors.

Bill Seaman | image from Cotton Goods Records
Bill Seaman | image from Cotton Goods Records

The work stands, almost imperceptibly, on a vast collection of textual phrases — a verbal intelligence deftly submerged in a shimmering gully of sonic handshakes, winks, caresses, nods, sighs.

Visuals produced by the two men’s collaboration include complex imagery from Seaman’s video-engine software, and a set of specially created posters for the limited-edition physical release of the CD.

And the music, which sounds as if it’s floating on a watery expanse, arrives as an exquisitely rendered sargassum, drifting — tantalizingly — just out of reach. Supko’s own comments on the piece, which is predicated on a percussion duo he wrote, Straits, say that it’s “the product of three minds: two human, one artificial.”

John Supko | Image from
John Supko | Image from

Constantly in languid motion, a line of text from s_traits could mean something, might not, then again may just very well be…no, it’s gone again, enveloped in a sophisticated, undulating current of layered sound and light.

This is recombinant text that Seaman created after the poem straits by Kenneth Koch. A part of it reads:

what I say it is, it is not • what I say I say in the silences • reviver • a bidirectional revolution • a code in the breaks • putting a spin on coded records • the late voice was welcomed in • the boat gently oscillated • a room of numbers in one • roussel never made it to africa • the ocular canal • lined with tiny waves • using misunderstanding • the woman’s pun was spun

Like someone’s bare shoulder grazing yours, Seaman’s opening phrase for each section of this music teases and come-hithers you as much as the found-sound music that follows. When Seaman says “and the ice appeared blue,” for example, to open the 9th section, there’s a fluctuating song of discovery waiting, a quiet chord on a piano folded deep behind a door-hinge string phrase over a deep bass-rolling continuum.

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Music for Writers: In Not-So-Dire ‘s_traits’

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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