Four horsemen squared for mocm

Four Horsemen

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Origin: Toronto, Ontario, 🇨🇦

The Four Horsemen was a sound poetry group of Canadian poets composed of bpNichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, and Steve McCaffery. They started performing in 1970 and quickly moved from radical improvisation to the use of a notational system, with an effort to develop a scoring method adequate to the group's dynamic and visceral sound show. The four-piece soon became a living workshop with regular weekly rehearsals leading to the best refined group-conceived and group-written compositions. The third volume in a series of sound poetry coordinated by Luca Garino, Nada Canadada, nine outbursts of controlled madness dedicated to the memory of Hugo Ball is indeed one of the highest examples of poetry as product of a community. "The number of words we still use in our poetry comes as somewhat of a surprise to us, especially in the light of this album. Strictly speaking we cannot call what we do sound poetry if by it is meant that poetry which has its basis in non-verbal, vocal, and sub-vocal elements of sound. Nor are we into the electronic ramifications of sound in any sense beyond doing a record. We are in fact reluctant to pin the aesthetic continuum on which we operate to the first wall available. Still, perhaps the best name for what we do is what it always has been: poetry".
-Rafael Barreto-Rivera

Liner notes by Paul Dutton
A Four Horsemen reading is a unique and whole experience. Its nature is subtly determined by the emotional and acoustic ambience of the immediate setting. The group takes charge of the physical space, builds rapport with the audience and funnels the energy of the event into and out of a vocal tornado that is always arresting and sometimes overpowering. There is sound at the border of sense and sense at the border of sound, words torn into shreiks and squawks, paragraphs woven into a fabric of rhythmic grunts and heart-piercing yowls. Moments of freewheeling and raucous improvisation alternate with tightly orchestrated overlaps and ensembles. Now the mood is primitive, almost brutal ... now it modulates to a soft and delicate poignancy ... again it shifts to parody, self-parody or broad humour. Through it all there is an air of excitement and an uninhibited revelry not just in language but in all the capacities of the human voice. Four Horsemen/Live in the West captures the aural essence of a Four Horsemen reading and approximates the raw experience of the group-audience interaction so vital to the quartet's effect and so lacking in the technological "purity" of a studio recording. This disc stands as a record of a reading - three readings, in fact: one at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, one at the Western Front in Vancouver, and one at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, all of them occurring within fourdays of each other in February, 1974. The visual dimension the dynamic movement, the facial expressions, the gestures, the theatric effect which has become an integral part of the Four Horsemen's performances - is, of necessity, absent. It is compensated for on this recording by a taste of the essential dynamic of the group's energy interchange with their audience. Four Horsemen/Live in the West represents the culmination of four years collaboration in composition and performance by a Canadian group whose reputation has already begun to take hold in the United States, Britain, and Europe.

The Four Horsemen are Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery and bp Nichol. They are sometimes referred to by the soubriquet "The Horsemen" and perform under that name when less than the four of them are involved in an engagement.

Some Comments on the Horsemen:
The Four Horsemen communicate spontaneity and creativity in a fresh and very exciting way, similar in feeling to improvised music, adventurous but meaningful. They bring much new life and energy to poetry.

Among other things, The Four Horsemen are a collaborative literary work whose metaphor is the pop star image to the enrichment of the pop and literary worlds alike. Among other things, they help break the avant garde mystique that puts publics off and isolates the artists. Among other things, they've helped make it clear how sound poetry isn't a movement but a new tool available to many kinds of writers, and which any audience can enjoy. Among other things, they're both deep and delightful: how many things or people are?

"After several centuries of lying on the page, poetry decided to get up and speak, sing, bellow, howl and whisper. In Canada, the group that first aroused it was The Four Horsemen. They rhythmicised in a new mode that dazzled everyone. As the words flew out of their mouths they punched a disobedient new life into the air. I believe something is happening here that will change the course of modern literature and music too."

"The Four Horsemen dig their electromagnetic spurs into the flesh of our complacency, inspiring the tribe. Poetry is reborn through the Horsemen. At least for the sake of magic and White Goddess, we need them."



Four horsemen squared for mocm

Four Horsemen